Professor of English Emerita Claudette Columbus recently spent two weeks in Peru for the centenary of Jose Maria Arguedas’ birth, delivering a paper on the well known Peruvian novelist, poet, and anthropologist in Peru.
Arguedas died in 1969, but his writings were some of the most influential in the country at the time. He wrote mostly in Spanish, and some in his native Quechua. His writings centered on his home environment in the Andes and the clashes he saw emerging within his society, between traditional and indigenous ways and the modern, white civilization.
“One day in the early 1980s, I realized the school didn’t offer a single course on South America. Since my Ph.D. is in comparative literature and since I grew up in Bolivia, I retooled myself at the Nettie Lee Benson Library in Austin, Texas, which is dedicated to Latin American literatures,” Columbus says.
While there, it was one of Arguedas’ books, “Los Rios Profundos,” that really compelled her. “It was the love of the Andean world and the nature of the author that reached me at a profound level.”
Since then, Columbus has received two senior Fulbright research grants to study Arguedas in Peru and has published her own book on his unfinished work “El zorro de arriba y el zorro de abajo.”
A number of celebrations and events are taking place throughout Peru to celebrate Arguedas this year; in February, Peru’s Ministry of Culture presented a ceremony at the National Museum. Another celebration will be held later in June at the Universidad Catolica in Lima. Columbus will speak at another part of the celebration and her paper will be a peripheral part of the talk, with well-known Arquedas scholars, Mario Vargas Llosa, Gustavo Gutierrez, and Ariel Dorfman, also presenting.
Columbus began teaching at the Colleges in 1969.