Macedonio Fernández (1874-1952)
The life of Macedonio Fernández more closely resembles that of a hermit rather than an accomplished writer. A self-trained philosopher, Fernández preferred to stay at home and write instead of promoting his works among the Argentine avant-garde of the 1920s. Nevertheless, it was perhaps this elusive nature that created his great popularity with the younger generation. Fernández was regularly celebrated for his offbeat sense of humor, often canceling speaking engagements only to send last minute comedic letters in his stead. The best known admirer of this eccentric personality is perhaps Jorge Luis Borges, who is primarily responsible for the organization and publication of several of the author's books. Chief among these compilations is Papeles de recienvenido, published in 1944. In the 1920s, however, these works were not easily accessible to the everyday reader as they call for the invention of a new genre of literature in which the reader is forced to work with the text to create meaning. This new philosophy of writing did not become widely popular until the Boom novels of the 1960s, at which time reprints of his works revealed possibilities of literary theory that were fertile material for exploration by authors such as Julio Cortázar.
Robert O'Grady has presented the Department of Special Collections with fourteen articles from various newspapers and magazines that evaluate and explain the complicated philosophical and literary pursuits of Fernandez. Above all, they allow the contemporary reader to gain an understanding of the way in which Fernandez was perceived throughout his productive years.
A privileged son of a wealthy Argentine family, Macedonio Fernández spent his time at law school teaching himself philosophy. Shortly after graduation in 1897, Fernández and a group of young intellectuals moved to Paraguay to begin a utopia. This effort did not last long, and by the early part of the new century the author had returned to civilization, married, and begun to publish his first poems. It was during these happy years that the author began correspondences with the authors William James and Ramón Gómez de la Serna.
In 1920, however, his wife died and Fernández was left with four young sons who soon went to live with their grandparents while the author himself lived with various friends. 1921 brought the return of Jorge Luis Borges to Argentina, and through his efforts Fernández quickly became popular with the avant-garde, even launching a fantastic presidential campaign lacking completely in platform and principles.
In spite of his increasing insistence on solitude, in 1928 friends compiled, edited, and published No toda es vigilia la de los ojos abiertos, his first major work. Unfortunately, Fernández died in 1952 before enjoying the popularity and acceptance of his literary theories that would come with the novelists of the Boom generation.
The Department of Special Collections owns over ten newspaper and magazine articles that discuss the author's life and offer reviews of his work, the vast majority of which are extremely favorable. One author even praises Fernández as "our James Joyce." These reviews often attempt to explain difficult philosophical points that Fernández puts forth, however several are personal memories of time spent with the author. In addition, one article is a reprint of Fernández's Dos prólogos de la Novela de la Eterna, a novel that the author published near the end of his life.
Fernández, Macedonio. Museo de la novela de la eterna. Madrid: Cátedra, 1995. (Hesburgh Library, General Collection: PQ 7797 .F312 M8 1995)
Lindstrom, Naomi. "Macedonio Fernández." Latin American Writers. Ed. Carlos A. Solé. New York: Scribner, 1989. p.483-490. (Hesburgh Library, Reference: PQ 7081 .A1 L37 1989)