In Memoriam: Manuel Abreu Adorno

Today marks the birth of the late Manuel Abreu Adorno, a Puerto Rican writer whose life, death, and literary works remain shrouded in mystery and elusiveness. Janice Mejías (Diálogo) writes that finding his work has not been easy. Having been met by statements like “He has been out of print since the 1970s,” Mejías nonetheless set out bravely to trace this lesser known but enormously talented author’s trajectory and “to decipher the enigma that is the Puerto Rican writer Manuel Abreu Adorno.”

Manuel José Abreu Adorno was born on April 21, 1955, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He studied at the private school Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola in San Juan, which served as inspiration for writing his last (unpublished) work, Elegía a Eleanor Rigby [Elegy to Eleanor Rigby], a memoir about his high school years. He went on to study at the Department of Humanities at the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras. There, Abreu Adorno cultivated poetry and narrative, while absorbing Río Piedras culture, which would also become a recurring theme in his work. After completing his studies at the UPR-RP with high honors in 1977, he embarked on a voluntary exile for seven years, which he described as the “pilgrimage that all Latin American writers” must undertake. He pursued studies at the Central University of Barcelona and then the University of Paris.

In France, Abreu Adorno’s career as a writer took off and he published his first work, Llegaron los hippies y otros cuentos [The Hippies Are Here and Other Stories]. Published by Ediciones Huracán in 1978, Llegaron los hippies recounts the impromptu arrival of hippies to Vega Baja—with LSD and songs of peace and love—and the sexual encounter/mishap between a Puerto Rican prostitute and a federal agent. Postmodern in its conception, it delineates the emerging narrative style of Abreu, who had just taken the leap from poetry to narrative. His collection of poems, Sonido de lo innombrable [Sound of the Unspeakable], published in 1992 by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, was written between 1978 and 1984. In this period, he also produced the novel No todas las suecas son rubias [Not All Swedish Girls are Blondes], written in 1980 and published posthumously in 1992.

In Paris, he also met seasoned Argentine writer Julio Cortázar, with whom he established a deep friendship based on mutual admiration. Upon Cortázar’s death in 1984, Abreu wrote, “I owe to Cortázar the notion of literature as a pleasurable object, as a ludic verbal representation of a childish and permanent freshness. . .”

According to Mejía, although Adorno Abreu’s work is not listed under a particular genre, it has been noted as one of the anonymous precursors of McOndo, new Latin American narrative which offers itself as a counterpoint to the iconic, magical realism of the Macondo of Gabriel García Márquez. Mejía stresses that “the elusive nature of his prose seems an echo of [a writer] who was a character in his own narrative: witty, disjointed, polyform, fleeting. Described by his teacher and friend Saúl Yurkievich in the prologue of No todas las suecas son rubias as “a great writer with the face of a pudgy child,” Abreu Adorno seems to have left his readers with an unfinished witticism, the “completely autobiographic and unjustly unpublished” Elegía a Eleanor Rigby. Mejía echoes professor and writer Magali García Ramis, who says, “His work has barely been studied.  There are a few who are beginning to explore his literary production.”

Abreu Adorno died on October 29, 1984. His greatest dream remains incomplete: to see his Elegía published. Yurkievich states in his “in memoriam” address: “I beseech Puerto Rico to receive his remains as a return of the prodigal son; [I ask] for his work to be recognized and disseminated.”

For full article (in Spanish)

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