José Durand Flores was born in Lima, Peru in 1925. He studied in Peru under Mariano Iberico and Francisco Miro Quesada, and later at the Instituto Filologico de Buenos Aires and the Colegio de Mexico; he received his Ph.D. from the Universidad San Marcos in Lima. Specializing in colonial Spanish literature, Durand became particularly interested in the great 16th century Peruvian mestizo writer, Garcilaso Inca de la Vega. As a professor of Spanish literature in Peru, Mexico, France and the United States (where he taught at the University of Michigan and finally at the University of California, Berkeley from 1975 until his death in 1990) Durand researched and wrote extensively about the Inca and his literary world.

Durand found Garcilaso an especially intriguing literary figure. Perhaps his greatest scholarly work was his analysis of the Renaissance currents of Neoplatonic thought and classical historiography which informed the Inca's historical writings. Durand was also fascinated by the Inca as a man caught between two cultures. His research shows that while Garcilaso mastered the best of the intellectual legacies of the Old and New Worlds, he never ceased his uneasy attempts to create a viable hybrid identity.

Durand's interests went beyond his studies of the Inca, however: he taught a wide range of colonial and modern Spanish literature and published essays dealing with subjects as diverse as Luis Joseph Castro Domonte (a 17th-century hagiographical writer), the 18th-century journal Gaceta de Lima, and manatees in colonial canon law. Durand was also a prolific poet and fiction writer. He published Gatos bajo la luna in 1960 and a collection of short stories entitled Desvariante in 1987. Influenced by the "realistas mexicanos," his novels and short stories enjoyed critical and popular acclaim in Peru and Mexico. He was also passionately interested in the arts, compiling research on Peruvian folk music and even composed a ballet, La manda.

In addition to his teaching and writing, Durand left a valuable legacy in the form of his personal library, purchased by the University of Notre Dame in 1995 thanks to a generous donation from Tom and Dottie Corson. The crowning glory of the collection is its reconstruction of the type of library possessed by Garcilaso Inca de la Vega at the time of his death: some 188 volumes of Classical and Renaissance masterpieces as well as all of the Inca's own works. The Durand Collection also contains hundreds of early printed books dealing with the history of Latin America generally, including four incunabula, and dozens of unique manuscript codices and documents. Rare original documents from the Peruvian Inquisition, historical chronicles and early religious plays are of special interest. Finally, the collection contains rare journals such as the Gaceta de Lima and other works relating to later Colonial and 19th-century Latin American history and literature.

José Durand died suddenly in 1990 of a stroke while on sabbatical in Lima; he was 64 years old. He is survived by his son Carlos and his brothers Ricardo and Luis. Durand's life and work continue to inspire research in colonial Spanish and Latin American literature and history here at Notre Dame and around the globe.

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Copyright © 2001

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