Author. He received world-wide recognition as an Argentinian poet, essayist, and short-story writer, whose prolific works have become classics in the 20th century world literature. Born into a family who lived in one of the poorer neighborhoods of Buenos Aries, his father taught at an English school. With his paternal grandmother being English, he learned to speak English before Spanish, hence the first books he read were American classics such as Edgar Allen Poe's poems or Mark Twain's novels. It was clear early that he would be taking a literary career. He wrote his first story at age seven and by nine, saw his own Spanish translation of Oscar Wilde's “The Happy Prince” published in a Buenos Aires newspaper. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, his family relocated to Geneva, Switzerland where he learned French and German and graduated with a B.A. Degree from the College of Geneva. In 1919 the family spent a year on the island of Majorca and the next year in Spain. It was here that he join a young writers group, the Ultraist Movement, rebelling against established writers. Returning to Buenos Aries in 1921, he was credited with establishing the Ultraist Movement there. In 1923 he published his first book, a volume of poetry, “Fervor of Buenos Aires, Poems.” In 1932 he met Adolfo Bioy Casares, with whom he developed a life-time friendship, became professional colleagues, and often collaborated with him in his writings. They wrote six books together and created the character H. Bustos Domecq, the name used as the author of some of their lighter writings. In 1936 the two men were the editors of the literary magazine “Destiempo.” The two men also edited “The Greatest Detective Stories” in 1943, a two-volume book of Gaucho Poetry in 1955, and other works. Along with Casares's wife, the poet Silvina Ocampo, the two edited the 1940 “Anthology of Fantastic Literature” and in 1941 “Anthology of Argentine Poetry.” Starting before World War II, he condemned the politics of the Nazi Party, whereas Argentina became a safe haven for Nazis seeking a sanctuary after the war. During the first regime of Argentinian President Juan Perion, he met with political persecution along with many of the more educated citizens, thus removed from his position of the Director of the National Library and offered a job as poultry inspector at the city's airport; he refused that job supporting the military sect that would eventually overthrow Peron. His personal experiences during World War I may have led to his strong political views against dictatorships. Slowly becoming totally blind from an inherited condition that his father suffered, he was completely blind by the age of fifty-five and depended on his mother to read to him becoming his secretary. His most famous books were “Ficciones” in 1944 and “The Aleph” in 1949. In 1961 he became more internationally recognized after he was co-recipient with Irish poet Samuel Beckett of the “Formentor Prize,” an international award given for unpublished manuscripts. In 1971 he was the recipient of the Jerusalem Prize for Freedom, which is given for literary works that support human freedom. He died with complications from liver cancer. After his death, there were forgeries of his translations widely circulating as his work. On the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1998, a trilogy of his translated works was released , “Collected Fictions.” It contained “The Circular Ruins,” “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis, Tertius,” and the prose poem, “Everything and Nothing,” along with some of his lesser-known pieces. A series of lectures given at Harvard University in the 1960s, “This Craft of Verse,” was released in 2000. His more-than-life-sized statue stands outside the National Library of Argentina, where he had been director since 1955. He was nominated in 1967 for the Nobel Prize in Literature. He wrote thousands of pieces and the University of Virginia's Special Collection started acquiring his work in 1977 and now has 2,000 pieces of his works.
Bio by: Linda Davis