Biography of Ventura García Calderón (1886-1959)

Peruvian writer, born in Paris on February 23, 1886 and died in the same city on October 27, 1959. He was son of Francisco García Calderón Landa - who had been interim President of the Peru during the Chilean occupation of Lima (1881) and was banished to Chile for refusing to a territorial cession-, and Carmen Rey Basadre. Back in the Peru, from July 1886 he began school at the College of the sacred hearts of Lima (1891-1901), where he had for companions to José de la Riva-Agüero and his brother Francisco. In 1903 he joined the Faculty of letters of the University national most of San Marcos, where also followed the careers of political science and administrative law, but did not complete his studies because on the death of his father (1906), the family decided to settle in France. In Paris he served as Chancellor of the Peruvian Consulate (1906-10) and was subsequently appointed to the same office in London (1911), but after returning to Lima he resigned as an act of protest by prison Riva-Agüero, headlining the student demonstrations against the Government of Augusto B. Leguía. He took advantage of his short stay in his homeland for travel to the sierra, and the following year he returned to Paris, being in 1914 appointed Second Secretary of the Legation of the Peru in Madrid, and later Peruvian consul in Le Havre and Chargé d'affaires in Belgium (1916-21). In 1921, shortly after being appointed as the Chief of the Bureau of Propaganda of the Peru in Paris, he resigned from office by differences with the Government, which was again chaired Leguía by.

Between 1921 and 1932 he remained away from the diplomatic service, working as the director of some publishing houses and writing articles for newspapers in Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico and Cuba. In 1932 he was appointed delegate of the Peru before the League of Nations, who played until 1938 with some interruptions. He also held the functions of Minister Plenipotentiary of Peru to Brazil (1932-33), Poland (1935), Belgium (1935-39), France (1940), Portugal (1941) and Switzerland (1941-45). In 1949 he returned to the Peru for the last time, but in December of the same year he returned to Paris, having been named Permanent Representative of Peru to UNESCO, exercising this mission until his death occurred after having suffered a hemiplegia attack.

Although it occupied much of his life diplomatic posts, García Calderón is, above all, a writer whose work, written in Spanish and French, earned him be proposed in 1933 as a candidate to the Nobel Prize for literature by a group of Peruvian, French, Belgian and Spanish writers. To fail in its attempt to get the prize, French Academy suggested its incorporation, but the writer did not accept to meet the prerequisite of renouncing his Peruvian nationality. Perhaps as compensation, it was incorporated as a member of the Royal Academy of language and French literature of Belgium (10-VI-1939). Other awards received were Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Bordeaux (1947), Gold Medal of the Academy French (1948), Commander of the Legion of Honor of France (1950) and various decorations by the Governments of France, Belgium, Italy, Peru and Brazil. He was director of the magazines of Latin America, Revue d' Amérique Latine, Hispania, Iberian world and the Revue Latine of Paris and a contributor to journal of America of Paris, El Mercurio of New Orleans, Excelsior of Mexico, La Nación, La Prensa and faces and masks of Buenos Aires, El Universal of Caracas, news, trade, and the Chronicle among others. His editorial work is the address of the collection of American writers published by the Casa Editorial Maucci, Barcelona (12 vols.) and the address in Paris of the library Liliput (28 vols.). One should also mention the important contribution that made as director of the library of Peruvian culture (13 vols.) published in Paris in 1938 under the auspices of the Peruvian Government, work which certainly contains omissions and failures, but which together has not been passed as a panorama of Peruvian literature.

His first book was frivolously (Parisian sensations) (Paris, 1908), set of Chronicles of life in Paris during the "belle époque". They followed anthologies of romanticism to modernism. Prose writers and poets Peruvians (Paris 1910), where repeated the views expressed by Riva-Aguero on the Peruvian literature, and Peruvian Parnassus (Paris 1910), and within the same line the Peruvian literature (1535-1914, New York-Paris 1914), work of synthesis that deserved a ruthless criticism from the writer Federico More, posted in the Lima magazine Colónida. It followed immersed in the Chronicle, genre which achieved a notable domain, with books under the cry of sirens (Paris 1920), set of literary articles on Europe during the world war that had previously appeared in European and American magazines, in the Festival of Madrid (Paris 1920), where he met some short prose about the Madrid life and Spanish literature, and smiles of Paris (Buenos Aires 1926). A selection of his essays on American literature appeared with the title of portrayals of America (Madrid, 1920) showed it as one of the leading literary critics of the time. His modernist affiliation, on the other hand, is present in ditties (Paris 1920), collection of poems and lyrical prose that revealed in the author a romantic and sentimental background.

An accusation that always pursued Ventura García Calderón was francization. The writer always denied it, and to an opinion of a critic who called him "a master of the fast French style" responded with his new Spanish essay (letter to James Fitzmaurice Kelly hispanist), originally published in French in the Hispania magazine and then translated to the Spanish and published as a booklet (Madrid 1924). In this essay he proclaimed the independence of his style and made a defense of the modern Spanish language, calling himself "amateur hispanist". The truth is that the allocation not lacked Foundation because the writer always extolled the values of French culture as shown by his book Cette France nous Situación (Geneva 1945), coming many times to oppose those values with the Anglo-Americans, considered harmful.

On the other hand the writer was also interested in fiction, publishing books of stories Dolorosa and naked reality (Paris 1914), revenge of the condor (Madrid 1924), Danger de mort (Paris 1926), Couleur de sang (Paris, 1931), Assistant (Paris, 1933), Le sang plus vite (Paris 1946), Le serpent couvert regards (Paris 1947), and the novel cuts if Loti had come (Paris 1926)where he tells an imaginary journey to the Peru by the French novelist Pierre Loti. In these works we see a good management of the art of the tale and a refined style that makes its author the first exponent of the modern Peruvian narrative. To this must be added being Ventura García Calderón tales, especially those of the revenge of the condor, the first within the Peruvian literature who reached a true international exposure, to be quickly translated the main European languages. It is not exaggerated nor when it points out that for many years the image of Peru which prevailed in European intellectual circles is that transpires from these writings of García Calderón. This international success was however not repeated in his country, where in the heyday of the indigenous people was considered his work offered a distorted view of the Peruvian Indian, invariably presented as a defeat.

But not only for the narrative, the writer was inspired by the Peru. His works include titles for a la limeña (Brussels 1935) anthology, a Peru (Paris, 1939), moments of Peru (Paris 1941) is worth and the Peru in the universal imagination (prospect of a future book, Lima 1956), where the author showed that the distance and the long absence had not broken their ties with their homeland, which rescues his contributions to world culture outlined in the essay "if it disappeared the Peru"including Vale a Peru next portrayals of certain Peruvian characters such as Santa Rosa de Lima, the Perricholi, Pablo de Olavide and Flora Tristan. Other publications include his Holofernes (syncopated drama, Paris 1931) plays, she and I (Lima 1955), La vie est-elle a songe? (Paris 1958) and La Périchole (Paris 1959), collection of articles help of Compass (1936 Paris), as well as a good selection of his major works with the title of pages selected (Madrid 1947).

A special mention deserves the book us (Paris 1946), conceived in 1936 as a response to the article "Filtering to los García Calderón", appeared in 1935 in the daily La Tribuna de Lima. In this article were launched some charges against the writer and his brother Francisco, settling differences among the generations of 1905, qualified as unsuccessful by having failed to consider the problems of the country, and that of 1920, where Yes would have a concern for social issues. Us is a plea by the writer in defense of their peers, members of what is known as the "generation of the 900", through the evocation of what it meant for them in the Peru be young after the defeat in the war. It rejects the accusations made and while performing some self-criticism, calls for a fair trial on their participation in the Peruvian cultural process.

Many prejudices have prevented a proper evaluation of the work of Ventura García Calderón, who in life was the most internationally renowned Peruvian author. Especially in his homeland undertaking considerations - referred especially to the social class to which belonged the writer - have motivated an aggressive and tendentious campaign against her. Faithful to its modernist affiliation took a cosmopolitan attitude, without leaving that effort in favor of a proper dissemination of literature and Peruvian culture; However, most of the literary criticism - with honourable exceptions - has chosen to emphasize their mistakes narrative describing a reality that did not understand - quaint way the indigenous-, regardless that it focused topic from a rather than sociological, aesthetic appearance as befits a writer formed within the modernist tradition.


Julio Ortega, "Transit of Ventura García Calderón" in critique of identity. The question of the Peru in its literature, Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1988, pp. 69-92.