|Name:||Augusto Roa Bastos|
|Birth Day:||June 13, 1917|
|Death Date:||April 26, 2005(2005-04-26) (aged 87)
|Birth Place:||Asunción, Paraguay|
As per our current Database, Augusto Roa Bastos died on April 26, 2005(2005-04-26) (aged 87)
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Roa Bastos was born in Asunción on June 13, 1917. He spent his childhood in Iturbe, a provincial town in the Guaira region where his father was an administrator on a sugar plantation. It was here, some 200 kilometres (120 mi) to the south of the Paraguayan capital of Asunción, that Roa Bastos learned to speak both Spanish and Guaraní, the language of Paraguay's indigenous people. At the age of ten he was sent to school in Asunción where he stayed with his uncle, Hermenegildo Roa, the liberal bishop of Asunción.
In 1932 the territorial Chaco War began between Paraguay and Bolivia and continued until 1935. At some point, perhaps as late as 1934, Roa Bastos joined the Paraguayan army as a medical auxiliary. The war would have a profound effect on the future writer who said: "when I left for that war I dreamed of purification in the fire of battles." Instead of glory he found "maimed bodies" and "destruction" which left him to question "why two brother countries like Bolivia and Paraguay were massacring each other", and as a consequence Roa Bastos became a pacifist.
Hijo de hombre (1960; Son of Man), Roa Bastos' first published and award-winning novel, represents his definitive break with poetry. It is seen as a refined "outgrowth" of his earlier works of short fiction such as El trueno entre las hojas (1953), which also dealt with themes of political oppression and social struggle in Paraguay. This novel portrays the conflict between the governing élite and the oppressed masses in Paraguay from 1912 until just after the end of the Chaco War with Bolivia in 1936. Like his later Yo, el Supremo, Hijo de hombre draws upon a series of Paraguayan legends and stories dating back to start of Dr. Francia's dictatorship in 1814.
Directly after the war he worked as a bank clerk and later as a journalist. During this time he began writing plays and poetry. In 1941 Roa Bastos won the Ateneo Paraguayo prize for Fulgencia Miranda, although the book was never published. In the early 1940s he spent significant time on the yerba mate plantations in northern Paraguay, an experience he would later draw upon in his first published novel, Hijo de hombre (1960; Son of Man). In 1942 he was appointed editorial secretary for the Asunción daily El País.
Over the course of his career, Roa Bastos received a diversity of honors and distinctions. In 1941 he won the Ateneo Paraguayo Prize for his (unpublished) novel Fulgencio Miranda. This first award was followed by a British Council fellowship for journalism that enabled him to travel to Europe during World War II. In 1959 Roa Bastos won the Losada prize for his first published novel Hijo de hombre. The adaptation of this novel, for which he wrote the screenplay, won best film in the Spanish language and first prize of the Argentine Instituto de Cinematografia the following year. His most prestigious awards were a 1971 John Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship for creative writers, and in 1989, the Cervantes Prize, an award given by the Spanish government for lifetime achievement, and Spanish language literature's most prestigious prize. Roa Bastos donated most of his prize money to provide easier access to books in Paraguay. In 1997 France distinguished him as Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur.
Throughout this eventful period in his life Roa Bastos continued to write and he was considered a poet of the Paraguayan avant garde. In 1942 he published a book of poems in the classic Spanish style, which he titled El Ruiseñor De La Aurora (The Dawn Nightingale), a work he later renounced. He also had plays successfully performed during the 1940s, though they were never published. Of his prolific poetry of the late 1940s only "El naranjal ardiente" (1960; "The Burning Orange Grove") was published.
In 1944 the British Council awarded Roa Bastos a nine-month fellowship for journalism in London. During this time he traveled extensively in Britain, France and Africa and witnessed the devastation of WWII first hand. He served as the El País war correspondent, notably conducting an interview with General Charles de Gaulle after the latter's return to Paris in 1945. Roa Bastos also broadcast Latin American programs at the invitation of the BBC and France's Ministry of Information.
During the 1947 Paraguayan Civil War, Roa Bastos was forced to flee to Buenos Aires, Argentina, because he had spoken out against President Higinio Moríñigo. About 500,000 of his fellow Paraguayans left for Argentina at the same time. Roa Bastos remained in Argentina until just before the establishment of the military dictatorship there in 1976, and he did not return permanently to Paraguay until 1989. He found exile difficult, but his time in Buenos Aires was a prolific period. Roa Bastos said this in reference to his exile:
In 1953 the collection of 17 short stories El trueno entre las hojas (1953; Thunder Among the Leaves) was published and circulated internationally, but it was not until the 1960 publication of the novel Hijo de hombre (Son of Man) that Roa Bastos won major critical and popular success. The novel draws on the oppressive history of Paraguay from the rule of Dr. Jose Gaspar de Francia in the early 19th century until the Chaco War in the 1930s. Its multiple narrative perspectives and historical and political themes anticipate his most famous work, Yo, el Supremo, written more than a decade later. Roa Bastos adapted Hijo de hombre into an award-winning film in the same year as its publication.
Roa Bastos further established himself as a screenwriter with the screenplay of Shunko (1960), directed by Lautaro Murúa and based on the memoirs of a country school teacher. In 1961 he once again collaborated with Murúa for Alias Gardelito (1961), which depicted the lives of urban petty criminals and became a major independent film of the nuevo cine movement. In 1974 Roa Bastos published his influential masterpiece Yo, el Supremo, the result of seven years' work. When Jorge Rafael Videla's military dictatorship came to power in 1976, however, the book was banned in Argentina, and Roa Bastos was exiled once again, this time to Toulouse, France.
In Toulouse Roa Bastos taught Guaraní and Spanish literature at the University of Toulouse. Although he had been allowed to visit Paraguay to work with a new generation of Paraguayan writers, starting in 1970, he was again barred from entry in 1982, for purportedly engaging in subversive activities. There is however, little evidence that he participated in sectarian politics of any kind. In France, Roa Bastos faced the second forced relocation of his life, but he also won a new readership for his work during this time. Helen Lane's English translation of Yo, el Supremo, I, The Supreme, published in 1986, was greeted with widespread acclaim in the English-speaking world. However, in France, Roa Bastos' writing focus was primarily academic, and his literary output did not match that of his time in Argentina. In 1985 Roa Bastos left his post at the University of Toulouse. Following the downfall of the oppressive Alfredo Stroessner regime in 1989, Roa Bastos returned to Paraguay at the request of its new leader Andrés Rodríguez.
Undoubtedly, Roa Bastos' own experiences played a significant role in his emphasis on human suffering. As a young man he fought in the Chaco war between Bolivia and Paraguay, an event he portrayed in Hijo de hombre. Later he saw the devastation of WWII at first hand in Europe, the violent strife of 1947 in Paraguay, and the rise of the Argentinian military dictatorship in 1976. His collection of short stories published in 1953, El Trueno entre las Hojas, set the stage for Hijo de hombre and Yo, el Supremo with its dark portrayal of devastating political struggle and oppression. Two decades later, Yo, el Supremo was published, providing a prime example of Roa Bastos' idea of the engaged writer. It offered an unflattering, fictionalized account of the final thoughts and ramblings of Paraguay's first dictator, at a time when Paraguay was under the stranglehold of a regime that adopted many of the same policies of oppression and isolationism. Roa Bastos was not alone in using literature to engage in contemporary events during the Latin American Boom period. In the 1960s and 1970s, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and others adopted the same approach. Together, these writers created the Dictator novel genre.
The writing of Roa Bastos spans four countries, six decades, and countless genres. In his lifetime he made important contributions to Latin American Boom writing, to the related Dictator Novel, and to the Nuevo Cine film movement through screenplays like Alias Gardelito (1961). Roa Bastos' influence can be found in the works of many foreign post-boom writers, including Mempo Giardinelli, Isabel Allende, Eraclio Zepeda, Antonio Skármeta, Saul Ibargoyen, and Luisa Valenzuela. The most important author to come out of Paraguay, he also remains highly influential for a new generation of Paraguayan authors. Roa Bastos' relationship with his country, unbroken by over 40 years of exile, was considered so important that in 1989 he was invited back by Paraguay's new president, Andrés Rodríguez, following the collapse of the Stroessner regime.
Following the toppling of the Stroessner regime, Roa Bastos won the Premio Cervantes (Cervantes Prize), awarded by the Spanish Royal Academy in partnership with the Spanish government, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to Spanish-language literature. It was at this time that Roa Bastos began to travel frequently between Paraguay and France. In 1991, representing Paraguay, Roa Bastos signed The Morelia Declaration "demanding the reversal of the ecological destruction of the planet." It was at this time that Roa Bastos again became an active novelist and screenwriter.
In 1991 Roa Bastos adapted Yo, el Supremo for the screen. His first novel since Yo, el Supremo, Vigilia del admirante (1992; Vigil of the Admiral) was published in 1992, and El fiscal (1993; The Prosecutor) the following year. Although neither of his later novels had the impact of his earlier work, El fiscal is considered an important work. Roa Bastos died on April 26, 2005 in Asunción from a heart attack. He was survived by his three children, his third wife, Iris Giménez, and a reputation as one of Latin American's finest writers.
Currently, Augusto Roa Bastos is 105 years, 1 months and 29 days old. Augusto Roa Bastos will celebrate 106th birthday on a Tuesday 13th of June 2023.
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