Augusto Monterroso  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Augusto Monterroso Bonilla (December 21, 1921 - February 7, 2003) was a Guatemalan writer.

Life

Monterroso was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras to a Honduran mother and Guatemalan father. In 1936 his family settled definitively in Guatemala City, where he would remain until early adulthood. Here he published his first short stories and began his clandestine work against the dictatorship of Jorge Ubico. To this end he founded the newspaper El Espectador with a group of other writers.

He was detained and exiled to Mexico City in 1944 for his opposition to the dictatorial regime. Shortly after his arrival in Mexico, the revolutionary government of Jacobo Arbenz triumphed in Guatemala, and Monterroso was assigned to a minor post in the Guatemalan embassy in Mexico. In 1953 he moved briefly to Bolivia upon being named Guatemalan consul in La Paz. He relocated to Santiago de Chile in 1954, when Arbenz's government was toppled with help from a North American intervention.

In 1956 he returned definitively to Mexico City, where he would occupy various academic and editorial posts and execute his work as a writer for the rest of his life.

In 1988, Augusto Monterroso received the highest honour the Mexican government can bestow on foreign dignitaries, the Águila Azteca. He was also awarded the Spanish Prince of Asturias Award, in 2000. In 1997, Monterroso was awarded the Guatemala National Prize in Literature for his body of work.

He died of heart problems at the age of 81, in Mexico City.

Work

Although Monterroso limited himself almost exclusively to the short story form, he is widely considered a central figure in the Latin American "Boom" generation, which was best known for its novelists. As such he is recognized alongside such canonical authors as Julio Cortázar, Carlos Fuentes, Juan Rulfo and Gabriel García Márquez.

Save for Lo demás es silencio ("The Rest is Silence"), his first and only foray into the form of the novel, Monterroso published only short pieces. He worked throughout his career to perfect the short story form, often delving into analogous genres (most famously the fable) for stylistic and thematic inspiration. Even Lo demás es silencio, however, largely eschews the traditional novelistic form, opting instead for the loose aggregation of various apocryphal short texts (newspaper clippings, testimonials, diary entries, poems) to sketch the "biography" of its fictional main character.

Monterroso is often credited with writing the world's shortest story, "El Dinosaurio" ("The Dinosaur"), published in Obras completas (Y otros cuentos). The story reads, in its entirety:

Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí.
("When [s]he awoke, the dinosaur was still there.")


Carlos Fuentes wrote of Monterroso (referring specifically to The Black Sheep and Other Fables): "Imagine Borges' fantastical bestiary having tea with Alice. Imagine Jonathan Swift and James Thurber exchanging notes. Imagine a frog from Calaveras County who has seriously read Mark Twain. Meet Monterroso."

Bibliography

  • Obras completas (Y otros cuentos), 1959.
  • (trans. Complete Works and Other Stories)
  • La oveja negra y demás fábulas, 1969.
  • (trans. The Black Sheep and Other Fables)
  • Movimiento perpetuo, 1972.
  • (trans. Perpetual Motion)
  • Lo demás es silencio (La vida y obra de Eduardo Torres), 1978.
  • Viaje al centro de la fábula, 1981.
  • La palabra mágica, 1983.
  • La letra e (Fragmentos de un diario), 1987.
  • Esa fauna, 1992. drawings.
  • Los buscadores de oro, 1993.
  • La vaca, 1998.
  • El Eclipse





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Augusto Monterroso" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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