Miguel Ángel Asturias
written by Anna-Claire Bevan photo by Jacobo BlijdensteinOne hundred years after his birth, Guatemala honored the life of its exiled, Nobel Prize-winning poet, Miguel Ángel Asturias, by placing a statue of him on one of the main streets of its capital city. Made entirely of bronze, the full-body sculpture was the masterpiece of Max Leiva and celebrates the memory of the prolific writer.
Depicted in formal clothing with his head held high, the 10-foot-tall statue of Asturias appears to be strolling down Avenida La Reforma with papers billowing out from the books he is holding. Originally, the sheets cascaded from his hands all the way down to the ground, but shortly after the sculpture was completed, vandals pilfered the bronze pieces.
Historians have since remarked that the defacing of the controversial poet’s statue only serves to increase its symbolism throughout the country. Carlos René García Escobar commented that: “Miguel without pages is a paradox;” just as people tried to silence his work in life, they are now trying to do the same in death.
Born in Guatemala City in 1899, Asturias studied law at the University of San Carlos before moving to Paris in the 1920s. While in Europe, he wrote one of his most famous novels, El Señor Presidente, which remained unpublished until 1946 due to its political content. After decades of living in exile as a result of his radical views, Asturias received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1967.
It was only after his death in Madrid seven years later that Guatemala acknowledged its award-winning poet and novelist’s contribution to writing. However, despite being credited as modernizing Latin American literature, Miguel Ángel Asturias remains relatively unknown among the majority of schoolchildren across the country today.