Argentine Literature History

From 1810 to 1879 within the panorama of Latin American letters, the origin of Argentine literature lacks the American Indian features distinguishing, for instance, those of Mexico and Peru. The earliest records are chronicles of foreign travelers: Ulrico Schmidl (1510-1580) and Martín del Barco Centenera (1510-1580). and Ruy Díaz de Guzmán. Luis de Tejeda, a disciple of Góngora and St. Juan de la Cruz, is the first Argentine poet.

Luis Ricardo Furlan. Retrato

Luis Ricardo Furlán

Article of the guest columnist for

Article of the guest columnist, Luis Ricardo Furlán for

First Chronicler and First Argentine Poet

Ruy Diaz de Guzman (1558-1629) native of Asuncion, Paraguay, is considered the first chronicler born in the Rio de la Plata .

Luis de Tejeda y Guzmán (1604-1680), a disciple of Góngora and St. Juan de la Cruz, is the first Argentine poet.

In colonial or “viceroyal” times -pseudo classical, baroque and epic-, letters grow sheltered by the zeal of independence: Vicente López y Planes (1785-1856), Pantaleón Rivarola (1754-1821) and Esteban de Luca (1786-1824).

Portada de la Crónica de Ulrich Shmidl, en la version de Levinus Hulsius. 1599
Chronicle of Ulrich Shmidl. Levinus Hulsius.
Portada de Facundo de Domingo Faustino Sarmiento 1845
Facundo cover by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento 1845

Gauchesca Literature

Gaucho Martín Fierro Book cover
Gaucho Martín Fierro
Portada de la Vuelta de Martin Fierro, de José Hernandez
Vuelta de Martin Fierro, by José Hernandez

There appeared the first outlines of gauchesca: Bartolomé Hidalgo (1788- 1822), Hilario Ascasubi (1807-1875) y Estanislao del Campo (1834-1880), a native genre reaching its peak with El gaucho Martín Fierro (1872), by José Hernández (1834-1886), which is representative of national feeling and spirit.

The generation of 1837

It is the generation of the proscribed by the government of Juan Manuel Rosas. It is the young generation of ’37, founder of the Association of Mayo, who from exile continued to work in an effort to overcome the antinomy faced unitary and federal.

Esteban Echeverría. Drawing
Esteban Echeverría

Critics of spanish enlightenment of Rivadavia, propitiate the break with Spanish tradition in favor of French romanticism supporting the return to popular sources and medieval past. This situation allows Esteban Echeverría (1805-1851), its main follower, to be the writer of the first local and realistic short story: El matadero (The Slaughterhouse). He concluded his writing 1840, but was published in 1871 after his death, because the parallel between slaughterhouses and the Rosas government. He also wrote the poem, La cautiva (The Captive Woman, 1837), where the Pampa setting is fundamental. Also Dogma Socialista (Socialist Dogma, 1846). A mature literature in intellectual and political terms started to flourish.

Juan Bautista Alberdi. Portrait by Carlos Pellegrini. Agosto de 1832
Juan Bautista Alberdi.

In this period before the fall of Rosas regime, other young people stand out with their works. Juan Bautista Alberdi (1810-1884): Fragmento Preliminar al estudio del derecho (Preliminary fragment to the study of law, 1837) Bases y puntos de partida para la organización política de la República Argentina (Bases and starting points for the political organization of Argentina, 1852); Domingo Fautino Sarmiento (1811-1888) with Facundo (1845).

Domingo Faustino Sarmiento. Portrait by N. Desmadryl
Domingo Faustino Sarmiento

First Argentine Novel

José Marmol. Portrait. Detail.
José Marmol.

By mid-19th century, José Mármol (1817-1871), publishes the first Argentine novel Amalia (1855).
While poetry diminishes its warlike mood and turns to the anecdotal and sentimental: Carlos Guido y Spano (1827-1918) and Ricardo Gutiérrez (1836-1896); chronicles of manners: Vicente Fidel López (1815-1903), Lucio V. Mansilla (1831-1913) y Juana Manuela Gorriti (1818-1892) and historical accounts: Bartolomé Mitre (1821-1906) are records of the spirit of national organization.

The 1880s Generation

The 1880s generation theoretically and methodically built up a literature with features of its own, stressing European colors and cultural primacy of Buenos Aires par excellence. Literature from inland was not significant yet at this stage. The immigratory flows of varied ethnic group enhanced the transformation of the Great Village into the cosmopolitan metropolis.
Poetry is lyrical and imprecatory: Leopoldo Díaz (1862-1947) and Pedro B. PalaciosAlmafuerte”(1853-1917); essay is a recent genre: José Manuel Estrada (1842-1894), Pedro Goyena (1843-1892) and Joaquín V. González (1863-1923); narrative fluctuates between the social and the depiction of manners: Miguel Cané (1851-1905), Eugenio Cambaceres (1843-1888), Julián Martel (1867-1896), Francisco Sicardi (1856-1927) and Carlos María Ocantos (1860-1949).


In argentine literature history, by late 19th century, Rubén Darío’s, hand and letters brought Modernism. Rubén Darío(1867-1916), is a Nicaraguan poet called “the prince of Castilian letters”.

Euphuism and symbolism summarize the new aesthetics, which would later lend the strongest voice to contemporary Argentine poetry: Leopoldo Lugones (1874-1938), whom we owe the first science fiction short story in our literature. Lugones is the paradigm dividing Argentine literature into two domains.

Simplism and Criollism

Lugones’s voice would continue to echo for a long time, but, at the same time, there appeared two creative lines: Criollism (from criollo, word applied to the native inhabitants which were born from Indians and Spaniards), pontificating rural realism with Horacio Quiroga (1878-1937) and Roberto J. Payró (1867-1928), and Simplism, a poetry of the popular with Evaristo Carriego (1883-1912) and Baldomero Fernández Moreno (1886-1950). A critical interim allows us to rescue, among others, Ricardo Güiraldes (1886-1927) and Guillermo E. Hudson (1841-1922) traditionalism; Enrique Larreta’s (1875-1961) euphuistic; and Enrique Banchs’ (1888-1968) mester de juglaría (verse in the manner of troubadours).


The magazine Martin Fierro, published in 1924, marks the emergence of a new trend. The first established generation within Argentine letters was undoubtedly the Martinfierristas (circa 1922). This movement would contribute with an intellectual doctrine which comprises two representative branches: Florida, ascribing to ultraism with Oliverio Girondo (1891-1967), Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), Leopoldo Marechal (1900-1970) and Macedonio Fernández (1874-1972) and la de Boedo, impressed by Russian realism with Raúl González Tuñón (1905-1974), César Tiempo (1906-1980), Elías Castelnuovo (1893-1982) and Ricardo E. Molinari (1898-1996), with a classical, lyrical and euphuistic style.

Jorge Luis Borges frente a un micrófono
Jorge Luis Borges


Roberto Arlt
Roberto Arlt

Between the end of that decade and the beginning of the next, there were the Novisimos (most novel), a generation of poets: Arturo Cambours Ocampo (1908-1996), Carlos Carlino (1910-1981) and José Portogalo (1904-1973), story tellers: Arturo Cerretani (1907-1986), Roberto Arlt (1900-1942), Luis María Albamonte (1911-1982) y Luis Horacio Velázquez (1912-sf)) and playwrights: Roberto Valenti (1907-1958), Juan Oscar Ponferrada (1907-1990) and Javier Villafañe (1909-1996). This group claimed the philosophical reflection of man and the restoration of Argentine essence.

The 1940’s Generaction

The 1940’s Generation is centered on poetry, where it develops descriptions, nostalgia and memory with Vicente Barbieri (1903-1953), Olga Orozco (1920-1999), León Benarós (1915-2012) and Alfonso Sola Gonzáles (1917-1975). Story tellers lined up with idealism: María Granata (1923), Adolfo Bioy Casares (1914-1999), Julio Cortázar (1914-1984) and Manuel Mujica Láinez (1910-1984) and realism: Ernesto L. Castro (1902), Ernesto Sábato (1911-2011) and Abelardo Arias (1918-1991) with an urban touch or elements dealing with the portrayal of manners: Joaquín Gómez Bas (1907-1984) and Roger Plá (1912-1981). Essayists are not too numerous: Antonio Pagés Larraya (1918-2005), Emilio Carilla and Luis Soler Cañas (1918-1984).

Olga Orozco
Olga Orozco
Julio Cortazar
Julio Cortazar
Adolfo Bioy Casares. Retrato fotográfico.
Adolfo Bioy Casares
Ernesto Sabato. Retrato fotográfico.
Ernesto Sabato.


Towards 1950, another milestone can be found: el  Neohumanism, which is a response to the new state of post-war thinking. On one path are the avant-gardists: Raúl Gustavo Aguirre (1927-1983), Edgar Bayley (1919-1990) and Julio Llinás (1929); on the other, the existentiaries: José Isaacson (1932), Julio Arístides and Miguel Ángel Viola; beyond the two, there are those who reconcile both trends with a regionalist support: Alfredo Veiravé (1928-1991), Jaime Dávalos (1921-1981) y Alejandro Nicotra (1931). Among the story tellers we find burning records of the period: Beatriz Guido (1922-1988), David Viñas (1927-2011) and Marco Denevi (1922-1998). In most of these writers, there is a perceived influence of Anglo-Saxon and Italian poetry.

The 1960’s Generation

A new generation break up takes place in the 1960s. Influences are varied: Sartre, Camus, Eluard; some Spaniards like Celaya; and native writers such as Borges, Arlt, Cortázar and Marechal. Two trends stand out: the trace of metaphysical time and historicity: Horacio Salas (1938), Alejandra Pizarnik (1936-1972) and Ramón Plaza (1937-1991) and social and urban convulsions: Abelardo Castillo (1935), Marta Lynch (1925-1985) and Manuel Puig (1932-1990).

The 1970’s Generation

In argentine literature history, the 1970s are dark for intellectual creation. The sign of the times is exile: Juan Gelman (1930-2014) and Antonio Di Benedetto (1922-1986); or death: Roberto Santoro (1939-1977), Haroldo Conti (1925-1976) and Rodolfo Walsh (1927-1977). Some poets: Agustín Tavitián y Antonio Aliberti (1938-2000), story tellers: Osvaldo Soriano (1943-1997) and Fernando Sorrentino (1942); and essayists: Ricardo Herrera and María Rosa Lojo (1954) stand out among the vicissitudes and renew the field of ethic and aesthetic ideas. Again, their references are Eluard, Eliot, Montale y Neruda.

Juan Gelman
Juan Gelman
Osvaldo Soriano
Osvaldo Soriano

A partir de 1990

The 1990s decade marks the reunion of the survivors of different generations, in an intellectual coalescence to review values and texts, before an enigmatic but hopeful end of century.

Learn more about the relationship between literature an tango: El lunfardo y el Tango report by José Gobello Presidente of Academia Porteña del Lunfardo (Porteña Lunfardo Academy), from 1995 until his death in 2013.


All graphic material in this report is edited digitally. The customized version by shown on this page is performed based on the following documents:

  • Archivo General de la Nación [Ancient Photographs] Collection of ancient images belonging to the General Archive of the Nation. Archive Photographs