The only biography of Vicente Huidobro, now in English for the first time
The Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro (1893–1948) is one of the most important figures in 20th-century Hispanic poetry and one of its pioneering avant-gardists. Originally from an aristocratic Santiago family of landowners and winemakers, Huidobro was fortunate to have the means to support himself and his family while he found his artistic way. After an early phase writing in a quasi-symbolist style in his native city, he moved to Paris and threw himself into the local artistic scene with a passion, quickly publishing several collections in 1917–18, and then a selected poems in French in 1921. Influenced initially by Apollinaire, Huidobro befriended forward-looking French writers such as Reverdy and Cocteau, as well as the artists, such as Picasso, who were then revolutionising painting and sculpture in the city. He was to reach his artistic maturity in 1931 with the publication of two master-pieces: the long poem, Altazor, and the book-length prose-poem Temblor de cielo (Skyquake). Two further original collections and an extensive Selected followed during his lifetime, all published in Santiago. While he also published successful novels and plays, it is for his poetry that he is best remembered today. With his impetuous love life, his political posturing, his often miscalculated attempts to bestride the public stage in Chile, Spain and France, not to mention an unparalleled ability to make enemies, Huidobro makes a fine subject for a biography.
Volodia Teitelboim’s impressionistic biography of Huidobro was first published to coincide with the poet’s centenary in 1993, and has the advantage of being written by someone who actually knew him, and many of the other significant figures in Chilean poetry of the 1930s and later. As the author relates in the course of the book, he started out as, and remained, a fan of the poet’s work, but he is commendably clear about Huidobro’s many personal faults – and about the causes of the breakdown in his own relationship with him.
Literary Nonfiction. Latinx Studies. Poetry.
Tony Frazer is the publisher of Shearsman Books, founder of Shearsman magazine, and occasional translator from German and Spanish. He is engaged in a large project to bring the majority of Vicente Huidobro's poetry into English.
Volodia Teitelboim (1916-2007) was born in Chillán, Chile, the son of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine and Bessarabia. At 16, he joined the Communist Party, and remained an activist for the rest of his life. In 1935, with Eduardo Anguita, he co-edited the Anthology of New Chilean Poetry, a volume that marked a significant rupture with the past. Teitelboim stopped writing poetry, but later wrote fiction as well as several personal memoirs; he is also well known for his biographies of Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda, in addition to the present volume. In 2002, he was awarded Chile's National Prize for Literature. A lawyer by training, in later life he worked for the government, and served for five years as the head of Communist Party of Chile in the early 1990s. He died in 2007, at the age of 91.