Jorge Icaza

Jorge Icaza

Jorge Icaza Coronel (Quito, June 10, 1906 – Quito, May 26, 1978) was a novelist, playwright, diplomat and bookstore owner. He was and is Ecuador’s most famous writer and one of South America’s most important literary figures of the 20th century. Icaza’s novel Huasipungo (1934), about the exploitation of his country’s indigenous by its whites, has been translated into over 40 languages, including English, Italian, French, German, Portuguese, Czech, Polish, Chinese and Russian. Icaza’s penultimate novel El Chulla Romero y Flores (1958), was concerned with the cultural identity of the Ecuadorian mestizo, and is regarded by many Icazan scholars and critics as his best novel. It has been translated into over 20 languages.

Playwright

Jorge Icaza’s literary career began as a playwright. His plays include El Intruso in 1928, La Comedia sin Nombre in 1929, Cuál es in 1931, Sin Sentido in 1932, and Flagelo, which was published in 1936. After his 1933 playscript, El Dictador, was censured, Icaza turned his attention to writing novels about the social conditions in Ecuador, particularly the oppression suffered by its indigenous people.

Novelist

With the publication of Huasipungo in 1934, Icaza achieved international fame. The book is one of the best known Indigenist novels (Indigenist literature is a literary trend that deals with the indigenous peoples of Latin America and their problems). Fragments of the book first appeared in English translation in Russia, where it was welcomed enthusiastically by Russia’s peasant socialist class. Jorge Icaza was later appointed Ecuador’s ambassador to Russia. (1973-1977).

The first complete edition of Huasipungo was translated into English in 1962 by Mervyn Savill and published in England by Dennis Dobson Ltd. An “authorized” translation appeared in 1964 by Bernard H. Dulsey, and was published by Southern Illinois University Press in Carbondale, IL as “The Villagers”.

Read an essay on Bernard H. Dulsey’s translation of Jorge Icaza’s novel Huasipungo.

Listen to Jorge Icaza read from selected chapters of his books.

Personal life

Novelist Jorge Icaza, circa 1920s-1930s
Actress Marina Moncayo, circa 1920s-1930s

Icaza married the theater actress Marina Moncayo in 1936 with whom he had a daughter named Fenia Cristina Icaza Moncayo in 1934. He met Moncayo while writing plays for the National Theater Company (Compañía Nacional de Teatro). Icaza and Moncayo remained married until his death in 1978.

Death

Jorge Icaza died of cancer at the age of 71 on May 26, 1978 in Quito, Ecuador.

Legacy

House of Ecuadorian Culture
In 1944, along with Benjamín Carrión and others, Jorge Icaza was a founding member of la Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana (the Ecuadorian House of Culture), a cultural organization created to stimulate, to direct and to coordinate the development of an authentic national culture. Headquartered in Quito (picture above), it maintains several museums throughout Ecuador.

Jorge Icaza Statue in Moscow Russia
Jorge Icaza’s bust in the MUZEON Park of Arts in Moscow, Russia, where there are monuments of other worldwide intellectuals , such as the Russian writers Nikolai Gogol and Alexander Pushkin, and the Chilean writer Pablo Neruda.
Jorge Icaza 2006 stamp
Jorge Icaza on a 2006 stamp (bottom right) featuring the title character (on the left) of his 1958 novel El chulla Romero y Flores. It shows the title of the book’s 1965 German translation: Caballero im geborgten Frack. El chulla Romero y Flores was translated into over 20 languages.

A short documentary about Jorge Iacaza.

Huasipungo in English translation

Fragments of the book first appeared in English translation in Russia, where it was welcomed enthusiastically by Russia’s peasant socialist class. The complete edition of Huasipungo was first translated into the English language in 1962 by Mervyn Savill and published in England by Dennis Dobson Ltd. An “authorized” translation appeared in 1964 by Bernard H. Dulsey, and was published in 1964 by Southern Illinois University Press in Carbondale, IL as The Villagers. Read a preview of Dulsey’s English translation here.

Publications

Year of PublicationLiterary workGenreNotes
1928El intrusoPlay
1929La comedia sin nombrePlay
1931¿Cuál es? y Como ellos quierenPlay
1932Sin sentidoPlay
1933El dictadorPlay
1933Barro de la sierraShort Story
1934HuasipungoNovelRead it for free here.
1935En las callesNovelRead it for free here.
1936FlageloPlayRead it for free here.
1937CholosNovelRead it for free here.
1942Media vida deslumbradosNovel
1948HuairapamushcasNovel
1958El chulla Romero y FloresNovel
1961Obras escogidasSelected works
1969RelatosShort Story
1972AtrapadosNovel

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