October 11, 2002
Photo: Courtesy of MHC Archives
Luis Cernuda with student Bernice Matlowsky Randall '47 at
MHC, November 1947
by Sandra Barriales,
visiting instructor in Spanish
This year marks the
one hundredth anniversary of poet Luis Cernuda's birth, and MHC
is joining the international community in celebrating the milestone.
Not only is Cernuda (19021963) one of Spain's most distinguished
poets and one of the most prominent of the many writers who went
into exile after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936,
he also was a presence on the Mount Holyoke campus, having taught
at the College between 1947 and 1952.
In honor of Cernuda,
the Spanish departments at Amherst, Smith, and Mount Holyoke Colleges,
in conjunction with the Spanish and Portuguese and Judaic and
Near Eastern Studies departments at the University of Massachusetts
at Amherst, will host an international colloquium on Spanish exile
October 1819. Two sessions, conducted in Spanish, of the
colloquium will be held at MHC on October 18 in Pratt Hall's Warbeke
Room from 2 to 6 pm. At 6:30 pm that evening (same location),
Salvador Jimenez-Fajardo, who has written extensively about Cernuda,
will speak. This event is in English. In addition, students will
read some of Cernuda's poems, and a photograph of Cernuda (reproduced
here) from the MHC archives will be on view. The image will soon
be on permanent display at a campus location to be announced.
About Luis Cernuda
A leftist and homosexual
like his friend Federico Garca Lorca, Cernuda also belonged to
what is known in Spain as the Generation of '27. His first surrealistic
books of poems benefited from the freedom Spanish society enjoyed
under the Second Republic (19311936). Tragically, this freedom
would disappear under Franco's dictatorship (19391975).
In 1938, during the Spanish civil war (19361939), Cernuda,
like thousands of other Republican Spaniards, felt forced into
committed only to his poetry and to finding his own truth, exile
was for Cernuda not a tragedy but rather his real destiny. He
had always felt alienated from society even during his youth in
Seville. Cernuda never wanted to come back to Spain nor did he
ever settle down in any one country. He spent his first nine years
of exile in Great Britain, lecturing at Cambridge University and
at the University of Glasgow, but when he was offered the position
at MHC he gladly accepted. In History of a Book, which
he wrote in 1958, he noted that upon his arrival at MHC in 1947,
he felt very comfortable and optimistic about his new life in
America. But after two years, he began to feel isolated and depressed
by New England's long and extreme winters. He took to spending
his summers in Mexico, where he had fallen in love, and in 1952
he decided to move there.
During his years at
MHC, despite his feelings of isolation, his creativity flourished.
He produced remarkable books of poems (Living without Being
Alive, With Time Running Out, and Variations on a Mexican
Theme), which received favorable critical attention.
Last spring, I was
one of three graduate students at the University of Massachusetts
at Amherst working with Professor Raquel Medina on organizing
what evolved into the international colloquium on Spanish exile.
As I am also a visiting lecturer in the Spanish and Italian department
at MHC, it occurred to me that we could use the occasion to pay
tribute to Cernuda and to draw attention to the time he spent