Salvadoran literature

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The Salvadoran Literature is the Spanish-language literature of El Salvador . It is one of the least common of the Hispanic American literatures. This is not only due to the small size of the country, but also to the fact that El Salvador was far away from the centers of the Ibero-American literary industry, so that its literature was hardly noteworthy from an aesthetic point of view until the beginning of the 20th century. El Salvador's authors only became better known in German-speaking countries through the civil war of the 1980s.

Colonial and 19th century

The languages ​​of the pre-Columbian peoples are severely threatened (the Nawat of the Pipil ) or extinct (the language of the Lenca ). A few myths of the Pipil were not recorded until the 20th century.

In the colonial era, the remote Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, founded in 1676, was the cultural center of Mesoamerica. European influences therefore only reached El Salvador with considerable delay; there was only a popular theater here, which showed religious plays or comedies, especially on festive days.

Already in the 18th century Salvadoran journalists and priests fought against oppression and censorship, but apart from eloquent speeches and newspaper articles, they left hardly any literary traces.

From independence to the end of the civil war in 1991

The romantic poet, playwright, essayist and translator Francisco Gavidia (1863 (?) - 1955) is considered to be the actual founder of Salvadoran literature, which, like in the rest of Mesoamerica , was shaped by Costumbrismo for a very long time - until around 1930/35 . This is what the humorously ironic work by José María Peralta Lagos (1873–1944) stands for. The transition from costrumbrismo to a short story with North American influences is marked by the works of Luís Salvador Efraín Salazar Arrué (pseudonym: Salarrué ), who is also influenced by the Guatemalan Miguel Ángel Asturias and by Surrealism. His later novels show the influence of the storytelling techniques of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf .

The 1944 generation is the name given to the writers who appeared after the fall of the dictatorship that year. These include the realistic narrator and lyricist Hugo Lindo , the lyricist Oswaldo Escobar Velado , José María Méndez and the essayist and lyricist Matilde Elena López . In lyric poetry, the tradition of poesía pura and modernismo , the artful ciphering of poetic statements up to complete obscuration, dominated until the 1960s . Walter Béneke (1928–1980) established himself as a successful playwright in the existential tradition in the 1960s.

On the other hand, topics of narrative literature remained the oppression of the peasants, terror and civil war for decades. The massacre of the Pipil farmers in 1932 was repeatedly the subject of literary controversy, for example in the novel “Cuzcatlán. At the sea of ​​the south ”( Cuzcatlán donde bate la mar del sur , 1986), in which Manlio Argueta (* 1935) describes the story of a small peasant family over the period of 50 years between the massacre of over 30,000 small farmers in 1932 and the civil war in 1981. His novel “Days of Nightmare” ( Un día en la vida , 1980) deals with the same subject .

Roque Dalton (1969)

Roque Dalton (1935–1975), initially a conservative Jesuit student , then a member of the Salvadorian Communist Party, narrowly escaped execution in 1959, later himself a victim of the guerrillas who murdered him because they mistakenly believed him to be a collaborator, lived in exile for years. His “antipoetic” poetry turns away from the aestheticism of modernism. Alongside Ernesto Cardenal , he is considered to be the most important poetry innovator in Central America. He was based on Pablo Neruda and the ideal of revolutionary simplicity. In his novel "The world is a limping millipede" ( Miguel Mármol. Los sucesos de 1932 en El Salvador ) he describes the struggle of the unionist and peasant leader Miguel Mármol against the dictatorship. In the novel "Poor little poet that I was" ( Pobrecito poeta que era yo… ) describes Dalton his way from poetry to revolution. His book “Thumbling's Forbidden Stories” ( Las historias prohibidas del Pulgarcito ) tells the suppressed traditions of his small country, the Thumbling of America (a bon mot from Gabriela Mistral ) and exposes the official historiography of the ruling oligarchy. He received the Premio Casa de las Américas in 1969 for his great poem La Taberna , a montage of various contributions to the discussion about problems of socialism that remained unsolved in exile in the Czech Republic.

Like Dalton and the poet and narrator Roberto Cea , Manlio Argueta counted himself to the generación comprometida . He lived in exile in Costa Rica for 21 years . His best-known works are Caperucita en la zona roja ("Little Red Riding Hood in the Red Light District") and Un día en la vida (1980, German version under the title "Days of Nightmare. Novel from El Salvador" 1984).

In his publications, David Hernández (* 1955), who lived temporarily in the Ukraine and Germany, recalls the Salvadoran poet group Die purple onion , of which many members died as guerrillas, were murdered by death squads or are missing. Love, war and exile are subjects of his poetry, which the author also deals with in his novel "Salvamuerte" ( Salvamuerte , 1990).

Since 1991

The author Horacio Castellanos Moya (* 1957), who was born in Honduras and grew up in El Salvador, was for a time a member of the guerrilla FMLN. He too had to go into exile twice. a. to Canada, Spain, Mexico, Guatemala and Frankfurt am Main, where he wrote short stories. In his novel “Die Spiegelbeichte” ( La diabla en el espejo , 2000) a woman tries to solve the murder of her friend. “The Gun Man” ( El arma en el hombre , 2001) is about the military who were unemployed after the end of the civil war. An entire series of novels is devoted to the fate of the traumatized and exiled Aragón family. "Aragóns Abgang" ( Donde no están ustedes ) is a political thriller in the diplomatic milieu. Today the author lives in the USA.

The civil war is still an issue for the feminist author and lawyer Vanessa Núñez Handal (* 1973). She has lived in Guatemala since 2006, where she promotes networking among Mesoamerican authors. Her first novel Los locos mueren de viejos was published in 2008.

Mauricio Orellana Suárez (* 1965) has written several novels and short stories that also strike a surrealistic note. In addition to the consequences of globalization, he addresses the difficult situation of homosexuals in the country ( Heterocity , 2011). Alberto José Pocasangre Velasco (* 1972) is a poet, storyteller and children's book author. Ricardo Lindo Fuentes (1947–2016), who also wrote poems and dramas, wrote about the art and traditions of the pre-Columbian era .


  • Mauricio Orellana Suárez, Vanessa Núñez Handal, Alberto José Pocasangre Velasco: Stories from El Salvador. Zurich 2016 (anthology).

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Leonhard Schultze: Indiana II: Myths in mother tongue of the Pipil of Izalco in El Salvador . Gustav Fischer, Jena 1935.
  2. Michael Rössner (ed.): Latin American literary history. 2nd edition Stuttgart, Weimar 2002, p. 289 f.
  3. Rössner 2002, p. 428 f.
  4. ^ EW: Roque Dalton: Das lyrische Werk , in: Walter Jens (Hrsg.): Kindlers Neues Literatur-Lexikon , Vol. 4. Munich 1996, pp. 394–396-
  5. ^ Klaus Küpper: Invitation to a journey of discovery. ( online )