Short story writer, novelist and playwright who was part of the 1945 generation, which was known for its concerns about changes in the social, economic and political order that were being experienced in Puerto Rico. The author addressed these themes broadly in his literary work.
Díaz Valcárcel was born in October of 1929 in Trujillo Alto. He enrolled at the Río Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico, where he completed a degree in Social Sciences. He interrupted his studies in 1949 to serve in the United States military in the Korean War. During his military service, he worked as a war correspondent for the San Juan magazine Presente. The military service would serve as a topic for his short stories. Upon returning to Puerto Rico, he continued his university studies and worked as a writer and scriptwriter for the Community Education Division (DIVEDCO for its Spanish acronym).
His first writings appeared in various publications such as Alma Latina, Asomante, Diario de Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico Ilustrado. His first book of short stories, El asedio y otros cuentos, was published in 1958. Later, he returned to some stories he had completed in 1958, inspired by his experiences in the war, and published them in 1963 under the title Proceso en diciembre. El hombre que trabajó el lunes (1966) is a novella that is part of a book of stories with the same title. Other themes addressed in these collections include the misery and difficulty of life in the small towns and the alienation of the bourgeoisie.
The book of short stories Napalm (1971) is divided into three parts. In the first, he returns to the topic of the Korean War; in the second, he focuses on the Puerto Ricans living in New York, the victims of discrimination and social marginalization; and finally, in the last, he looks at daily life in a town on the island. The same year, an anthology of his best stories was published, titled Panorama (Narraciones 1955-1967).
Díaz Valcárcel tried his hand with the novel in 1972 with the publication of Figuraciones en el mes de marzo, a finalist for the Biblioteca Breve Prize from the publisher Seix Barral (Barcelona). In the novel, the author recreates the anguish of a character who, having fled the political and social situation of his country, finds himself in self exile in Madrid, and from then on must travel the world in a desire to flee from himself.
His following novel, Inventario (1975), dealt with the emptiness felt by a retired man after concluding that his life had been in vain. In Harlem todos los días (1978), he returns to the topic of exile in New York, highlighting, through satire and caricature, the immigrants’ problem of cultural identity, using the linguistic mixture of English and Spanish called “Spanglish.” He also presents the problems of the Puerto Rican identity of the generations of Puerto Ricans born in New York.
In 1981, he published Mi mamá me ama, in which he looks, with the same satirical humor, at the colonial mentality of the Puerto Rican upper middle class, which he considered assimilated into the United States way of thinking. He returned to a critique of the bourgeoisie in Dicen que de noche tú no duermes, a novel published in 1985. In El mejor de los mundos (1991), he moved away from daily life to immerse himself in a nostalgic evocation of a past that was not so contaminated by degraded values. In Laguna y Asociados (1995) Díaz Valcárcel creates a new satirical parody of Puerto Rico and contemporary Western society that depends on the economy of marketing and advertising.
In the drama genre, the author published his first piece in 1957, a one-act play titled Una sola puerta hacia la muerte, which was shown on WIPR- TV the same year and, later, in 1962, was performed on stage in Caguas. He has written adaptations for the theater of previous stories such as “La defensa del licenciado Trompito” (1962); “Año Tet: Barahún” (1968); “Napalm” (1971) and Sol negro – Black sun (1972). The latter was published in the René Marqués anthology Cuentos puertorriqueños de hoy (1959).
Díaz Valcárcel was editor of the cultural magazine Cupey and served as associate professor of Language and Literature at the University of Puerto Rico, where he retired in 1995. He founded the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture’s narrative workshop and the University of Puerto Rico’s Spanish General Studies Department. His literary work has won prizes from various institutions, including the Puerto Rican Athenaeum, the Pen Club, and the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature. In 2002, the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture awarded him the National Arts Prize for a life dedicated to cultural work. The same year, the publisher Alfaguara published Cuentos Completos, an anthology. In 2007 published El dulce fruto.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 16, 2014
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