Advertisement

Translating the Past into the Present: The Synthesizing Modernity of Alfonso Reyes

  • Nicola Miller
Part of the Studies of the Americas book series (STAM)

Abstract

The idea that historical rupture is fundamental to the condition of modernity, as proposed by Marshall Berman and others, has been widely questioned in Latin America. Conservatives have not been alone in expressing fears about the consequences of profound upheaval: even revolutionary movements, committed to modernizing policies, have tended to cast themselves not so much as a break with the past as the culmination of its underlying trends. When Castro declared that history would absolve him, he was not only expressing faith in the judgment of the future, but also claiming legitimacy from his identification with a long line of “rebels against tyranny,” from the sages of ancient India and China all the way down the centuries to Rousseau and Tom Paine.2 The Mexican Revolution was born alongside “a burning defence of the past”;3 the Cuban Revolution declared its own end of history long before Fukuyama wrote his famous book; and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua represented their revolution as the long-deferred triumph of Sandino’s heroic struggle against U.S. occupation in the 1920s. Latin American revolutions have tended not to repudiate the past, as happened in France and Soviet Russia, but instead, to stake a claim to transcendent continuity based on creative assimilation of the past.

Keywords

Mexico City Literary Critic Mexican State Grand Narrative Mexican Culture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 2.
    Fidel Castro, “History Will Absolve Me” [1953], in Fidel Castro and Regis Debray, On Trial, Lorrimer Publishing, London, 1968, pp. 62–5.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Carlos Fuentes, Machado de La Mancha, Fondo de Cultura Económica, Mexico City, 2001, p. 10.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Homer, La Iliada. Primera parte: Aquiles agraviada, trans. Alfonso Reyes, Fondo de Cultura Económica, Mexico, 1951.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Alberto Gerchunoff, “Prólogo” to Alfonso Reyes, Aquellos días [1938], in Reyes, Obras completas, vol. III, p. 310. References in this chapter are to works by Alfonso Reyes unless otherwise stated. Most are taken from the 26-volume edition of his Obras completas published by Fondo de Cultura Económica, Mexico, 1956–1993, hereafter OC.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    José Emilio Pacheco, “Nota preliminar,” in Reyes, Universidad, política y pueblo, 1967, pp. 7–17, p. 8.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Rafael Moreno, El humanismo mexicano, líneas y tendencies, UNAM, Mexico, 1999, p. 160.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Vocación de América (Antología), ed. Víctor Díaz Arciniega, Fondo de Cultura Económica, Mexico, 1989. A similar collection is Alfonso Reyes, ed. Antonio Lago Carballo, Ediciones de Cultura Hispánica, Madrid, 1992.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Robert Conn, The Politics of Philology: Alfonso Reyes and the Invention of a Latin American Literary Tradition, Associated University Presses, Cranbury NJ, 2002; Margarita Vera Cuspinera, ed., Alfonso Reyes. Homenaje de la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, UNAM, Mexico, 1981; and Pol Popovic Karic and Fidel Chávez Pérez, eds., Alfonso Reyes: Perspectivas críticas, Tecnológico de Monterrey/Editorial Plaza y Valdés, Mexico, 2004.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    Pedro Henríquez Ureña, “Alfonso Reyes” [1927], in Universidad de Nuevo León, Páginas sobre Alfonso Reyes (1911–1945). Edición de Homenaje, Monterrey, 2 vols., 1955, vol. I, pp. 146–55, esp. p. 155.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    Henriquez Urena, “Alfonso Reyes,” in Universidad de Nuevo Leon, Pciginas sobre Alfonso Reyes, p. 154. Also in Henriquez Urena, Seis ensayos en busca de nuestra expresión. Google Scholar
  11. 30.
    Boyd G. Carter, Las revistas literarias de Hispanoamerica: Breve historia y contenido, Ediciones de Andrea, Mexico City, 1959, p. 19. During the 1920s, there were 12 in the capital and 10 elsewhere (declining to only 10 throughout Mexico during the 1930s).Google Scholar
  12. 46.
    Francisco Valdés Trevino, Alfonso Reyes, diplomático, Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon, Monterrey, 1997, p. 25. See also Reyes’s letter to Rafael Cabrera, April 22, 1933, in Alfonsadas, Correspondencia entre Alfonso Reyes y Rafael Cabrera 1911–1938, ed. Sergio Zaitzeff, El Colegio Nacional, Mexico, 1994, pp. 122–3.Google Scholar
  13. 47.
    See Valdés Trevino, Alfonso Reyes, diplomfitico; and Reyes, letter to Martin Luis Guzman, May 17, 1930, in Martin Luis Guzman and Alfonso Reyes, Medias palabras: Correspondencia 1913–1959, ed. Fernando Curiel, UNAM, Mexico, 1991, p. 138.Google Scholar
  14. 50.
    Letter to Martin Luis Guzman, March 12, 1914, Paris, in Guzman and Reyes, Medias palabras, p. 84.Google Scholar
  15. 56.
    See discussion in Ultima Tule, relating to G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, trans. H. B. Nisbet, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1975, pp. 162–71; and José Ortega y Gasset, “Hegel y America” [1928], in his Obras completas, vol. II, Revista de Occidente, Madrid, 1946, pp. 557–70. For discussion of Reyes’s views on Hegel, see Rafael Gutierrez Girardot, “La imagen de America en Alfonso Reyes,” in Vocación, pp. 32–53, esp. pp. 36–8.Google Scholar
  16. 57.
    Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, p. 163 and p. 170.Google Scholar
  17. 58.
    Ultima Tule, Imprenta Universitaria, Mexico, 1942, pp. 90–5. Enrique Dussel, The Invention of the Americas: Eclipse ofthe Otherand the Myth of Modernity, trans. Michael D. Barber, Continuum, New York, 1995. Mariategui made the same point: “The discovery of America is the beginning of modernity: the greatest and most fruitful of the crusades. All modern thought is influenced by this event” [El descubrimiento de America es el principio de la modernidad: la mcisgrande y fructuosa de las cruzadas. Todo el pensamiento de la modernidad está influida por este acontecimiento]. “El el Dia de la Raza” 1928], in Jose Carlos Mariategui, La novela y la vida, Obras completas, vol. 4, Editorial Amauta, Lima, 1955, p. 163.Google Scholar
  18. 66.
    Reyes translated three works by Chesterton: a short social history of England, Pequena historia de Inglaterra, Editorial Calleja, Madrid, 1920; the first collection of Father Brown stories, El candor del Padre Brown, Editorial Calleja, Madrid, 1921; and the novel El hombre que fue jueves, Editorial Calleja, Madrid, 1922.Google Scholar
  19. 92.
    Doreen Massey, For Space, Sage, London, 2005, quotations, p. 5. See also Ed Soja, Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory, Verso, London, 1989; and—the inspiration for much of this work—Michel Foucault, “Questions on Geography,” in Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977, ed. and trans. Colin Gordon, Longman, Harlow, 1980.Google Scholar
  20. 95.
    Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History” [1940], in Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, Fontana, London, 1973, pp. 255–66; Reyes, “La voz solidaria” [1922], in Universidad, p. 23.Google Scholar
  21. 114.
    Guy Thomson, “Mid-Nineteenth-Century Modernities in the Hispanic World,” in Nicola Miller and Stephen Hart, eds., When Was Latin America Modern?, Palgrave, New York, 2007, pp. 69–90.Google Scholar
  22. 124.
    Reyes, cited in Jesus Silva Herzog, “Alfonso Reyes: Un gran humanista con preocupaciones economico-sociales,” in Silva Herzog, Antologia: Conferencias, ensayos y discursos, UNAM, Mexico City, 1981, p. 276.Google Scholar
  23. 141.
    Alfonso Reyes and Hector Perez Martinez, A vuelta de correo: una polémica sobre literatura nacional, ed. Silvia Molina, UNAM and Universidad de Colima, Mexico, 1988, p. 15.Google Scholar
  24. 155.
    Adolfo Castanon argued that what Reyes taught was “the modest but difficult art of walking in language” [el modesto si dificil arte de caminar en el lenguaje]. Alfonso Reyes, p. 61.Google Scholar
  25. 169.
    Clara Lida, José Antonio Matesanz, and Josefina Zoraida Vásquez, La Casa de Espana y el Colegio de Mexico. Memoria, 1938–2000, El Colegio de Mexico, Mexico, 2000, p. 305.Google Scholar
  26. 171.
    José Luis Martinez, “La obra de Alfonso Reyes: La empresa de su generación literaria,” in Universidad de Nuevo Leon, Paginas, pp. 580–606, esp. pp. 589–93.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Nicola Miller 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicola Miller

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations