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"The plain is beautiful and terrible at the same time; in it fit comfortably, beautiful life and atrocious death; It lurks everywhere, but no one fears it there (...) Hours later, Mr. Danger saw her pass by, Lambedero below. He greeted her from a distance, but got no response. She was absorbed, her eyes fixed forward, at the leisurely pace of her beast, her bridles slack between her hands abandoned on her legs. Arid lands, broken by ravines and furrowed with clods of earth. Skinny cattle, of withered looks, were licking here and there, in an impressive obsession, the slopes and the peeling of the sad place. The bones of those that had already succumbed to the sun, victims of the salty earth that made them starve to death, forgotten by the pasture, and great flocks of vultures hovered over the pestilence of the carrion, were bleaching in the sun. Doña Barbara stopped to contemplate the stubborn aberration of the cattle and with thoughts of herself materialized in sensation, she felt in the tasty dryness of her tongue, burning with fever and thirst, the harshness and bitterness of that land that the obstinate bestial tongues were licking. Thus, she in her determined eagerness to savor the sweetness of that love that consumed her. Then, making an effort to free herself from the fascination that those places and that spectacle exerted on her spirit, she spurred her horse and continued her somber wandering".
Undoubtedly the above, a fragment of the novel Doña Bárbara (1929), one of the most internationally recognized novels by Venezuelan writer Rómulo Gallegos, gives the reader a glimpse of the nature of his country, as well as the passions and conflicts of the inhabitants of its immense plains, and sometimes even of many of its inhospitable places.
With his writing, Gallegos not only describes them vividly, but also moves the reader to feel them as his own, even to the point of confronting them. According to critics, each of his works -especially his novels- are the result of a constant struggle between good and evil where, although the former always transcends the latter and a certain bitterness survives as a result of the triumph of weakness or the bent character of one of the main characters.
Gallegos' authorial stamp is included among the most relevant in Latin America and the world, besides being considered as one of the innovators of the Hispanic American Narrative. To such an extent that, in 1965, the Romulo Gallegos International Novel Prize was created, and in 1972, the Center for Latin American Studies, which bears his name, was founded.
He obtained his bachelor's degree at the Sucre School in 1904. That same year he began his law studies at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, which, although he did not finish them, were important in his later political life. In 1903 he writes the weekly Arco Iris, where he publishes the essay "Lo que somos".
In 1909 he founded the magazine La Alborada, an organ of diffusion of articles, not only literary, but also political and educational. In January 1912 he is appointed director of the Colegio Federal de Varones de Barcelona. Two months later he is named subdirector of the Federal School of Caracas, later Liceo Caracas (at present, Andrés Bello). There he carried out his pedagogical work until 1918, when he became director of the Normal School of Caracas, and in 1922, he renewed his position as director of the Liceo Caracas, until 1930.
In 1914 he publishes a group of short stories under the title Los Aventureros and in 1920 his first novel El último Solar is published, published again in 1930 under the title Reinaldo Solar. Between 1919 and 1922 he directs the magazine Actualidades; in 1922 he initiates the editions of La Novela Semanal, where numerous Venezuelan narrators become known. The success of the novel Doña Bárbara, published in 1929, and the offer of a senatorial position by the government of General Juan Vicente Gómez, which he rejects, lead him to settle in Europe, where he concludes several of his novels. After the death of Gómez he returns to Venezuela, occupying the positions of Minister of Education, Deputy to the National Congress for the Federal District (1937-1940), and President of the City Council of the Federal District (1941).
In July 1941 he was one of the founders of the Democratic Action Party and served as its president until 1948. In 1947 he was nominated by that party for the presidency of the Republic, and was elected on December 14 of that same year. His term of office was quite short, because after taking office on February 15, 1948, he was overthrown by a military coup on November 24. He was exiled to Cuba and later, in 1949, to Mexico, where he lived until 1958.
During his extensive literary career, Gallegos obtained several distinctions such as, among others: Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Colombia (1948), an honor he renounced in 1955 when the same distinction was conferred on Carlos Castillo Armas, dictator of Guatemala; he was Honorary Professor of the Faculty of Humanities of the University of San Carlos (Guatemala, 1951); Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Costa Rica (1951); Writer-in-Residence at the University of Oklahoma, United States (1951); Doctor Honoris Causa in Humanities from the Universidad Central de Venezuela (1958); Doctor Honoris Causa in Law from the Universidad de Los Andes (1958); Doctor Honoris Causa in Law from the Universidad de Zulia (1958). The Municipal Council of Caracas proclaimed him, on August 2, 1958, Illustrious Son of the City. That same year he also received the following distinctions: Honorary President of the College of Professors of Venezuela, Great Cross of San Martin, and National Prize of Literature. He was elected member of the National Academy of Language but did not receive it. He was also nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
His main works include:
- Los aventureros (1913, short stories).
- The Last Solar (1920, novel)
- The Rebellion (1922, short story)
- The Immigrants (1922, novel)
- La trepadora (1925, novel)
- Doña Bárbara (1929, novel)
- Reinaldo Solar (1930, novel)
- Cantaclaro (1934, novel)
- Canaima (1935, novel)
- Pobre negro (1937, novel)
- El forastero (1942, novel)
- Sobre la misma tierra (1943, novel)
- La rebelión y otros cuentos (1946, novella)
- Venezuelan Stories (1949)
- The blade of straw in the wind (1952, novel)
- A Position in Life (1954, articles and essays)
- The Maiden (1957, drama)
- The Maiden and the Last Patriot (1957, drama and short stories).
(Taken from Cubarte)
English version Hector Hdez.