Alfonso Reyes

“(1889-1959) Mexican essayist and poet. One of the young Mexican intellectuals who formed the circle known as the Ateneo de la Juventud, Reyes left his homeland soon after receiving his law degree in 1913. He lived in Spain until 1924 and subsequently served as a Mexican diplomat in France, Argentina, and Brazil. He returned permanently to Mexico in 1939.

Often considered the finest prose stylist of Spanish since Rodo, Reyes was an authority on the literature of Spain’s golden age. He eschewed pedantry, and his work is remarkable for its subtlety, grace, and insight. His best-known work is probably Vision de Anahuac, 1519 (1917), a depiction of Aztec civilization just before the Spanish Conquest. His collections of essays include Capitulos de literature espanola (1939; 1945), Pasado immediate y otros ensayos (1941), Ultima Tule (1942), and Tentativas y orientaciones (1944). He also wrote El deslinde (1944), an introduction to literary theory; Letras de la Nueva Espana (1948), on the culture of colonial Mexico; and La X en la frente (1952), an interpretation of Mexico. Ifigenia cruel (1924) is a dramatic poem based on the classical legend. Collections of his essays in English translation are Mexico in a Nutshell (1964; tr by C. Ramsdell) and The Position of America (1971; tr by H. de Onis).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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