Diego Cendoya, Gerardo

gerardo diego_ul

Writer of the Generation of ’27, friend and fellow writer of Federico García Lorca.

He was born in Santander on October 3, 1896. He studied Philosophy and Arts in Deusto and obtained his doctorate degree in Madrid. After obtaining a position as a professor of Language and Literature in 1920, he taught in high schools in different cities (Soria, Santander, Gijón and Madrid). He soon began to write and publish. In 1918, his first short story, Grandfather’s Box, appeared in El Diario Montañés. He collaborates in various magazines such as Revista Castellana or Grecia. His first book of poems, The Bride’s Ballad, comes out in 1920.

Shortly before (1919) Federico García Lorca had traveled to Madrid to apply for a place at the Students’ Residence. Through José Mora Guarnido he met Guillermo de Torre and Pedro Salinas, already imbued with the avant-garde movement. He was also able to read an anthology of ultraist poets recently published in the magazine Cervantes.

In 1925, the same year as Rafael Alberti, Gerardo Diego received the National Poetry Prize: as the theater prize was not awarded, it was decided that another poetry prize should be given, which was his.

During the years that Diego spent in Gijón he founded the avant-garde magazines Carmen and its humorous counterpoint Lola, containing the chronicle of the tribute to Góngora in Seville, the foundational meeting of the Generation of ’27. Gerardo Diego was one of the seven literary figures who traveled by train from Madrid to Seville, together with the promoter of the tribute, Ignacio Sánchez Mejías. Diego intervened on the second day with the reading of a text entitled Defense of Poetry. In addition to the chronicles of the official tribute, we can read in Lola anecdotes such as “the heroic and nocturnal crossing of the overflowing Betis” or “the Coronation of Dámaso Alonso“, recognized as the highest authority on Góngora after having recited from memory the more than one thousand verses of the First Solitude. In 1928, he was to participate in issue 3 of the magazine gallo with a fragment of Fable of X and Z but this third issue was never published.

Celebration of Góngora's tercentenary at the Seville Athenaeum in December 1927. From left to right: Rafael Alberti, Federico García Lorca, Juan Chabás, Mauricio Bacarisse, José María Romero Martínez (president of the literature section of the Athenaeum), Manuel Blasco Garzón (president of the Seville Athenaeum), Jorge Guillén, José Bergamín, Dámaso Alonso and Gerardo Diego.
Celebration of Góngora’s tercentenary at the Seville Athenaeum in December 1927. From left to right: Rafael Alberti, Federico García Lorca, Juan Chabás, Mauricio Bacarisse, José María Romero Martínez (president of the literature section of the Ateneo), Manuel Blasco Garzón (president of the Sevilla Athenaeum), Jorge Guillén, José Bergamín, Dámaso Alonso and Gerardo Diego.

There were many occasions on which Gerardo Diego and Federico would meet up in literary events. One of them is the tribute that was given in Madrid, on April 10, 1931, to the French Hispanist Mathilde Pomès (who before the dinner passed by Lorca’s home to interview him). Photographs are preserved of the attendees with Pomès in the garden of the restaurant.

In 1932, Gerardo Diego published a fundamental anthology, Spanish Poetry: 1915-1931, which he later expanded in 1934. The two compilations have become part of a single volume of great interest to scholars of contemporary poetry. The anthology is intended to establish a canon, but since there are two editions it is even more interesting to make a comparative study of them both. In the second, Federico allowed Gerardo Diego to publish a text that he did not usually include in his lectures or recitals on New York (it had only been published in Havana), the “Ode to Walt Whitman”.

Tribute to Mathilde Pomés
Tribute to Mathilde Pomès at the Buenavista restaurant. Madrid, April 10, 1931. From left to right: Juan Guerrero (above). Ángel Vegué, Gerardo Diego, Jaime Torres Bodet, Mathilde Pomès, Luis Cernuda, León Sánchez Cuesta, Federico García Lorca, Vicente Aleixandre, Oscar Esplá, Claudio de la Torre, José Bergamín and Pedro Salinas.

As a teacher, Gerardo Diego gave lectures and courses all over the world. He was also a literary, musical and bullfighting critic. In 1934, he married and moved to the Santander institute. He continued to work on various studies of authors and works of Spanish literature.

The Civil War caught him on vacation in France. His ideology (he took the side of the rebels) allowed him to remain in Spain when the war ended and to continue teaching in Madrid. He published Angels of Compostela, Lark of Truth or Ballads, among other works. In 1947, he joined the Royal Spanish Academy and in 1979 received the Cervantes Prize (again coincidentally, that year there is, exceptionally, another winner: Jorge Luis Borges).

He died on July 8, 1987 in Madrid.

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