Partner Stanley Richardson
University of Seville, Calle San Fernando, 4, 41004 Sevilla, Spagna
Calle Acetres, 6, 41004 Sevilla, Spain
Panteón Jardín, Calz. Desierto de los Leones SN, San Ángel Inn, 01060 Álvaro Obregón, CDMX, Messico
Luis Cernuda (born Luis Cernuda Bidón September 21, 1902 – November 5, 1963) was a Spanish poet, a member of the Generation of '27. During the Spanish Civil War, in early 1938, he went to the UK to deliver some lectures and this became the start of an exile that lasted till the end of his life. He taught in the universities of Glasgow and Cambridge before moving in 1947 to the US. In the 1950s he moved to Mexico. While he continued to write poetry, he also published wide-ranging books of critical essays, covering French, English and German as well as Spanish literature. He was frank about his homosexuality at a time when this was problematic and became something of a role model for this in Spain. His collected poems were published under the title La realidad y el deseo.
His sexual awakening seems to have coincided with the birth of his desire to write poetry, around the age of 14, but it was many years later before he really came to terms with this side of himself. A very important influence on his emotional development was the writings of André Gide. In his essay of 1946, he writes: "the transcendent figure for Gide is not that of a man who by means of abstention and denial searches for the divine, but that of a man who seeks out the fullness of humanity by means of effort and individual exaltation." In other words, he was affected by the idea of total hedonism without any sense of guilt.
As seen in his accounts of his first meetings with Jiménez in 1925 and Lorca in 1927, he had not really come to terms with his sexuality. This only seems to happen once he finally left Seville in 1928, after his mother's death. He had already become noted as something of a dandy during his time at the University of Seville, as noted by Salinas - "a well-cut suit, a perfectly-knotted tie". This tendency seems to have intensified during his brief stay in Madrid before going to Toulouse - the pose of a man who frequents bars, drinks cocktails, affects English shirts, discussed in an article by Villena (La rebeldía del dandy en Luis Cernuda). Villena diagnoses it as the sign of a refined hermit trying to hide his hyper-sensitivity and repressed desire for love. In Toulouse, he wrote to a friend that he was starting to think that he was too well-dressed. Alone, in a foreign country, and still not at ease in his skin, he was taking refuge in dazzling the provincial bourgeoisie - thumbing his nose at them by wearing an immaculate three-piece suit. In some way, however, the combination of his contact with the world, the attitudes and thinking of the surrealists, the influence of Gide, and his pent-up fight against bourgeois tendencies coincided in the belated acceptance of his sexuality, as expressed finally in Un río, un amor.
In 1935 at a salon hosted by Carlos Morla Lynch, a diplomat, diarist, amateur musician and closet homosexual working in the Chilean Embassy in Madrid, Cernuda met an English poet called Stanley Richardson, nine years younger than him, who was making a brief visit to the country. He had already met Altolaguirre and Concha Méndez in London. They enjoyed some kind of intense but short-lived relationship, commemorated in a poem dated 20-22 March 1935 and included in Invocaciones, before Richardson returned home. In February 1938, Richardson arranged for him to give a series of lectures in Oxford and Cambridge. At the time, Cernuda thought that he would be away from Spain for one or two months, however this was to be the start of an exile that would last for the rest of his life. The lectures never took place. Richardson was well-connected, however, and arranged a party for him, attended by celebrities such as the Duchess of Atholl, Gavin Henderson, 2nd Baron Faringdon, the Chinese ambassador, Rebecca West and Rose Macaulay. Even by then, the situation in Spain meant that it was not advisable for Cernuda to return and so Richardson suggested that he should join a colony of evacuated Basque children at Eaton Hastings on Faringdon's estate.
He spent the summer of 1963 in Mexico and, although he had an invitation to lecture at the University of Southern California, he declined it in August, because of the need to undergo a medical in order to extend his visa. He died in Concha Mėndez's house of a heart attack on 5 November 1963. He was buried in the Panteón Jardín, Mexico City. He never married and had no children.
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