Horacio Quiroga was born in 1878 in Salto, Uruguay. Within months his natural father was killed in a hunting accident, the first of a series of tragic deaths that were to affect profoundly Quiroga and his work

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Quiroga Bio
Horacio Quiroga was born in 1878 in Salto, Uruguay. Within months his natural father was killed in a hunting accident, the first of a series of tragic deaths that were to affect profoundly Quiroga and his work.
Quiroga was an unhappy and rebellious child whose mother both spoiled and misunderstood him. After living several years in Argentina, in 1891 the family moved to Montevideo. Quiroga’s mother remarried, and although the remarriage was problematical for the adolescent Horacio, he eventually came to be fond of his stepfather and was the one to nurse the man after he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Later, in a cruel and tragic replay, Quiroga discovered the body of his stepfather, who, in despair, had shot himself.
As early as 1897 Quiroga was immersed in literary undertakings. He began to collaborate in various magazines in Salto. Two years later the first edition of Revista del Salto was published under his direction. At the same time he began forming friendships which would be of great importance to him throughout his life, not the least of which was with the great Modernist Argentine writer, Leopoldo Lugones. Although Lugones was only four years his senior, Quiroga idolized the man and cast him as a sort of father figure.
In 1900 Quiroga made the pilgrimage of all aspiring writers of his time to Paris, the capital of Modernism. His fascination for the city was short-lived, and after several months of poverty, misery and solitude, he returned to Montevideo and entered into a somewhat bohemian existence. Although he continued to write, not much of his writing ever reached the public. Largely because of the influence of Modernism, Quiroga’s early attempts were in poetry, but he also dabbled inexpertly in prose. In 1901 his first book, Les arrefices de coral, a mixture of prose and poetry, was published to generally unenthusiastic reviews.
The next year yet another tragedy devastated the young writer when he accidentally shot and killed one of his closest friends, Frederico Ferrando.
By 1903 Quiroga had assumed Argentine citizenship and was teaching in Buenos Aires, where he had fled after Ferrando’s death. This was to be a decisive year in the life and work of Quiroga, for in 1903 he accompanied Lugones for the first time to a remote area of Argentina called Misiones. Quiroga joined the expedition as a photographer and diarist. The effect of the jungle was immediate and irrevocable. Emir Rodriguez Monegal says that Quiroga went to Misiones as a Modernist dandy and emerged as a different man, a man marked by the jungle. Raimundo Lazo asserts, “La immersion en la selva es como una fecundacion. ... Se hunde en la selva, la posee y la fecunda, para que de esa monstruosa union nazca (renazca) el verdade Horacio Quiroga.”2
For the next several years Quiroga divided his time between Buenos Aires and el Chaco, a region in northern Argentina, where he attempted to live as a cotton grower. In the civilized, cultured world of Buenos Aires he taught literature and continued to write and to participate actively in the literary life of the city. He was frequently published in magazines and began to be recognized as an important literary figure. In the jungles of el Chaco, Misiones and San Ignacio he undertook various enterprises, all of which resulted in failure, but he seemed to be driven and energized by those failures. In the jungles of Argentina Quiroga at last found a home - and a profound creative source. As stated by Lazo, “El resultado de estas fuertes contradicciones convierte su vida en drama de creciente intensidad, al por que presta materia viva y espiritu excepcional a su obra literaria...”.3 The complexity of Quiroga as a man and as a writer was always found in part to be in the same contradiction - the opposition of a cultured and refined intellectual on the on side and on the other a primitive governed by instinct and Nature’s laws.
Quiroga’s life, besides being marked by tragedy, was also plagued by frustrated love affairs. In 1898 he had fallen hopelessly in love with Maria Jurkowski, but the incipient affair was thwarted by her parents. In 1906 he fell in love with one of his students, Ana Maria Cires, and in December of 1909 the two were married above the strenous opposition of her family. Quiroga and his new bride moved to San Ignacio where he had previously bought a few acres of land overlooking the Parana. In Ana Maria Quiroga hoped to find a life partner who could share in his dream of a life in the jungle. Soon the couple had two children, a daughter Egle, born in 1911, and a son, Darie, born in 1912. In pursuit of his dream, Quiroga struggled to make his lands habitable. Although the Quiroga homestead was not far from a village, Quiroga and his family endured a very primitive existence in the jungle. Quiroga loves his life in San Ignacio, but missed the intellectual stimulation of Buenos Aires. He had very few friends in San Ignacio and as his relationship with his wife deteriorated because of the stresses imposed on it by a jungle existence, both Quiroga and his wife came to feel very alone. Finally, in a desperate move, Ana Maria took a dose of slow-acting poison. For nine nightmarish days Quiroga nursed her as she slowly and painfully died. Quiroga’s paradise had become a hell. He left his children with his mother-in-law and returned to Buenos Aires, where he re-established Uruguyan citizenship and took a secretarial post with the Consul General of Uruguay in Argentina.
Quiroga’s return to Buenos Aires signified his return to an intense literary life. In 1917, the year he brought his children to Buenos Aires to be educated he published his fourth book, Cuentos de amor, de locura y de muerte. Its success was immediate and catapaulted Quiroga into the position of Latin America’s foremost writer of short stories. For the next several years Quiroga’s literary involvement led him to friendships with Alfonsina Storni and with Samuel Glusberg, whose literary pseudonym was Enrique Espinoza and who became Quiroga’s exclusive editor. It also led him to the publication of other books and to the formation of a group of literary intelligentsia called Anaconda. The years between 1917 and 1926 were ones of great stability and imaginative fecundity for Quiroga. Although he continued to live in Buenos Aires with only occasional visits to San Ignacio, the power of his jungle experience continued to fuel his creative fires. His literary fame was firmly established.
In 1926 Quiroga published “Los desterrados, considered by many to be his last great book and one of his best. Unfortunately for Quiroga, 1926 also saw the publication of Eduardo Guiraldes Don Segundo Sombra, a novel that was to affect profoundly the new generation of Latin American writers, and Los desterrades was virtually ignored critically. By the end of the decade, while Quiroga’s fame and literary stature were still undeniable, a new generation of writers, led by Jorge Luis Borges, began to question the value of Quiroga’s work. Because Quiroga lived chiefly through his writing, his declining popularity posed a distinct economic threat as well as being a blow to him personally and artistically.
Never one to learn from life’s experiences in 1927 Quiroga married again, this time a school friend of Eagle’s Maria Elena Bravo. The following year a daughter was born to them. By 1931, again in pursuit of his dream of a happy life in the jungle, Quiroga and his family were living an impoverished existence in San Ignacio despite his fame and the success of his books, but his feeling for life in the jungle, of a return to his roots, comforted him. Not so his new wife. While life seemed idyllic for some years, by 1934 his wife had returned to Buenos Aires. Quiroga too missed the intellectual stimulation of his literary friends and began a long series of letters to friends in the capital.
Quiroga’s literary and physical powers seemed to wane coincidentally. By 1935 when Quiroga published Mas alla, his fourteenth and last book, he began expressing his concern for his health to his most intimate friends. His failing health forced him to return to Buenos Aires where an operation revealed he was suffering from cancer in the prostate. On February 19, 1937, Quiroga left the hospital to go for a walk. He visited his closest friends, said good bye to his daughter, returned to the hospital and took his own life by taking cyanide.
The complexity of Horacio Quiroga the man has been variously described. His younger brother says Horacio never understood the dynamics of family or social life, but clearly understood that they were essential to him.4
Lazo says he lived “de espaldas a la realidad”� as evidenced by his disastrous marriages, and that he lived “inmerso en un desolado fatalismo”�5 undoubtedly due in part to the many tragic deaths in his life. He was at once cultured and primitive, solitary, introverted and reserved as well as warm, loving, and emotional. Monegal sees him as having had suicidal tendencies even as a young man. “Un suicida,” he says, “no se hace en un dia; es un lento trabajo de años.”6

Given his life experiences the fact of his suicide does not shock or surprise. Similarly his predominant themes are a direct outgrowth of those same life experiences. Quiroga himself grudgingly accedes to the presence of an author’s life in his works:

...cuenta el escritor au propia vida en la obra de sus protagonistas, y es lo cierto que del toneo general de una serie de libros, de una cierta atmosfera fija o imperante sobre todos los relatos, a pesar de su diversidad, pueden deducirse modalidades de caracter y habitos de vida que denuncian en este o aquel personaje la personalidad tenaz del author.7 An quite clearly the tone and atmosphere that most clearly define Quiroga’s works come directly from his experiences in Misiones, el Chaco, San Ignacio. Although Quiroga was a voracious reader and was certainly influenced by such writers as Poe, Maupassant, Kipling, and Chekov, the most profound influences on his writing was always the jungle. He began his literary career under the aegis of Modernism, but soon began to feel it to be artificial and decadent. He then turned to themes implicit in life in the Argentine jungle. Some of these themes are love, madness, death, cruelty, rational man vs. irrational nature, and the roles of accident and effort in man’s psychological makeup and destiny.
Quiroga is fascinated by the human personality under stress, and the jungle as he experienced it provides stressful situations in the extreme. There is no romantic notion of the new savage or natural man in Quiroga’s stories. Man is rather portrayed as a being who has lost his ability to function instinctively. He tries to rely on his reason rather than on his senses. Quiroga does not see man as a superior animal because of his ability to reason, as reason is not necessarily an advantage in jungle survival. Man has an innate need to control Nature, but any efforts to do so can lead to tragedy if man fails to understand his own limitations or the ever present possiblity of accident. Still man must act, and his measure is taken in his response to extreme situations imposed on him by Nature. Nature in Quiroga’s stories does not serve merely as a colorful background. Rather it is a powerful adversary, a potent force that man seldom overcomes.
Some critics feel that Quiroga’s characters are weak physically and psychologically, that there are lost souls, victims of forces that surround them and of destinies not of their own making, and that furthermore, Quiroga is indifferent to their fates. Others feel that Quiroga has a special tenderness for man, that he acknowledges man’s frailty but at the same time his heroism in the face of psychological and physical hardship.9 Margaret Peden summarizes the more humanistic view of Quiroga’s characterizations. She feels that he has “an astute awareness of the problems besetting man,”� that man may indeed by “moved by greed and ambition, hampered by fate, bounded by circumstances beyond his control,”� but that through Quiroga’s writing we see “man’s faults nor weakness, but stresses his virtues - courage, generosity and compassion.”�10
In his essay “El amor, la locuar y la muerte”�, Hiber Conteris asserts that these three “son los agentes que, a veces a la plena luz, a veces embozados y ocultos, mueven la trama de la historia y precipitan su desenlace.”�11 All Quiroga’s works, he continues, really revolve around a single overriding theme - the failure of human endeavor in love and reason. Madness as depicted by Quiroga, he maintains, goes beyond its clinical definition. It is, in effect, not far removed from the normal, but that Quiroga always pushes his characters to the outer limits of the normal. Madness is often seen through hallucination or in a moment of lost rationality.12 It is a definition that works well in the two stories included here.
The death theme obviously comes directly from Quiroga’s life. Not only is death constantly imminent, but it can be invoked and made present through suicide. Death in the jungle is commonplace, an inexorable law of Nature, but when it surprises man in the midst of life, his nature is to fight heroically against it.
Love for Quiroga was always a frustrating experience, but was something he knew he needed. Of all his themes this is the one he is least able to treat with his renowned objectivity. He could not always successfully mask his very basic emotional nature.
Quiroga’s style has elicited much critical appraisal. Most critics point to his realism, his objectivity, and his verbal economy. Quiroga himself has written much to illuminate his own stylistic principles. His three most cited pieces on the art of short story writing were published in El hogar, a literary magazine of Buenos Aires. “Manual del perfecto cuentista”, published in April of 1925 sets forth a decalogue for short story writing. “La retorica del cuento”, published in December of 1928 talks in part about the importance of work selection and ordering. “Ante el tribunal”, published in September of 1930 defends his principles of writing and his work. Some understanding of these three pieces is critical to evaluating the stories which follow.
His decalogue, in an abbreviated translated form is as follows:
1. Believe in the masters...as you would in God himself.
2. Believe that your art is an unreachable summit.... When you are able to conquer it you will do so without being aware of it.
3. Resist imitation, but if you must imitate do so. The development of a personal style is a science.
4. ...Love your art as you would your lover, giving it all your heart.

5. Don’t begin to write without knowing from the first word where you are going. In a well-constructed story the three first lines are almost as important as the three last.

6. If you want to express with precision the idea that “from the river blew a cold wind” there are no other words than those to say so.
7. Use no unnecessary adjectives. Useless adjectives cannot enliven a weak noun. If you find the right word it will live. The trick is to find it.
8. Take your characters by the hand and lead them firmly to the conclusion without deviating from your path. Don’t be distracted by seeing what they cannot or don’t value. Do not abuse your reader. A story is a novel devoid of useless verbiage. Take this as absolute truth even though it may not be.
9 Do not write under the sway of emotion. Let it die then evoke it anew. If you can revive what was, in art that is half the battle.
10. Do not think about your friends when you write, nor on the impression your story will make. Write as if your story were of interest to no one but its characters, of whom you could have been one. There is no other way for your story to truly live.
In “La retorica del cuento”� he discusses the importance of choosing and ordering words. It is the selection and ordering, he says that differentiate a great writer from a modest citizen. The art of writing consists of finding for each idea just the right words to express it. First a writer must have ideas, but a masterful writer must find the words which definitely express those ideas. Synonyms, he proclaims, are not. If a writer cannot see the profound difference inherent in any two words he cannot write effectively.
In “Ante el tribunal”� Quiroga insists that a story have a single story line traced by a single, untrembling hand from beginning to end. A story, he says, should be as an arrow carefully aimed at its target. If butterflies perch on it during its flight, they will be obstructions no matter how beautiful.
Some critics make much of technical linguistic errors in Quiroga’s writing and of a perceived lack of purity in his language. Monegal responds to his criticism by proposing that if by good writing one means that which follows the rules of linguistic purity as set down by the Spanish Royal Academy, then it is indeed evident that Quiroga does not write well. He himself has said he has no interest in such language. If, on the other hand, writing well means to write “de la manera mas eficaz, comunicar con la major fuerza exprsiva le que se quiere decir; ... entonces Quirega no sole escribe bien sine que escribe inmejorablemente.”�13
There is little doubt that Quiroga loves his work and saw it as a necessity for his spiritual well being. “Creo que no se no puede sacar del cuento.”� He valued the short story for “la sestenida intensidad, sintesis y desnuda naturalidad. ...la sujecion a un plan claramente previsto, mantenimiente y culminacion de la intensidad; eliminacion implacable de tode la superflue, de toda emoción e interes que de moda natural no brote de la narracion; absoluta suberdinacion de la formal a la escencial.”14 Because of all these beliefs as to how a short story must be constructed, most of Quiroga’s stories are distinguished by an incredible intensity and reality. His is an art free of rhetoric. Washington Benavidez says that whether the stories are based on actual events in Quiroga’s life or are pure creations of his imagination they are “presentada con tal intensidad que, por lo menos mientras dura el cuento, se convierta en realidad.”15 And although his stories are all very specifically located both geographically and temporally, their very reality and intensity render them universal.
Two of Quiroga’s most intensely riveting stories are “A la deriva” (‘Drifting’), included in Cuentos de amor, de locura y de muerte, and “El hijo”� (‘The Son’�), which appeared in Mas alla. They are also two of his most frequently anthologized stories. Both are to be found in the Antologia de cuentos hispanoamericanos, edited by Alberto M> Vazquez and available through the Regents Publishing Company in New York. Unfortunately both stories do not appear in some of the works of Quiroga’s selected stories. Both are included, fortunately, in The Decapitated Chicken, a book of Quiroga’s stories in translation, edited by Margaret Sayers Peden, the University of Texas Press, Austin. Hopefully the work included in this unit to be done with students after their having read the stories will give a good framework for a critical appraisal of the two stories. Nonetheless, let us now take a closer look these two powerful and typical Quiroga stories.
“A la deriva”� is perhaps the matchless example of Quiroga’s narrative economy and intense realism. “El hombre piso algo blanduzco y en seguida sintio la mordedura en el pie.”� From the opening sentence the outcome is clear. Nature has once again surprised man, who in the midst of life has it snatched precipitously away from him. The action of the story is as straight forward and lineal as Quiroga’s arrow. The minutely detailed description of the progression of the poison through the man’s body leads us resolutely to his death. This is a story replete with adjectives, but each is so scruptulously chosen as to make the reader feel with him the intensity of the man’s pain and his desire to live. Yet there is no sentimentalism here. Death is simply seen as an unacceptable alternative to life. While we tangentially learn some facts of the man’s life, we really knew nothing of the substance of this man, nor do we need to do so. All we need know of him we learn through his actions.
Nature, too, is a dynamic force in this story. Action words abound in reference to both the man and Nature. There is no commentary, only intensely realistic description and action. The narrative teems with images of life and death. As the man drifts in his canoe down the powerful Parana, Nature is described as funereal, black, lugubrious. But at the same time Nature is aggressive, beautiful and majestic, and at twilight is golden, with the scent of wild flowers. It is indeed a river of life flowing inexorably toward death.
In his brief masterpiece Quiroga converts a possibly every day jungle accident into a universal symbol of human experience, of the tragic expression of human life. As this man drifts in his canoe so every man is adrift on the river of life. It is often a journey over which man has no control in that it cannot help but end in death. Perhaps Nicolas Bratosevich best sums up “A la deriva”:
Desde Paulino evenenado sabemos de la selva, de su relacion de hostilidad con el hombre que la afronta, del pasado reciente y lejano de este, de sus conexiones con otros seres humanos que sin embargo no sirven para atemperar la radical soledad que es morirse.16 “El hijo”�, which Lazo calls “uno do los cuentos mas valiosos de los mas felizmente representativos de su estilo en lo mas alto de su evolucion”�, is a vastly different sort of story in some significant ways. While “A la deriva”� leaves us somewhat detached emotionally from the person of the main character, every empathetic human response we have ever felt is engaged in “El hijo”�. It is one of Quiroga’s most profoundly emotional stories. The plot again is a simple one. A son goes hunting, and when he doesn’t return at the appointed hour his father goes in search for him. While we can theorize that “A la deriva”� easily could have come from Quiroga’s own experience, “El hijo”� was indeed based, at least emotionally, on an actual incident. Dario went hunting one day and didn’t return when expected. Knowing full well the menace of the jungle, a distraught Quiroga went in search of his son, and happily found him alive and well, but not until the father had suffered some hours of intense mental anguish.
The external action of this story is minimal. The internal action, however is riveting. We are given an intimate look into the tortured mind of a father who has a history of hallucination. It is witnessing the agony of this man’s soul that bonds us to him emotionally as he searches for his missing son. The depth of a parent’s love has never been more touchingly and devastingly presented.
In “El hijo”� Quiroga brings the use of suggestion to its highest art form. As the frantic father scours the countryside he sees everywhere the possibility of death. This is a masterfully calculated story. Quiroga builds in us a dreadful anticipation then detours that dread as he carefully prepares us emotionally for the final scene. We come to believe in the veracity of the father’s hallucinations. These hallucinations, Jaime Alazraki tells us, serve as an exorcism against a dreaded reality. When that reality seems inconceivable the hallucinations lose their meaning. But when ultimately the hallucinations become reality , the father produces an opposite hallucination to avoid confronting the most horrible ultimate reality.18
Quiroga shows us in “El hijo”� a much more human side of death - the inconsolable grief and intolerable suffering it can cause. While we rather calmly accept the fact of the man’s death in “A la deriva”�, here death assaults and horrifies us. We, with the father, desperately want it not to be. We refuse to accept the ultimate absurdity of the death of a son.
As in “A la deriva”� there is nothing superfluous in this story. Although Quiroga plays with our emotions, the essential story line once again leads directly from start to finish. The interplay of the incredibly deep feelings of paternal love and the increasing sense of inexorable tragedy give this story the same intense realism as “A la deriva”�. And once again, although geographically specific, the story is profoundly universal. “La vuelta de tuerca final”�, says Benavidez, “no es deleite morboso; es una ilumacion brevisima de lo que puede ser - para un hombre - el infierno mental de cada dia.”�19
Through “A la deriva”� and “El hijo”� we see a manifestation of much that was Horacio Quiroga, man and artist. His style follows deeply held artistic principles forged by him. His themes come directly from his life. Quiroga knew what it was to be a disciplined literary technician, but he also knew what it was to be an emotional, caring human being. The realism, intensity and universality of his stories come directly from that deep personalization. “Yo sostuve,”� he says in “Ante el tribunal”�, la necesidad en arte de volver a la vida cada vez que transitoriamente aquel pierde su concepto...la vida no es un juego cuando se tiene consciencia de ella, tampoco le es la expresion artistica.”�

Quiroga’s stories, while linguistically not always perfect, are extremely well constructed and emotionally riveting. As we will see, his characters are so realistic psychologically that they are totally convincing. Quiroga is a master at producing in the reader exactly the effect desired by the author. He gives very few details that are not absolutely essential to that desired effect. He presents the action and allows the reader to supply many of the details; he gives an outline and allows his reader to complete the picture. Narration and characterization are well balanced.

Some of his favorite themes are:
1. the jungle in all its majesty , with all its animals and dangers and difficulties to be faced by any man living in it
2. cruelty, sickness, insanity, death
3. horror and the morbid
4. the psychology of men and animals when find themselves in extreme situations (He often uses animals as protagonists.) Quiroga does not have a romantic view of the jungle. He doesn’t see man as being a necessarily superior animal. Often, in fact, man’s reason deosn’t serve as well in the jungle as would animal instincts. The jungle in its most extreme is an irrational place. Men when try to dominate Nature through reason often find themselves faced with failure, disaster and death. Quiroga defines man through action. Man must act, even though those actions may lead to disaster. Man cannot control his destiny in an irrational jungle where accident is an every day possibility.
Quiroga Biografía
Inició su carrera literaria con un libro de poesía, Los arrecifes de coral (1901), antes de trasladarse a Argentina, donde transcurrió el resto de su vida.
La selva misionera tuvo una relación directa con la vida del autor que vivió largos períodos de su existencia en Iviraromí, cerca de las ruinas jesuíticas. El saber sobre un territorio, saber por experiencia, de una zona de frontera a la que sus lectores de la ciudad no tenían acceso, fue en su tiempo una marca de estilo del escritor. Hoy puede pensarse más bien como una obsesión, como necesidad, como invento. Quiroga, un dandy refinado a los veinte, devino a través de los años tragedias y desengaños, un escritor excéntrico, seductor y con pretensiones de náufrago.
Esta síntesis de su vida y de su estilo, incluye el descubrimiento de la selva en una expedición fotográfica a las ruinas de San Ignacio, con Leopoldo Lugones, en 1901, y su posterior elección como lugar desde el cual escribir. Los factores que influyeron en su obra, sus esposas, sus hijos, la relación con San Ignacio, la muerte de su padre y de su padrastro, y cómo todos estos hechos crearon en él una gran obsesión.
Su vida
Horacio Quiroga nació en Salto, Uruguay, el 31 de diciembre de 1879, y murió en Buenos Aires el 19 de febrero de 1937. Recibió su educación en el Instituto Politécnico de su ciudad natal. En 1898 conoció a Leopoldo Lugones en Buenos Aires, quien había de ejercer importante influencia sobre él. En 1900 fue uno de los promotores de un movimiento literario en Montevideo que recibió el nombre de "Consistorio del Gay Saber".
También fueron una gran influencia para él, el italiano D´Annunzio y el norteamericano Edgar Allan Poe. Inició sus actividades de escritor con un libro de versos, Los arrecifes de coral, en 1901, se trasladó seguidamente de manera definitiva a la Argentina, donde transcurrió el resto de su vida. Vivió largo tiempo en el territorio de Misiones, inspirándole su exuberante naturaleza no poca parte de su obra.
Era el hijo del caudillo Facundo Quiroga, tuvo una vida llena de trágicos episodios, los cuales influyeron mucho en su forma de escritura y la permanente aparición de la muerte en sus cuentos. La muerte accidental de su padre, a quien se le escapó un tiro de escopeta mientras descendía de un bote, la cual transcurre cuando Quiroga tenía sólo 2 meses; la pérdida de dos hermanas, Pastora y Prudencia, que murieron de fiebre tifoidea en el Chaco argentino; el suicidio de su padrastro, Ascencio Barcos, delante de él luego de sufrir una terrible parálisis cerebral.
Más tarde, tras seis años de matrimonio, Ana María Cirés (su primera esposa, con la cual se casa en el año 1910, luego de haber vencido la dura oposición de la familia Cirés) agoniza ocho días después de haberse envenenado. También su hija Eglé, nacida en Misiones, en el año 1911, se quitaría la vida un año después de su muerte (1937).Y Darío Quiroga, su hijo, se mataría en 1952. María Elena Bravo, su segunda esposa y la única adolescente que lo amó si sortear oposiciones familiares (era 30 años menor que el escritor, y amiga de su hija Eglé), lo abandonó en medio de su selva, después de seis años de matrimonio, llevándose a "Pitoca" la pequeña hija de ambos.
En 1936 debió internarse en el Hospital de Clínicas por un dolor en el estómago. "No veo el día, amigo, de volver a San Ignacio" le escribió a Isidoro Escalera. La espera era eterna. Cinco meses después un médico le dijo que tenía cáncer. Quiroga no dijo ni una palabra. Salió a dar una vuelta por la ciudad y esa misma medianoche se suicidó con cianuro.
Obras más importantes
Su primer libro fue una selección de poemas que se llamó "Los arrecifes de coral" y fue publicado en 1901. En 1904 aparece "El crimen del otro" y en 1908 presenta su primera novela "Historia de un amor turbio". Años más tarde la segunda "Pasado amor". Se publican los "Cuentos de Amor, de Locura y de Muerte" en 1916, escritos entre 1910 y 1916 en Misiones, "El Salvaje" en 1920, "Cuentos de la Selva" en 1921, "Anaconda" en 1923, "Los Desterrados" en 1926, "El Desierto" en 1924 y "Más Allá" en 1934 siendo ésta su última obra.
Quiroga conoció San Ignacio en 1903, como fotógrafo de una expedición a las ruinas jesuíticas, encargada por el Ministerio de Instrucción Pública al escritos Leopoldo Lugones, su maestro. Quiroga pisó la selva vestido de blanco, y alterado por el asma y la dispepsia tenaz. Su conducta fue exasperante: en Posadas se negó a subirse a una mula y exigió un caballo; como los expedicionarios marchaban a paso lento, él se adelantaba o se demoraba y todos debían detenerse a esperarlo durante horas. Pero Misiones fue un bálsamo: la dispepsia y el asma desaparecieron. "Aquí el invierno me trae olor a azahar y melón silvestre de Misiones" escribió en Buenos Aires.
Y en 1906 compró sin más 185 hectáreas sobre el río Paraná y levantó un bungalow de madera con sus propias manos.
"En los alrededores y dentro de las ruinas de San Ignacio, la subcapital del Imperio Jesuítico, se levanta en Misiones el pueblo actual del mismo nombre. Constitúyelo una serie de ranchos ocultos unos de los otros por el bosque. Hay en la colonia almacenes, muchos más de los que se pueden desear, al punto de que no es posible ver abierto un camino vecinal sin que en el acto de un alemán, un español o un sirio se instale en el cruce con un boliche. En el espacio de dos manzanas están ubicadas todas las oficinas públicas: Comisaría, Juzgado de la Paz, Comisión Municipal, y una escuela mixta. Como nota de color, existe en las mismas rutinas - invadidas por el bosque - un bar, creado en los días de fiebre de la yerba mate, cuando los capataces que descendían del Alto Paraná hasta Posadas bajan ansiosos en San Ignacio a parpadear de ternura ante una botella de whisky."
El techo de incienso
La selva fue su mayor inspiración, y su refugio al huir de un pasado trágico.
Gracias a Horacio Quiroga, San Ignacio, un pueblo de tan sólo cuatro mil habitantes, ingresó a la historia del país, porque ni las famosas ruinas jesuíticas le dieron tanto renombre como este escritor con aire de chiflado que andaba en bermudas, jugaba picadas por el Paraná domando un motor fuera de borda, y rompía irrespetuosamente la siesta del pueblo con dos máquinas feroces: un Ford T negro y una Harley Davidson del veinticinco.
Un 19 de febrero de 1937, los misioneros al leer el diario, no pudieron creerlo, el juez de paz de San Ignacio; el destilador de naranjas; el carbonero y picapedrero; el productor de yerba; el fabricante de dulce de maní, maíz quebrado, mosaicos de bleck y arena ferruginosa; el inventor de un exótico aparato para matar hormigas; el hombre que obtuvo resina de incienso y tintura del lapacho, ese mismo era poeta. Y uruguayo.
Trabajó la tierra e impuso en un medio salvaje, la ley urbana de la producción. Y todo lo hizo con sus manos y recuperó su pasión juvenil por la química, la misma que de madrugada despertaba a su familia con incendios y explosiones. Y el viejo anhelo de la mecánica, el ciclismo y su oculta vocación por la marina hallaron libre curso en su recoveco salvaje.
"Misiones, colocada a la vera de un pueblo que comienza allí y termina en Amazonas, guarece a una serie de tipos a los que podría lógicamente imputarse cualquier cosa menos ser aburridos. La vida, más desprovista de interés al norte de Posadas, encierra dos o tres pequeñas epopeyas de trabajo o carácter, sino de sangre."
Y él mismo al describir a esos pintorescos seres de frontera, dejó en sus cuentos la huella de su propia epopeya misionera. Fabricando a fuego lento su carbón, fertilizando su meseta pedregosa destilando vino de naranja, clavando y desarmando cien veces la misma canoa, reparando durante cuatro años las goteras del techo de su casa, embalsamando aves, confeccionando sus zapatos, conversando con Anaconda, la víbora que criaba en su jardín, descubrió que escribir era lo mismo que domar los cuatro elementos: un oficio, no un rapto de inspiración.
Y este aprendizaje fue un hito de la historia de la literatura Argentina. Hasta ese momento, como un escritor no hacía un trabajo rentable. Al publicar obras sin costearlas de su bolsillo y escribir artículos remunerados en "Fray Mocho", "Caras y Caretas", "La Nación", "El Hogar" y otros medios periodísticos, se trasformó en un escritor accesible y popular. Sin embargo, Quiroga era popular para todos sus contemporáneos excepto para sus vecinos.
Sólo se sentía a gusto con los trabajadores. Luego de un rato con ellos, Quiroga apuntaba frases en papelitos que guardaba en una lata de galletitas. Esa era la materia prima de sus futuros cuentos. Por eso, su obra registra la transformación económica de Misiones: de la selva a la plantación. Y los protagonistas de esa gesta no son héroes convencionales sino "desterrados". Jangaderos, cantereros, gente de vida dura. Describiendo sus días, Quiroga escribió su autobiografía.
"Iniciábase en aquellos días el movimiento obrero, en una región que no conserva del pasado jesuítico sino dos dogmas: la esclavitud del trabajo, para el nativo, y la inviolabilidad del patrón."
Así describió esos tiempos, época en que se juntaba a los mensú, (trabajadores mensuales) en camiones que los trasladaban para ser explotados en obrajes y yerbales. Algunos nunca regresaban, los cadáveres de otros aparecían flotando en el Paraná. Quiroga mismo los vio, devolviendo al río en agua de sus pulmones. Todos los mensú adormecían sus resentimientos y amarguras con caña, y los pocos que volvían cada tanto al pueblo gastaban el resto del sueldo en las casas de juego y los prostíbulos del puerto. Cerca de la charca de Quiroga, en la Unión Obrera y Campesina, allá por el año quince se gestaba la anarquía y la rebelión.
Horacio Quiroga también tuvo una plantación de yerba mate, La Yabebirí. Pese al entusiasmo y algunas ventas, no hizo ganancias. "Yo soy agricultor, no comerciante.", decía.
En los cuentos "Una bofetada" y "Los mensú", Quiroga describió otro oficio en extinción: la janjada.
La obsesión Quiroga sobrepasó San Ignacio. En 1928, ya con segunda esposa, vive en una casa quinta de Vicente López que reproducía el ambiente de su bungalow misionero: a falta de maderas, armó y desarmó su viejo Ford, y criaba un coatí, un oso hormiguero, un carpincho y un flamenco en el jardín. Sostenía correspondencia con Isidoro Escalera, el socio de algunas aventuras misioneras, y su casero. Intentaba vender yerba en Buenos Aires y naranjas en Garupá. Y lo desvelaban las hormigas que acechaban entre sus plantas. "Ya no puedo estar más sin Misiones", bramaba.
Con respecto a la fermentación de vino de naranjas, en 1930, Quiroga ya se había dado cuenta que no sería un buen negocio. Pero Quiroga no se dio por vencido. Especuló con vender las naranjas de su plantación a 40 pesos el millar. Soñó y soñó todo el tiempo, porque sus productos nunca le dieron demasiado dinero. Sus ingresos provenían mayormente de la literatura: "Valdría la pena exponer un día esta peculiaridad mía de no escribir sino incitado la economía."
Sus últimos años, sólo cobró 50 pesos por un cargo de cónsul honorario, fruto de la gestión de algunos escritores amigos ante el gobierno uruguayo. Era cada día más pobre y empezaba a cansarse. Incitado por Jorge Luis Borges, los nuevos intelectuales lo consideraban antiguo y lo bombardeaban con todo tipo de artillería. Cada vez le costaba más vender sus trabajos. Había escrito 170 de cuentos y el doble de artículos periodísticos.
Hacía balances: "Tengo mi derecho a resistirme a escribir más. Si en dicha cantidad de páginas no dije lo que quería no es tiempo ya de decirlo"
Decálogo del perfecto cuentista
I : Cree en un maestro —Poe, Maupassant, Kipling, Chejov— como en Dios mismo.
II : Cree que su arte es una cima inaccesible. No sueñes en domarla. Cuando puedas hacerlo, lo conseguirás sin saberlo tú mismo.
III : Resiste cuanto puedas a la imitación, pero imita si el influjo es demasiado fuerte. Más que ninguna otra cosa, el desarrollo de la personalidad es una larga paciencia.
IV : Ten fe ciega no en tu capacidad para el triunfo, sino en el ardor con que lo deseas. Ama a tu arte como a tu novia, dándole todo tu corazón.
V : No empieces a escribir sin saber desde la primera palabra adónde vas. En un cuento bien logrado, las tres primeras líneas tienen casi la importancia de las tres últimas.
VI : Si quieres expresar con exactitud esta circunstancia: "Desde el río soplaba el viento frío", no hay en lengua humana más palabras que las apuntadas para expresarla. Una vez dueño de tus palabras, no te preocupes de observar si son entre sí consonantes o asonantes.
VII : No adjetives sin necesidad. Inútiles serán cuantas colas de color adhieras a un sustantivo débil. Si hallas el que es preciso, él solo tendrá un color incomparable. Pero hay que hallarlo.
VIII : Toma a tus personajes de la mano y llévalos firmemente hasta el final, sin ver otra cosa que el camino que les trazaste. No te distraigas viendo tú lo que ellos pueden o no les importa ver. No abuses del lector. Un cuento es una novela depurada de ripios. Ten esto por una verdad absoluta, aunque no lo sea.
IX : No escribas bajo el imperio de la emoción. Déjala morir, y evócala luego. Si eres capaz entonces de revivirla tal cual fue, has llegado en arte a la mitad del camino.
X : No pienses en tus amigos al escribir, ni en la impresión que hará tu historia. Cuenta como si tu relato no tuviera interés más que para el pequeño ambiente de tus personajes, de los que pudiste haber sido uno. No de otro modo se obtiene la vida del cuento.
La trágica vida de Horacio Quiroga, llena de suicidios y muertes, llegó a obsesionarlo de tal manera que logró que todos sus cuentos y novelas tuvieran un contenido macabro y morboso. Su estadía en Misiones hace que todo este contenido se base en características de animales y su contacto con la muerte.
Podemos apreciar también en sus obras, como el contacto con la naturaleza, con los animales de la selva misionera y con la vida primitiva dejan grandes huellas en su estilo de escritura.


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