“Para o substituir (de outro modo) há Moniz Barreto, implacavelmente psicólogo, e tão terrivelmente homem-de-livro, que quando a gente diz ‘está calor,’ ele acode logo – ‘já leu sobre isso tal e tal? leia sobre isso tal e tal!’ É pavoroso!” – Carta de Eça de Queiroz à esposa, 24 de Julho de 1893.

20 de março de 2018

Góngora, Gerardo Diego and the Generation of '27


Two young poets walk the streets of Madrid reciting Góngora’s poems by heart. No, it’s not 1627, no, they are not neophytes infatuated with the latest fashion. They’re Rafael Alberti and Federico García Lorca and it’s 1927. The III Centennial of Góngora’s death has started. I previously wrote about the death of the Baroque; now let's attend to its rebirth.

Don Luis de Góngora y Argote, born in 1561 and considered the greatest poet of the Spanish language, is not well known in English. The curious layman will find scarce resources at his disposal, an exception being Edith Grossman’s translation of The Solitudes. He’s as difficult to translate as the French symbolists he influenced. “The Solitudes,” Grossman writes in the foreword, “is a poem ‘about’ nature, but the natural world in this work does not serve as the backdrop for a highly expressive love poem or spiritual meditation. It is there to be evoked for its own sake in the most rarefied, figurative, sensuous language because language itself, not its emotive referent or expressive content, is the intrinsic aesthetic component of poetry.” One may wonder justly whether such poetry can be adequately translated, whether what makes it unique won’t get excised along with the cedillas and tildes, and whether its appreciation is possible beyond its original form. This bilingual edition accentuates these questions just by putting original and translation side by side. The Spanish stanzas are slim and orderly like Greek columns; the translated versions sometimes remind me of hedge sculptures losing their outlines for want of shears. Grossman, as her words above indicate, was aware of the difficulty of the task, and her attempt is more commendable for it. I suspect, though, that Góngora is a writer whose greatness readers not fluent in Spanish will have to take mostly for granted.

Amazingly, less than a century ago the Spaniards themselves didn’t even wonder:  they were quite certain that Góngora was unreadable, meretricious, in his own language, and kept him stashed away, out of embarrassing sight, like a deranged monarch.

Taste then was still informed by neoclassical precepts that prescribed naturalness, concision, clarity, directness. Góngora’s convoluted metaphors and syntax-straining verses were explained away as the faults of mental disturbance. This style was known as culteranismo (wonderfully translated by Grossman as learnedism). He was, according to popular opinion, obscure, impenetrable, cold, superficial. The style that had won him approval in the 17th century had made him an outcast throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. This prejudice wasn’t just Spanish but French and English and Italian and Portuguese, wherever the Enlightenment succeeded in overhauling taste. Unless the curious reader is prepared to get his hands dirty mucking around in moldy books, he won’t know how reviled the Baroque was 200 years ago. Even now the dictionary definition still carries a tinge of past disapproval. I love it how as a noun it means “anything extravagantly ornamented, especially something so ornate as to be in bad taste.”

By the first decades of the 20th century, however, plans were being made to release the monarch from his dungeon. Signs of change came a bit from everywhere. We can think of Virginia Woolf’s essay “Poetry, Fiction and the Future” which prophesied that prose fiction would gobble up more and more features of poetry, a prophesy come true in the ornate, extravagant fiction of Vladimir Nabokov. T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland in 1922 had heralded for poetry a new era of extravagance and linguistic virtuosity. André Breton was articulating by 1924 his tedium with the “purely informative style” of the realistic novel. Spain’s leading philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, was conversant with the Modernist avant-garde and likewise helped prepare the ground. But the decisive event arrived in 1927 when a group of young avant-garde poets decided to affront the Royal Spanish Academy’s silence over Góngora’s centennial by loudly celebrating it. The mastermind behind this coup was Gerardo Diego. “Why should Góngora have less than Cervantes, to whom the R.S.A. devotes an annual mass?” Gerardo Diego later wrote. “At least one per century for poor don Luis – whose centennial was carried out amidst academic indifference.”

Gerardo Diego, I fear, is even more unknown in English-language readers than Góngora. Nevertheless, his importance is tremendous. In 1932 he published Poesía española. Antología 1915-1931, which revealed several new poets: Federico García Lorca, Rafael Alberti, Vicente Aleixandre, Luis Cernuda, Dámaso Alonso, Jorge Guillén, Pedro Salinas, Emilio Prados, José Moreno Villa, Fernando Villalón, and Manuel Altolaguirre. These poets, however, did not become known as Generation ’32, but Generation ’27. That’s because many of them first came together as a group to celebrate Góngora’s centennial. According to Gabriele Morelli, it was an “important moment of meeting and above all cultural cohesion” for them. Morelli edited in 2001 a useful book called Gerardo Diego y el III Centenario de Góngora, which gives insight into this event and Diego’s role in promoting it, using private correspondence and a generous selection of press articles from the time to tell the tale. The letters are as complete as they can be given Spain’s history: Alberti’s letters were lost when he made a hasty escape after the start of the Civil War. The articles are amusing and even-handed since they give turns to both defenders and detractors.

On April 1926 Diego and friends decided around a café table to celebrate Góngora. From the start Alonso recognized Diego as the leader and suggested that “you should adopt dictatorial powers” to guide it. Melchor Fernandéz Almagro wrote to him, “it seems to me that if you don’t take the trouble to coordinate and direct, no one will take the trouble to.” They had good reasons to want a strong hand overseeing the activities because as Spring slid into Summer, Diego began noticing a wavering of will. “No Gongorine news”, he complained to José Maria de Cossío. “The way this is going we won’t do anything. That is, they won’t because I, if needs must, will celebrate the centennial alone.”

Although Diego scorned the Academy, he did set academic goals for this event: he wanted his collaborators to make critical editions of Góngora to supplant the old ones, made by admirers with sedulous caress and rigor. He projected publishing 12 books. For this he invited poets and experts. One of them was Miguel Artigas, whose Dom Luis de Góngora y Argote: biografía y estudio crítico had received a prize in 1925 from the Academy, a rare instance of official culture recognizing him. Another invitee was the Mexican diplomat Alfonso Reyes. Alonso, who was a fine scholar himself, objected to Reyes and Artigas because they were not part of the “homage by young artists” and risked diluting the identity of the centennial as an act of youth. “Artigas is a very esteemed erudite, however he has nothing (I think) of artistic (or of young). By including him, you yourself weaken your own and strict program.” Ironically, Artigas was more committed than the poets, for he was responsible for one of the 5 books out of the projected 12 that in fact got made. “Pecuniary poverty, the artists’ organizing incapability, Spaniards’ invincible laziness, the dissolvent from the immediate Summer” complained Diego in a later letter. 3 of the finished books were published by Ortega y Gasset’s magazine Revista de Occidente. Ortega y Gasset, Alonso had informed Diego, was “willing to publish whatever we give him.” Amidst minor discussions of prices and payment, Diego scheduled the books to start coming out in October 1927.

Of the 5 published books, the most important was Alonso’s critical edition of The Solitudes. (For one thing, it was the edition used by Grossman.) The correspondence between Alonso and Diego attests the care that went into it. They dealt with the poems’ alleged unreadability. Many “continue to deny them any sense,” wrote Alonso. He suggested an edition with translation into modern prose; Diego agreed to it and to short notes to “explain the mythological allusions, of classic history, geography, strange customs, in short everything that may end up obscure for the current reader, even after a translation to the letter.” They really wanted to give Góngora back to people, to explain him, share him. They nitpicked about matters of punctuation and variants, debated whether to use modern spelling and punctuation. Alonso would contact Diego with doubts about ambiguous verses. They wondered at dates: did the Portuguese poet D. Francisco Manuel de Melo really die on October 13, 1666? Maybe, or maybe 24 August. Manuel de Melo, a great poet, was one of the many Portuguese poets influenced by Góngora in the 17th century. They had to be accurate, careful, rigorous, because they felt the Academy’s gaze upon them, waiting for them to slip. As Alonso explained in a newspaper, the group wanted “the definitive incorporation of the poet in the normal history of Spanish literature.” Diego loved this edition and said that it “alone was well worth organizing a Centennial.”

The 12-book plan took some time to solidify, before disintegrating. Diego was at first against including the letters and comedies not only because it involved finding more collaborators, and adding more troubles for him, but because he wanted to homage only the poet. Publishing the whole oeuvre led to the event losing its identity as a celebration of poets about a poet. “Because Góngora’s letters, in general, have no aesthetic value; they’re not the poet’s, they’re the reasoner’s or the man’s,” he argued. Likewise, “the comedies, as such, are not excellent, but in the end they’re in verse.” Moreno Villa plead for the complete works to have modern editions, so they no longer had to rely on old editions. As it turned out, it didn’t matter.

Reyes was ecstatic about the invitation. From the letters it seems like he was one of those who worked the hardest. But being abroad, his galleys were lost in the mail. Sadly, stationed in Paris, he lost his manuscript when he packed things to return to Mexico; this was in March 1927. Apparently he tried to begin anew, but by January 1928, well past the celebration date, Diego was wondering if the new volume had been lost again. Eventually he did get the original but for some reason didn’t publish it then. Problems with communication certainly played a role: Vicente Huidobro complained to Diego that he didn’t receive any invitation. Diego asked the musician Manuel de Falla a “musical notebook” that would “consist of original works, either based on verses by Góngora or inspired by Góngora, or completely free but dedicated to his memory.” Falla did contribute a “Sonnet to Góngora” turned into music, but it’s unclear from the letters if the volume came out. By September 1927 Diego was telling Falla that “it’s been a long time since I received news about the Góngora Centennial editions.”

Alberti was in command of editing an anthology of homages from contemporary poets, himself included. Góngora’s The Solitudes is a duo of long narrative poems: the first one has 1091 verses, the second one was left unfinished with 979. Góngora had projected four “solitudes”. Obviously this was a challenge for the young poets. Both Alberti and García Lorca attempted a “Third Solitude”. García Lorca’s was left incomplete; only fragments exist which he sent in a letter to Guillén. He wrote to him that “it seems like an irreverence to me that I get to be making this homage.” Vicente Aleixandre wrote a sonnet in Góngora’s honor. Guillén wrote a décima, a ten-verse poem. Other poems were refused by Diego. This anthology also did not come out.

Diego, a living Góngora encyclopedia, took for himself the job of editing an anthology in his honor with poets ranging from Lope de Vega to Rubén Darío. His knowledge was prodigious: in a 1960 essay included in La Estela de Góngora, he sketched out an overview of Góngora’s influence on Spanish poetry in the 17th and 18th centuries that shows his competence for organizing the anthology. It’s no surprise that it was one of the 5 that got published.

It’s telling that Diego established the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío as a time stamp. Diego realized that they had to show a living link between Góngora and the modern world. For the young poets who saw themselves as the avant-garde, that link was Symbolism. For Diego, Góngora preluded Mallarmé. And indeed, when we think of Mallarmé’s legendary quip to Degas, that a poem is written not with words but with ideas, you can see why Diego would think Symbolism and culternanismo were connected. As Diego noticed, Góngora was not into big themes, but pure language that could redeem the most trivial theme: “How this acute sense of art for art’s sake, of the verse in itself, redeems, sustains and spiritualizes the most prosaic motifs! If sometimes the intention – like in all fundamentally comic art – is depressive and only the craftsmanship floats, in some other occasions one guesses an opposite purpose, and the shock of the most select ideas with the humblest realities produces, with the delicious verbal melody, the most delicately poetic effect. This ambiguity between comedy and poetry.” And elsewhere he wrote: “Essentially, gongorismo looks for greatness through other means, a greatness separated from the nature of the theme. This tends to be petty, partial, immeasurable, private. It doesn’t matter. The poet seizes upon the form of beauty with any content.” It is worth wondering to what extent they were interpreting Góngora in light of Symbolism.

Symbolism represented a major rupture with 19th century naturalism and the lingering tutelage of the Enlightenment over notions of “good taste”. If Ortega y Gasset, who was somewhat ambivalent about Góngora, loaned his magazine to Diego, it probably had more to do with the fact that he sensed a proximity between Góngora and to Mallarmé, a crucial poet in The Dehumanization of Art.

The French symbolists were the first modernists to rediscover Góngora. Jean Moréas would greet Verlaine by shouting “Long live don Luis de Góngora y Argote!” Remy de Gourmont dedicated a study to him, “Góngora et le gongorisme” (1912) in which he wrote: “I’ve attained over the course of years a huge indulgence for these ‘corrupters of taste’, who are called Marini in Italy, Góngora in Spain, John Lyly in England, D’Urfé in France, as their genius makes one overlook their deficiencies.” Verlaine used a Góngora verse as an epigraph for the poem “Lassitude” in Poems Under Saturn; it’s the final verse of the first “Solitude”:

For Love, being a winged god,
The daughter of the foam prepared a field
Of swan feathers for the battle of love.

(translated by Edith Grossman)

“Góngora’s rehabilitation has arrived in Spain by way of the French symbolists,” wrote Artigas to Cossío. Yes, but as Alonso remarked, “The cult of Góngora is brought to Spain by Rubén Darío, and he learns it from French symbolism. It's curious, and even comical.” Darío was by then a major figure of Spanish modernismo, the author of Azul… (1888), a salmagundi of short-stories and poems that had widened both the possibilities of literary language: his poetry used new rhymes, structure and meters, and he did much to poeticize prose by exploring repetition, alliteration, rhythm, and bold combinations of nouns and modifiers. There are poems by him, like the famous “Eco y yo”, that look (better yet, sound) like something out of the 17th century:

Eco, divina y desnuda
como el diamante del agua,
mi musa estos versos fragua
y necesita tu ayuda,
pues, sola, peligros teme.
—¡Heme!
—Tuve en momentos distantes,
antes,
que amar los dulces cabellos
bellos,
de la ilusión que primera
era,
en mi alcázar andaluz
luz,
en mi palacio de moro
oro,
en mi mansión dolorosa
rosa.

The reader doesn’t need to know Spanish to appreciate Darío’s “echo” technique of ending and starting a verse with the same sound that’s also a standalone word. As an amateur student of the Baroque, I’ve come upon references from time to time to a poetic form called the “echo” but I had never seen an actual one. It wasn’t until I recently read Diego’s La Estela de Góngora that I came across a bona fide example:

Triunfos son, de sus dos palmas,
almas que a su sueldo alista;
lista de diez alabastros:
astros que en su cielo brillan.

En lo airoso de su talle,
halle Amor su bizarría;
ría de que, en el donaire,
aire es todo lo que pinta.

Lo demás, que bella oculta,
culta imaginaria admira;
mira, y en lo que recata,
ata el labio, que peligra.

(Sóror Juana Inés de la Cruz)

Darío, then, was emulating Baroque techniques quite a lot.

Antonio Marichalar also touched upon an aspect that makes Góngora so modern, although he didn’t realize it. “His literary duels with Quevedo and Lope de Vega, who represented the opposite type to Góngora, are well known. Lope was a man of letters; fertile in the Spanish way, he poured out works and still more works, without correcting or polishing his output. He could have no sympathy with this searcher for a new poetry, who was never satisfied, and who was obsessed by ‘the mania’ for continual correction.” The prolific Anthony Burgess once complained that writing a lot had become a sin only since the Bloomsbury Group; and the Modernists, compared to the output of their Victorian ancestors, didn’t publish a lot. They, like Góngora, preferred to labor over a small oeuvre. What I find also interesting in this distinction is that Góngora’s slow, perfectionist style predates Gustave Flaubert’s fussiness over style and sentences and Joyce’s perfectionism and attention to the way of telling rather than to what’s told. This too become a staple of Modernist and post-modernist fiction.

Góngora, affection aside, seems to me to have been also an authority to legitimize these avant-garde poets. “Góngora, quite classical, is the first of the moderns,” wrote Guillén. “And it’s known already: according to its obstinate law of apparition, the modern, dissimulating its venerable origins, won’t allow itself to be seen or understood under its juvenile freshness.” (This search for the first of the moderns was a hobby then; Woolf wrote of Montaigne in “The Decay of Essay-Writing” that “we may count him the first of the moderns.”) Still, only they saw any modernity in Don Luis.

The loathsome lackeys of the establishment who hurled attacks and “put definitely in their necropolises all that shit” against Góngora were not so easily convinced. Góngora, Alberti recalled in 1985, was then a “poet vilipended in almost every manual in use.” José Alemany y Bolufer, of the Academy, called him a “lascivious poet”. If Góngora’s star was rising abroad, in Spain he courted no favor. This upset Diego, member of a cosmopolitan generation in tune with Europe and tired of parochialism. “If we wait for the official corporations to do it we'll suffer the embarrassment of Spain celebrating the Centennial of its greatest poet amidst total indifference.” No truce could be expected from the Academy and its “koranic academic bulletin” that was used to print disparaging articles against him. In 1926 said bulletin had published an essay by Justo García Soriano attributing all of Góngora’s innovations to Don Luis Carrillo y Sottomayor, a poet before his time, downgrading Góngora to the role of mere imitator, of epigone. Soriano, fortunately, didn’t hide his main animadversion with Góngora: “If Carrillo hadn’t died so soon, he would have risen certainly to one of the highest tops of our Parnassus and culteranismo, sliding with by less ashen and turbulent waters, would perhaps have been a beneficial and progressive revolution in our Letters.” The problem was the alleged obscureness.

Alonso replied downplaying this common complaint: “Góngora – all his true readers know – is difficult; obscure, no. Obscure is what doesn’t gather in itself the necessary elements for understanding; difficult, what, gathering the elements necessary for understanding, demands from he who wants to understand, intelligence, study, effort. Góngora is difficult like a mathematical theorem can be difficult before its study. However, after a valiant and effortful reading, it turns diaphanous, clear, a lyrical clarity that, on the strength of perfection, on the strength of poetic exactitude, comes close to mathematical clarity.” Marichalar, in an English-language article published in The Criterion, made the same point: “But those who have called him obscure would not understand our contention; for them there is no other clarity than that of discursive ideas. For us, however, poetry is clear when its poetic quality is quite pure, as a painting is when its colors are fresh and entire and do not muddy one another, independently of the more or less easy understanding of the subject of the picture.” And: “Those who charge Góngora with extravagance simply oppose one style to another, the taste of to-day to that of yesterday.” Diego preferred to imagine how much poorer Spanish poetry would have been without Góngora, and how he instead saved it from a decadence resulting from the depletion of classic models Renaissance poets slavishly imitated without innovating themselves. “For anyone that has ears and eyes, and a waking mind, the superiority of Góngora’s style over the masters of the 16th century, his slow and grave density of successive and voluminous intellectual and sensorial riches and, is of a dazzling evidence.”

The ill-will against Góngora was shown in the refusals Diego received from major intellectual and artistic figures. This was a remarkable period for Spanish culture: Ortega y Gasset and Miguel de Unamuno were renowned philosophers; Picasso had already invented Cubism; Juan Miró, Juan Gris, Apel·les Fenosa i Florensa were references in Parisian circles of Modernist art; Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí were one year away from making An Andalusian Dog. Many of these figures were invited, many participated. Picasso, an admirer, would later illustrate 20 sonnets by Góngora in 1948. Eugenio d’Ors, an expert in the Baroque, gave a conference. García Lorca, although a fan, did not reply to Diego; he called him “our epistolary deaf-mute” “the impossible and doubtful and problematic Federico García Lorca.” However, he was in fact ahead of everyone else for on February 13, 1926, he had given already a lecture in the Athenaeum in Granada, focusing on Góngora’s use of metaphor. Infamous refusals included Unamuno, the poet Juan Ramón Jiménez, and the novelist Valle-Inclán.

Diego didn’t worry about this; the festivity was bigger than Spain for “what matters is the largest diffusion possible of the Gongorine defense.” The event was conceived on an international scale. Falla set a Góngora sonnet to music in a concert given in London. Artigas delivered a conference about him in Düsseldorf attended by leading Baroque scholars. Marichalar sent his English-language article to T. S. Eliot’s The Criterion (vol. V, nr. 1, 1927). Eliot had already published in 1921 the essay “The Metaphysical Poets”, rehabilitating 17th century English poets who are roughly equated with the Spanish Baroque style. “Metaphysical poets” was a pejorative term invented by Samuel Johnson for them in the wake of the 18th century battle between the budding neoclassical precepts of good taste and the old style. Eliot, who incorporated their ways in his own poetry, had recognized before the Generation of ’27 the link between the Baroque and Modernism.

Things back in Spain were not as polite as concerts and public conferences. The matter was rife with sabotages and hostility. A humorist published a mock interview with Diego in which he claimed to be a fascist. A critic picked up this fake statement and launched a tirade against these poets whom he deemed false innovators. “They can no longer show off as liberals and innovators.” Many of these poets and figures would later have to flee from Franco into exile (like Alberti and Ortega y Gassett, who moved to Portugal), or were assassinated, as in García Lorca’s case.

This ill-will was not soothed by Diego’s irreverent plans to celebrate May 23. Afterwards he gave a detailed account of what went on in an article published in Lola magazine, although the plans were public knowledge. Festivities began on the 23rd at night and next morning they held a public mass for Góngora, although only the young poets attended it.

Their mock-intention to kidnap Luis Astrana Marín, an expert on the Siglo de Oro with scarce sympathy for the avant-garde poets, did not go through. Alberti later wrote that “Mr. Astrana Marín, a critic who daily attacked Don Luis, unloading at the same time his fury against us, received his due, reaching his house, in the morning of the date, a pretty crown of alfalfa intertwined with four horse shoes” accompanied by a satirical poem by Dámaso Alonso. They also planned to throw stones at Valle-Inclán’s house. Alberti, in charge of contacting people for the event, had received a nasty letter from him saying that he had reread Góngora and “it has caused me a desolating effect, the further possible from all literary respect.” This rejection was all the stronger because of the living novelists it was him who showed closer affinities with Góngora, and so his refusal smacked of treason, to say nothing of hypocrisy. They had considered him an ally and did not take this well; Buñuel and José Hinojosa even insulted Valle-Inclan during a public ceremony. According to an anecdote attributed to Cossío, the morning of the mass they sent from his house a box “containing the decapitated head of a male goat, with its nice and learned beards, as a treat for Don Ramón del Valle-Inclán, for his stubborn antigongorism.” Valle-Inclán was known for his big beard.

This emphasis on humor is important because, in Diego’s letters, we sense that, although the group may be young, Spanish youth was in a bad shape. “I’ve been getting shame from the spectacle of the Spanish youth, between 25 and 35, adulating, complimenting the ‘masters’, possible and, in some cases, real protectors of the abovementioned exploited decrepit youths.” The centennial, then, was also a means to inject a bit of irreverence in a sedate literary milieu.

The real problem was the auto-de-fé intended to burn “real copies or in effigy of all the books that have badmouthed don Luis – critics, historians, textual, etc. – and puppets representing the gongorophobic Tenured Professor, Academic, and Erudite.” It was probably this that helped to make the later prank about them being fascists so credible. Afterwards Diego defended the bonfire to Marichalar: “You know that our autos and acts of inquisition, as authentic (you witnessed the bonfire) as light-hearted and eutrapelic, which some censors have so ridiculously taken as tremendous, were nothing more than an inevitable expansion of a juvenile and primaveral moment.” Not everyone agreed in the group; Artigas enjoyed the idea but knew that it was a polemical matter. “The Auto is very funny, but you’ll have to be a bit careful not to raise antipathy and mistrust.”

The critics had their reasons to be wary of book burning; it was a throwback to the Inquisition; and yet it was hardly an unusual practice amidst avant-garde poets in the Iberian Peninsula. In the 1860s the Portuguese poet Antero de Quental, a mentor of his generation, participated in two autos-de-fé: once he and other students burned in effigy a politician; another time he invited friends to witness his symbolic destruction of his juvenilia composed of Romantic poetry. You’d think after 400 years of Inquisition, poets would find a better way of making their point.

Diego wanted to have the auto-de-fé at the Plaza Mayor, in Madrid, but permission was denied. They thought of the Plaza de Toros next but decided against it. Finally they used an unidentified secluded farm “to avoid accountability to the owner.” “The faraway neighbors thought someone had started the bonfires of San Juan a month earlier.”

They dressed up and organized a tribunal: the judges were Diego, Alberto, and Hinojosa who had replaced Alonso. Dalí and Guillermo de Terro contributed with props for the mock-Inquisitor's court. They carted in the pile of books to be burned (which included the works of people who had been on their side, like Gasset and Ors). The effigies were built by Moreno Villa: they symbolized “the academic mole”, “the tenured marmot”, and “the academic crustacean”, Góngora’s enemies in the Academy. Diego described the festivities rather like a medieval carnival or a Rabelaisian feast: “Three days of leisure and of merriment, well earned by some of us who had previously worked hard for several months in honor of Góngora. Horsing around, we had a – untranscendental – manifestation of independence and of unrespectfulness of things and people, respectable no doubt, who however ceased to be so for their reproachable and torpid behavior concerning Góngora.” It’s worth pointing out that Diego’s adjective untranscendental (intranscendente) is similar to the noun intranscendence (intranscendência), used in The Dehumanization of Art to describe modern art as opposed to 19th century art. Gasset, like Eliot, believed impersonality to be one of distinguishing marks of modernist poetry. Góngora’s formal, logical style in which the personality effaces itself under the purity of the language lent itself to this revolution easily.

Góngora’s renown rose from here on as his admirers attained importance in the world of literature. Diego and Alonso went on to have fruitful academic careers and published important criticism and literary history. Alberti and García Lorca achieved mythical status. Alberto Manguel could say in his introduction to Grossman’s translation that Góngora’s influence extended to Juan Goytisolo, Gabriel García Márquez, Lezama Lima, Severo Sarduy, and Alejo Carpentier. The Latin American boom, without him, would have been a very different affair without the bedrock of excess on which its novelists built their innovations. It didn’t take many decades for this change to be perceived. Diego lived long enough to attend another Góngora centennial, his 400th anniversary in 1961. What turnabout, what sweet triumph and vindication! In 1927 he had fought the establishment to assert Góngora’s existence; the second time he was being invited by that establishment to give lectures about him at Universities.

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