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José María Arguedas

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José María Arguedas (18 January 191128 November 1969) was a Peruvian novelist.

Generally considered one of the greats of 20th century Peruvian letters, Arguedas was born in the province of Andahuaylas in the southern Peruvian Andes. He was brought up in poverty amongst the Quechua Indians, and knew Quechua before he knew Spanish. Eventually he ended going to the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos where he studied anthropology. He worked as an anthropologist for the rest of his life.

Arguedas began by writing short stories about the Indian environment he was brought up in, in a Spanish highly influenced by Quechua syntax and vocabulary. By the time of his first novel, Yawar Fiesta, he had begun to explore the theme that would obsess him for the rest of his career: the clash between (white) 'civilised' civilisation, and the Indian, 'traditional' way of life. In this he was part of the Indianista movement in South American literature. He continued to explore this theme in his next two books Los Ríos Profundos (trans. "Deep Rivers") (1961) and Todos los Sangres (1964). Despite the continued influence of Indian grammar on his style, these remained more or less in the realist tradition. Arguedas had remained moderately optimistic about the possibility of a rapprochement between the forces of 'tradition' and the forces of 'modernity' up until this point, but as the 'sixties developed he became more pessimistic. In his last work El zorro de arriba y el zorro de abajo (Trans. "The Fox From Up Above and the Fox From Down Below") (1969) he abandoned realism for a more postmodern approach. This novel expressed his despair that the 'primitive' ways of the Indians could survive against the onslaught of modern technology and capitalism. In a deep depression, Arguedas committed suicide in 1969.

Works Available in English

Deep Rivers (2002) Waveland Press. ISBN 157766244X

Yawar Fiesta (2002) Waveland Press. ISBN 1577662458

The Fox from Up Above and the Fox from Down Below (2000) University of Pittsburgh Press. ISBN 0822957183

Critical Studies

Ciro A. Sandoval and Sandra M. Boschetto-Sandoval (eds) Jose Maria Arguedas. (1998) Ohio University Press. ISBN 0896802000

Last updated: 09-02-2005 16:52:30