One of most renowned Puerto Rican Rican writers of the 20th century, René Marqués cultivated many genres—poetry, theater, novels, short stories, essays, newspaper articles, and screenplays. Many consider him, along with José Luis González, the most important storyteller of his generation. Although his essay El puertorriqueño dócil [The Docile Puerto Rican] (1960) still generates hot debate, his outstanding accomplishments are as a playwright. His plays are classics, always part of the repertory whenever there is a theater festival. His dramas take on political, historical, existentialist, and social themes. Writer Angelina Morfi describes Marqués as a man of the theater “in every sense of the word,” since he was not only a playwright but also a director, a producer, the founder of the drama troupe Teatro Nuestro, a theater critic, and a professor who taught workshops on theater at the University of Puerto Rico.
Marqués was born in 1919 in Arecibo, a city on the northwest coast of Puerto Rico. He graduated in 1942 from the College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts in Mayagüez and worked for two years as an agronomist in the Department of Agriculture. He studied at the University of Madrid; while living there in the capital of Spain he sent articles to the Puerto Rican newspaper El Mundo under the title of Crónicas de España [Chronicles of Spain]. In 1947 he returned to Puerto Rico and continued his journalistic efforts from his home in Arecibo. That same year, the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature gave him an award for journalism for his critique of the play María Soledad by Francisco Arriví. In 1948 he published a drama, El hombre y sus sueños, in the journal Asomante. Having received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, he traveled to New York to study drama at the University of Columbia and at Piscator”s Dramatic Workshop. In 1949 he wrote Palm Sunday in English.
Upon his return to Puerto Rico in 1950, he presented his play El sol y los MacDonald. In 1953 he ensured his place in the history of Puerto Rican drama with his famous play La carreta. In quick succession he published Juan Bobo y la Dama de Occidente (1956), followed by La muerte no entrará en palacio (1957) and Un niño azul para esa sombra (1958), which won an award from the Ateneo Puertorriqueño. Another of his most best-known works was published the following year: Los soles truncos, based on his short story “En una ciudad llamada San Juan.” This was followed by La casa sin reloj (1962), El apartamento (1965), Mariana, or El alba (1966), and Carnaval afuera y carnaval adentro (1971).
Marqués was also a noted novelist. His first published novel, La víspera del hombre (1959) won awards from the Ateneo Puertorriqueño and from the Faulkner Foundation in the U.S. Concha Meléndez wrote of this novel that it “sums up the image and the history of Puerto Rico’s land and people.” Marqués published story collections Los casos de Ignacio y Santiago (1953), Cinco cuentos de miedo (1954), Otro día nuestro (1955), Cuatro cuentos de mujeres (1959), and an anthology, Cuentos puertorriqueños de hoy, also in 1959. In 1960 he published “En una ciudad llamada San Juan,” and in 1976 another novel, La Mirada. He also published three series of essays: Pesimismo literario y optimismo político: su coexistencia en el Puerto Rico actual (1959), El puertorriqueño dócil (1962), and Ensayos 1953-1966 (1966).
René Marqués was an activist for Puerto Rican culture. Along with Nilita Vientós Gastón, he founded the Experimental Theater of the Ateneo Puertorriqueño in 1951; for sixteen years he directed the publishing house of the Community Education Division of the Department of Public Instruction (now Department of Education); he was a member of the Puerto Rican Academy of the Spanish Language; and he founded, along with Eliezer Curet, a publishing house, the Club del Libro de Puerto Rico. This company published in 1960 the first edition in book form of the novel Redentores by Zeno Gandía.
René Marqués died in 1979, in that “ciudad llamada San Juan”.
Author: Dra. Ivonne Acosta
Published: September 03, 2014.
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