Leopoldo Lugones (1874-1938)
While some view Leopoldo Lugones as the foremost promoter of Argentine nationalism, others just as vehemently oppose this designation due to his controversial and ever-changing political beliefs. Regardless of personal opinion, his wide literary corpus provides an interesting insight into Argentine life at the beginning of the twentieth century. The Department of Special Collections currently holds two manuscript poems as well as a letter written by the author to socialist reformer Alfredo J. Torcelli through a gift of Robert O'Grady.
Lugones began his literary career in Buenos Aires with the publication of Montañas de oro in 1897, a collection of poetry that revealed his skill with the aesthetic of modernismo. His work quickly attracted the attention of other writers, including the father of the movement, Rubén Darío, who praised the work of the much younger Lugones. His popularity only increased with the publication of Lunario sentimental, the collection of poems that would prove to be most influential on the younger generation of writers. Another literary highlight came in 1916, when a series of lectures on the classic text Martín Fierro was compiled and published as El payador. Lugones enjoyed success among his peers until the 1920s, when his political views shifted from fervent socialist to outspoken fascist, a change reflected in his work. Typical titles from the end of his life include La patria fuerte, and La grande Argentina.
Lugones was born in 1874 to financially comfortable family, a setting very typical for other young Argentine writers. Unlike his contemporaries, as a young man Lugones did not attend law school and instead joined the National Guard, eventually pursuing a governmental career with the Post Office. By 1896 he had moved to Buenos Aires from the family home in the province of Córdoba, and had married Juana González. He was also on the verge of publishing his first important collection of poetry, an achievement that would bring him national fame.
At the beginning of the twentieth century Lugones was sufficiently important to be appointed by the government as the new Inspector General of Education and was sent to Paris to conduct research. While there, he was able to meet European writers and stay in contact with South American authors living abroad, such as Rubén Darío. Lugones continued his travels between Argentina and Europe until the end of World War One, seeing firsthand the often difficult process of postwar reconstruction. He became disillusioned with democratic forms of government, and consequently embraced fascism in the 1920s. In addition to expressing his extreme patriotism in his literary endeavors, Lugones went so far as to be an active participant in the 1930 coup d'état that brought General José Uriburu to power. Little personal information is known about his last years; he committed suicide in 1938.
The Department of Special Collections holds four Lugones manuscripts. One manuscript is widely known as the final work of Lugones, his prose article "Arte y cultura." The manuscript shows editorial corrections made by the author, and is dated February 18, 1930, indicating that it was written shortly before his suicide. It is accompanied by a copy of La nación from March 20, 1938, in which the work is reprinted in memorial. Of equal interest in the Lugones materials is the poem, "A América," written when the author was only 15 years old. This work is not found in the Obras completas, although it shares similarities in theme and tone with his Odas seculares. La estética liberal, 7 manuscript leaves with handwritten corrections (1933), is a critique of the 1933 work Trilogía de la trata de blancas by the Buenos Aires chief of police, Julio Alsogaray. Lugones' dislike for liberal policies is stated in no uncertain terms and he even lashes out at the Soviet Union. The fourth manuscript is Ética y estética, 17 leaves with handwritten corrections (1937). The work was sent to Eduardo Mallea, the director of the literary supplement of Argentina’s major newspaper La Nación. In this essay Lugones carefully presents his philosophical views on esthetics.
Aira, César. "Lugones, Leopoldo." Diccionario de autores latinoamericanos. Buenos Aires, Emecé, 2001. p. 328-330. (Hesburgh Library, Reference: PQ 7081.3 .A35 2001)
Forster, Merlin H. "Leopoldo Lugones." Latin American Writers. Ed. Carlos A. Solé. New York: Scribner, 1989. p.493-500. (Hesburgh Library, Reference: PQ 7081 .A1 L37 1989)
Lugones, Leopoldo. Obras completas. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Pasco, 1999. (Hesburgh Library, General Collection: PQ 7797 .L85 1999)