This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for March 16, 2017: For Frances

Mar. 16, 2017: birthday: César Vallejo

It’s the birthday of poet César Vallejo (books by this author), born in Santiago de Chuco, Peru (1892). As a young man, he worked as a miner and then as a cashier at a sugar plantation that employed slave laborers. He was horrified by the exploitation of poor workers, and he later became a socialist.

In 1920, he found himself caught up in a festival in his hometown that deteriorated into lootings and arsons. He was mistakenly arrested and thrown in jail, and he spent his next four months writing the poetry that would appear in his first major collection, Trilce (1922).

After he was released from prison, he moved to Paris, where he slept on subway trains and park benches for months. He was constantly sick and depressed, and he couldn’t find a steady job. He wrote to his brother: “I … have the desire to work and to live my life with dignity. I am not a bohemian: poverty is very painful, and it’s no part for me, unlike for others. … My will veers between the point at which one is reduced to the sole desire for death and the intention of conquering the world by sword and fire.”

He eventually founded a literary magazine in Paris, and he published several more collections of poetry. He spent the last years of his life promoting Russia’s communist policies and trying to gain support for Spanish rebels in the Spanish Civil War. He died of malaria when he was only 49 years old. He is buried at the Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris.