Venezuela: Rafael Bolívar Coronado, Writer With Unorthodox Methods

El Alma Llanera (The Soul from the Plains) is Venezuela's second national anthem and the song used by most party hosts in this country to send their guests home. Its lyrics, well known by every Venezuelan no matter where they are, were written by Rafael Bolívar Coronado [es], a writer who should be known more for his brilliant works, but is often more recognized for the stunts and unorthodox ways to pursue a living. The works, but especially these actions are alive in the Venezuelan blogosphere and internet forums.

Rafael Bolívar Coronado was born in Villa de Cura (Aragua, Venezuela) on June 6th, 1884. After a scholarship was granted by Juan Vicente Gomez's government, Bolívar Coronado pursued a very colorful and unconventional career in the literary arts (and all the while, he protested very openly against Gomez's government). Far from earning fame or glory for his writings, what Bolivar Coronado always looked for was a way to gain some money with his texts, as a way to survive. Literature to make ends meet.

Here is where things gets interesting. To be someone in literature, one must have a name. Maybe, Bolívar Coronado did not want to wait until his own name became famous…a man has got to eat right? So, in order to be published (and be paid), Bolívar Coronado believed it would be good to “lend” some of his works to authors already known, so the texts could be rapidly published and he could be paid better. From Moleskine Literario [es]:

No solo escribió bajo seudónimo (tuvo 600 seudónimos reconocidos), entre ellos incluso críticos literarios que elogiaban la obra de sus seudónimos, sino que incluso endilgó artículos a nombre de escritores conocidos de la época, como Rufino Blanco Fombona. En 1920, su arte del timo llegó a mayores con la publicación de una antología de poesía boliviana para la cual se inventó a todos los autores (luego hará lo mismo, un año después, con los de Costa Rica).

Not only did he write under pseudonyms (he had 600 acknowledged names) he also used the names of certain literary critics that praised those works he wrote under pseudonyms. He even wrote under the name of famous writers of the time, like Rufino Blanco Fombona. In 1920, his artistic scams became serious when an anthology of Bolivian poetry in which he invented every author was published. (A year later he did the same with an anthology of writers from Costa Rica)

And it gets better… In his blog devoted to “language, literature, ideas, humor, politics, craziness and other nonsense,” called La duda melódica [es], Professor Barrera Linares tells us about one of his most curious anecdotes about the author.

A su propio editor, Rufino Blanco Fombona, lo parodió mediante diversos apelativos [véanse en el texto original] se cuenta que Blanco Fombona anduvo en busca del plagiario con intenciones de enviarlo a apropiarse de nombres de escritores del otro mundo. Afortunadamente nunca lo localizó. Y esto sin decir nada de los nombres de escritores extranjeros con que también se cubrió (Cervantes, Unamuno, Sor Juana Inés, Ricardo Palma, Amado Nervo…O del modo como parodió al cónsul venezolano en Barcelona, adulante de Juan Vicente Gómez, Alberto Urbaneja, quien lo persiguió incansablemente y acusó de conspirador ante las autoridades españolas de la época [véanse los sobrenombres de Urbaneja en el texto original].

He even parodied his own editor, Rufino Blanco Fombona with nicknames [see the nicknames in the original article-es] It as said that Blanco Fombona looked all over for the plagiarist, in order to send him to take over some names in the afterlife. Fortunately, Blanco Fombona never found him. And not even to mention the names of foreign writers that he also used (Cervantes, Unamuno, Sor Juana Inés, Ricardo Palma, Amado Nervo…or the way he parodied the Venezuelan consul, Alberto Urbaneja (Juan Vicente Gomez's flatterer) who accused him of conspiring in front of the Spanish authorities and tried to chase him tirelessly. [see Urbaneja's nicknames in the original article-es]

It seems that Rafael Bolívar Coronado hated the lyrics that he wrote for El Alma Llanera. A complete irony if we think of these lyrics , as his most famous work. At the end, this colorful character represents the rebel spirit of those who judge the ridiculous protocols and the importance of a name in the literary world, above the importance of the literary work itself. Prof. Barrera Lineras continues [es]:

[Bolívar Coronado] a lo mejor, sin proponérselo, desveló para nuestra historia literaria el misterio de la importancia de la literatura para la vida pública: si no eres nadie dentro del mundo literario, poco puedes hacer para ser visto como escritor […”Como yo no tengo nombre en la República de las Letras, he tenido que usar el de los consagrados, porque yo no puedo darme el lujo de que me salgan telarañas en las muelas”. Es decir, o escribo con pomposos nombres ajenos o me muero de hambre. Y para corroborar tan sencillo argumento, asumió para sí la función de ficcionauta recurrente; sujeto social que vive por, para y dentro de la ficción. Una maravilla, pues.

Maybe it was not on purpose, but Bolívar Coronado brought the mystery to light of our literary history, and around the importance of literature in public life: If you're no one inside the literary world, you can do very little to be seen as a writer… “Since I don't have a name in the Republic of Literature, I had to use the name of those already consecrated. I can't afford to grow cobwebs in my teeth”. This means: either I write with pompous names that are not mine or I starve. And in order to back this simple idea, he took it upon himself the function of a constant fictionaut, a social person that lives for and inside fiction. What a marvel!

An interesting forum on the writer [es] was started by Bolívar Coronado's nephew.


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