Miguel Angel Asturias

“Miguel Angel Asturias: (1899-1974) Guatemalan novelist, short-story writer, and poet. Asturias spend much of his life in exile because of his public opposition to dictatorial rule. When he was sympathetic to his country’s leadership, he served as ambassador to El Salvador and later to France. He took a law degree in 1923 and then went to London to study economics and Paris to study anthropology, where he encountered French translations of Mayan writings. He proceeded to translate the Mayan text Popol Vuh into Spanish in 1925, developing a deep concern for the Mayan culture that was to weave its myth and history into everything he wrote, though never to the exclusion of this social and political statements. His greatest novel is El senor president (1946; tr El Senor Presidente, 1964), a phantasmagoric satire on Latin American military dictators, based largely on the regime of Manuel Estrada Cabrera, president of Guatemala from 1898 to 1920. Viento Fuerte (1950; tr Strong Wind, 1968), El papa verde (1954; tr The Green Pope, 1971), and Los ojos de los enterrados (1960; tr The Eyes of the Interred, 1973) comprise a trilogy attacking the exploitation by U.S.-owned fruit companies of the Guatemalan banana plantations. Week-end en Guatemala (1956) is a collection of stories about the C.I.A.-directed overthrow of the government of Jacobo Arbenz, whom Asturias had supported. After Arbenz’s ouster, Asturias went into exile, returning to Guatemala in 1966. In 1967 he was appointed ambassador to France, the same year in which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature.”

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

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