Peruvian Rebel: The World of Magda Portal, with a Selection of Her Poems

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Penn State Press, May 19, 2010 - Poetry - 309 pages
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As the Left reawakens in Latin America following widespread disillusionment with neoliberal efforts to apply &“shock therapy&” to local economies, this story of the exemplary life of a major Peruvian activist and literary figure of an earlier era is particularly timely. Magda Portal (1900&–1989) played a historic role in the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA), which began as a Marxist-inspired but non-Communist radical movement with cells based in both Europe and Latin America in the 1920s before it became a full-fledged political party in Peru in 1931. Often in exile abroad, in prison, or in hiding in Peru to escape arrest, Portal was the leading female organizer for the Apristas until her break with the increasingly Right-leaning party after World War II. As APRA&’s national secretary for women&’s affairs, Portal worked tirelessly for women&’s rights within the framework of a broader fight for social justice. A close colleague of revolutionary leaders Jos&é Carlos Mari&átegui and Victor Ra&úl Haya de la Torre, she sided with the latter in the schism that erupted between the two in 1928, but ended up denouncing Haya de la Torre in 1950, accusing him of compromised relationships with the powers of neocolonial capitalism.

Already an acclaimed poet by the age of twenty-three, Portal struggled throughout her life to balance her artistic with her political ambitions, at times abandoning her literary pursuits. This conflict is itself a fascinating part of this biography of a woman now regarded as one of the pioneer feminists of Latin America. A substantial selection of Portal&’s poetry is offered, with accompanying translations.


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1 Beginnings 19001919
2 Entering the Vanguard 19201927
3 First Exile 19271930
The Heroic Years 19311944
5 A Dream Disintegrates 19451957
6 Later Years 19581989
Selected Poems
Selected References
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About the author (2010)

Kathleen Weaver has translated four books from Spanish, including Omar Cabezas&’s Fire from the Mountain, with an introduction by Carlos Fuentes (1985), and Julio Cort&ázar&’s Nicaraguan Sketches, with her own introduction (1989). She also co-edited The Other Voice: Twentieth-Century Women&’s Poetry in Translation (1976) and The Penguin Book of Women Poets (1978).

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