Art and culture Iberia Plus

Madrid, with the greats of Latin American literature

The Eñe Festival is held in Madrid from 23 October to 5 November. Created by the magazine of the same name, this literary event has been held 13 times: nine in Madrid and four in the Americas. The number of attendees has doubled from its beginnings, and it is expected that this year it will enjoy even more visitors, as there will be more activities than eve – all free-of-charge.

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Historically, Madrid has been a place of intersection for Hispanic authors, and this relationship has helped to greatly enrich Spanish-language literature.
The city that attracted and inspired so many Latin American writers has not forgotten the names of those who have made it one of the capitals of Hispanic literature.

  1. 1 Mario Vargas Llosa, from the National Library to the Temple of Debod

    He arrived in Madrid in 1958 with a scholarship to study his doctorate at the Complutense University, settling into a rooming house on Calle Menéndez Pelayo. In the afternoon, he criss-crossed the city, following the tracks of Pio Baroja’s and Benito Pérez Galdós’s novels set in Madrid. Some days, he spent hours poring over books of chivalry in the National Library. On others, he sat down to write in a pub near the rooming house, shaping the draft of his first novel, The Time of the Hero. But the young Vargas Llosa faced an unresolved dilemma: whether to be a lawyer or a writer. In August of that year, while taking a walk with his manuscript under his arm, he finally made the decision that would define him forever: he would put all his efforts into literature.

    Vargas Llosa's favourite corner of Madrid: the Temple of Debod
    His favourite corner of Madrid: the Temple of Debod
  2. 2 Jorge Luis Borges, from the Puerta del Sol to the Barrio de las Letras

    In 1919, he moved into a guesthouse facing the Puerta del Sol and became a regular at the gatherings held by Rafael Cansinos-Asséns at the legendary Colonial Café. It was the golden age of Bohemian Madrid, in which the still-beardless Borges penned his first Ultraist poems in the city, dazzled as he wandered the same streets trodden by Quevedo, Cervantes, Góngora and Lope de Vega. His stay in the capital is short, but it is vital for his career, because it is here where he begins to make a name for himself as a writer.

    Jorge Luis Borges, from the Puerta del Sol to the Barrio de las Letras
    He was a close friend of Rafael Cansinos-Asséns, founder of a regular social gathering in the Colonial Café
  3. 3 Pablo Neruda, settled in Argüelles

    Neruda arrived in 1935 as a consul of his country. His presence has an enormous impact on the Generation of ‘27; in his flat in the Argüelles neighbourhood – which he named the House of Flowers – he often met with personalities such as Rafael Alberti, Federico García Lorca and Miguel Hernández. It also impacted his work, as it was here that he first published what would become one of his critically acclaimed books, Residence on Earth.


    Neruda lived in the House of Flowers in Argüelles neighbourhood
    Neruda lived in the House of Flowers
  4. 4 Rubén Darío, on Serrano Street

    The arrival of the Nicaraguan Modernist poet was seen as a turning point in the literary relationship between Latin America and Madrid. After visiting the city several times, in 1905 Darío settled into a flat on Serrano Street and soon began to gain followers in his cause to revive Hispanic literature. His prominence piqued the interest of local writers to the point that they became interested in discovering what was being written on the other side of the Atlantic. This allowed Darío to build a bridge between the two shores that other authors would soon cross.

    Rubén Darío used to central Madrid and the Royal Palace
    One afternoon, while the poet was strolling through the Campo del Moro gardens with Valle-Inclán, he fell hopelessly in love with an illiterate young gardener named Francisca Sánchez.