I always loved the spirit of Francisco Izquierdo Ríos, andino, and his writing in César Vallejo y su tierra is valuable. He first visited Santiago de Chuco in 1946 and stayed, if I do not misunderstand, in the Santa María family’s Hotel Bolívar. (Lodging in that town is rough now, perhaps it is that it has not changed since then.) He evokes the spirit of the land and says the nature of that countryside matters to Vallejo’s imagery and voices and it is true; you hear and see that part of Peru in all of Vallejo’s work, and this is important. There is a part of the book written after a return voyage in 1971 when Izquierdo Ríos met the dulce y andina Rita, who had twins for Vallejo who died. Vallejo was “alegre,” she said.
Another insufficiently read biographical work on Vallejo is Antenor Orrego’s Mi encuentro con César Vallejo (1989). There are editions available on Amazon but I do not trust the bindings and this library copy is good; I will borrow it again later. It isn’t a biography but it has important information, comments, anecdotes, and a compendium of documents and articles from the period (and testimonies, too, e.g. the 1959 symposium in Córdoba, Argentina). I would like to read this book in peace, not needing to “use” it, but to study it. Its language is dated but its intuitions, sure and its documentary value, great. Vallejo is “American” in that he is from a place, writes from it, but from the ground up, not borrowing techniques from elsewhere (Darío is European, says Orrego). Vallejo is alone and not well understood because he is original.
Vallejo, Moro, and others walked alone and suffered because they walked alone, but knew how.
Espejo Asturrizaga’s César Vallejo. Itinerario del hombre is another book I would like to reread slowly and in peace. It is yellowed and I would like a nicer copy but do not know if any can be found. One important point Espejo makes is that Vallejo was never really poor or desamparado or alone (the book covers his life up to 1923); his poems on sadness and solitude are not about material conditions of his own. His anger at Peru was about how intellectuals were treated and his work not understood; this is a different question.
My paper, when I finally write it, will look at biographies and memoirs and documents, and at Foucault and Agamben (“The author as gesture”).
There is nothing more wonderful than being able to study in a good café in a familiar and beautiful city away from home.
A different kind of book, that I am buying because I can, is Ortega’s 2014 volume in Taurus, La escritura del devenir. This is a book of criticism that has a critical thesis but there is a great deal of and on biography in it, and some documents are reproduced. Ortega says Vallejo has had some good readers, but also “malos testigos.”
I would have liked to be a Vallejo scholar but failed because of the tenure system. At the time, I needed a book in English in a U.S. university press and I could not seem to sell one on a single author, who was furthermore Peruvian and a poet, unless I claimed he were an exponent of postcolonial theory or something like that, and I could not figure out how. But Vallejo is fascinating and if I can cut through the sadness he brings up for me–none of which tiene que ver in any way, none of which is about Vallejo or even about me, the actual me–perhaps I can still do it.