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the Complete Review
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Selected Writings

Leopoldo Lugones

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To purchase Selected Writings

Title: Selected Writings
Author: Leopoldo Lugones
Genre: Various
Written: (Eng. 2008)
Length: 117 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Selected Writings - US
Selected Writings - UK
Selected Writings - Canada
  • Includes both fiction and non-fiction, originally written between 1897 and 1930
  • Translated by Sergio Waisman
  • Edited and with an Introduction by Gwen Kirkpatrick

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Our Assessment:

B : solid introduction to his work, but a very slim sampler

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Selected Writings is a slim Leopoldo Lugones-sampler, with six stories and six non-fiction pieces covering less than a hundred pages. And all the fiction is taken from the 1906 collection, Strange Forces -- the only Lugones recently translated and readily available in a separate volume.
       A once enormously popular author, and undeniably influential, he is now best known through Jorge Luis Borges' writings about him. As Gwen Kirkpatrick notes in a useful Introduction, Lugones: "began his career as a socialist and ended it as a fascist", and the taint of his later politics has certainly harmed his writing; he was also a suicide. Helpfully, this volume does include the highly controversial speech, The Ayacucho Address, about which Kirkpatrick notes:

Delivered in 1924, this speech would forever cloud his remarkable literary legacy.
       In that speech Lugones shows how far he strayed from his early ideals, arguing, for example:
The constitutional system of the nineteenth century has expired. The army is the last existing aristocracy, which is to say the last chance at hierarchical organization left before the demagogic dissolution. Only military life executes, at this moment in history, the superior life of beauty, hope, and strength.
       Slyly -- if arguably deceptively --, Kirkpatrick does not present the non-fiction pieces in chronological order, and concludes the volume with an 1897 piece, The Holiday of the Proletariat; if not quite enough to redeem him, it does shows how greatly Lugones' position changed over the years:
     We protest the entire existing social order: that of the republic, the paradise of mediocrity and of the servile; that of religion, which chokes souls so as to pacify them (and how pacified they do in fact remain: never to move again !); that of the army, that cavern of slavery where the muzzle is worth more than the mouth, and where being a murderer and thief is permitted in exchange for becoming an imbecile; that of the homeland, supremely false and evil, as the legitimate daughter of militarism; that of the state, which is a machinery of torture, under the pressure of which we must mold ourselves like chips in a house of games; that of the family, which is the pillar of the slavery of women and an inexhaustible source of prostitution. Against all these capitalized bases of social convention, against all of these chains, we protest, we who are in chains.
       The non-fiction provides some understanding of how Lugones is perceived (and why he is often still disdained), but it is the fiction that is of greatest interest. All the pieces here are from a single collection, and thus hardly representative; still, these fantastical tales are more than curiosities, and show considerable talent and imagination.
       They are dark pieces, most ending in death(s) -- "What she felt was so horrendous that a few months later she also died, a victim of the fright produced in her at that moment", etc. -- but Lugones does a decent job of evoking scenes (and then horrors). The Rain of Fire is an end-of-days story, in which a "disembodied soul from Gomorrah" describes the destruction of that city. In Yzur, the narrator is convinced that monkeys can be trained to speak, and -- increasingly brutally -- tries to teach a chimpanzee to talk.
       These are solid stories (though the characters and narrators tend to be rather unsympathetic), and certainly worthwhile, both on their own and read as precursors to Borges, Cortázar, and others. It's unfortunate, however, that the volume does not include a wider selection, showing what else Lugones wrote.
       With a solid Introduction, and a selection of both non and fiction, these Selected Writings are a decent introduction to the man and his work -- but it is a very slim volume.

- M.A.Orthofer, 3 December 2009

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Selected Writings: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Argentinian author Leopoldo Lugones lived 1874 to 1938.

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