Vallejo, César

Vallejo, César sā´sär väyā´hō [key], 1895–1938, Peruvian poet. Vallejo was one of the most influential yet least imitated figures of modern Spanish-American letters. He identified himself with the sufferings of the underprivileged and dedicated himself to the cause of social progress. Himself a cholo—a mestizo of native and white origin—he was deeply distressed by the exploitation of indigenous people. His poems in Heraldos negros (1918) blend symbolism and caustic observation in terse classical form. He was imprisoned on false charges of political rebellion in 1920; in jail he wrote a part of Trilce (1922). The book is somber and tragic in tone and dramatically experimental in form. These early works mainly reflect his concern with Spanish-American subjects. In 1923 he went to Europe in self-imposed exile, espoused Marxist causes, and aligned himself with the Republicans in the Spanish civil war. He also wrote Tungsteno (1931), a moving novel about native peoples. Vallejo made a meager living from journalism and died in poverty. Two volumes of his work were published posthumously, Poemas humanos (1939) and España, aparta de mi este cáliz [Spain, let this cup pass from me] (1940). Both reflect his later concerns with European themes. His Complete Poetry, both in Spanish and in English translation, was published in 2007.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Latin American Literature: Biographies