Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mercedes Juliá Publishes Edition of Juan Ramón Jiménez's unedited Autobiography

On October 30, 2013, at the Falvey Library, Mercedes Juliá, Ph. D., professor and Chair of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, presented a paper entitled “On the Reconstruction of Vida, the Autobiography of Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez.”

For the past six years, Dr. Juliá, in collaboration with professor Mª Ángeles Sanz-Manzano (Universidad de Alcalá de Henares), has been engaged in the Herculean task of transcribing, organizing, and analyzing more than 2,000 loose pages of manuscripts left behind by one of the great poets of the 20th-century Spanish canon.  Juliá and Sanz-Manzano were invited by the heirs of the poet to reconstruct and publish this sui-generis autobiography, the first volume of which is now forthcoming from the publisher Pre-Textos

One of several manuscript title pages from Vida
During her talk, Dr. Juliá addressed the particular challenges she and her colleague have encountered in preparing the manuscripts for publication.  Upon his death, the poet’s manuscripts were left at varying stages of composition, were lacking clear order, and were very difficult to read both because of the deteriorated material state of his papers and because of the poet’s difficult hand. Dr. Juliá addressed some of the difficult editorial choices posed by such a project, and also pointed to new avenues of critical inquiry into the work of the poet.

A typed page of Vida with significant
manuscript interventions by the poet.
Of particular note, the extant documents suggest that during the last twenty years of his life, Juan Ramón spent most of his time creating and correcting these unpublished manuscripts, which he expressly stated he wanted to be able to continue changing until his death.  Like Valle-Inclán and many other artists, Jiménez conceived of his creations as “work in progress.”  Focused exclusively on the creative process, Juan Ramón would go so far, in Vida, as to state that he was sorry he had ever published anything during his lifetime.  While the Nobel-prize winning poet did indeed publish relatively little before his death, critics who initially visited the Sala Zenobia / Juan Ramón Jiménez at the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras (where his papers are now housed) were astonished to find a great number of projects left prepared for publication in different piles, tied up with ribbons of different colors.  This vast material treasury of Juan Ramón’s unpublished work eloquently contradicts a popular narrative that the poet was egotistical and driven by fame. 

Juan Ramón's characteristic handwriting.

It is part of this valuable collection of rare documents, belonging to one of the great poets of the Spanish canon, that Dr. Juliá is now in the process of editing and studying.  Congratulations to Dr. Juliá on her forthcoming edition of Juan Ramón Jiménez’s Vida!  

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