Writer. He is remembered for being a Peruvian writer of the 20th century. Being part of the artistic movement of the 1930s called indigenism, his “novels of the earth” were stories of oppressed people. Coming from northern Peru, he is considered part of the “North Group” of artists and writers. Born Ciro Algeria Bazan, he spent his childhood in the mountains on a large estate, “Quilca”, which belonged to his wealthy family. He bonded readily to the hired laborers, native Indians, and mixed raced people called “cholos,” and saw firsthand their life styles learning their ways as a boy and later as their employer. He graduated from the National School San Juan Trujillo, where one of his teachers was poet Cesar Vallejo, who publicly denounced the inequality in Peruvian society . In 1920 while he was in college, he became ill with malaria. In 1927 he founded the school newspaper “Sanjuanista Tribune” and published a short novel”La Marimorena”. At this point in his life, he became political, joined the Agristia Party, was expelled from college and then arrested, sentenced to ten years in prison, and tortured, but by 1934 exiled to Chile on the same day as the murder of his colleague and poet, Jose Santos Chocano. Although physically sick and bedridden for months after the imprisonment, he became motivated and began publishing poems and articles. In 1935 his novel “The Gold Snake” won a competition in Chile and this followed with his 1939 novel “The The Hungry Dogs” receiving second place in the Zig-Zag Publishing House competition in Chile. Besides these two novels, “The World is Wide and Alien” in 1941 is said to be his masterpiece as it was placed first in the competition by the United States publisher Farrer and Rinehart and was fourth on the American Best Seller's list in 1941. Over the years, this novel has become one of the most read novels in Latin American literature, had several editions, and has been translated to many languages including English. His books had passion and humor. Leaving his wife and two small sons in Peru in the spring of 1941, he traveled back and forth between the United States, Cuba and Puerto Rico. During this time, he did not publish any of his writings, but taught in universities, translated manuscripts such as for film companies in Hollywood, and did journalism pieces for “Readers Digest,” “Redbook,” and other magazines. After the beginning of World War II , he could not easily travel back to Peru. By 1945, he was divorced and then remarried in Puerto Rico. He denounced the Agristia Party in 1948 during a trip to Peru. In 1950 he published a book, “The Adventures of Machu Picchu.” On May 25, 1957, he married, his third wife, Cuban poet Dora Varona Gil and returned to Peru the same year for university lectures. The couple had four children with the last being born five months after his sudden death. It is believed that his university commitments and health concerns kept him from writing; his health concerns were liver problems after imprisonment, surgeries for a diseased gall bladder and a bleeding ulcer, and as documented with his photographs, he was a chain smoker. In 1960, he returned to Peru rejoining the political activities, becoming a member of the Popular Action Party in 1963, and deputy to Congress of the Republic. He was appointed member of the Peruvian Academy of Languages. In 1963 he published his last book, “Duel of Knights,” which is a collection of stories. He died of an intracranial bleed. Upon his death, his wife found his unpublished works: two unfinished books, several essays, articles, short stories and a total of eight children books were published by her after his death. More of his writings were published after his death than before. He was decorated with the Magisterial Palms in the highest rank: the Amauta. In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Alegria's death, the National Library of Peru paid tribute to this author with a conference, “The World is Wide and Alien: Indigensim and the Total Novel.
Bio by: Linda Davis