Thursday, May 4, 2017

Born Today May 4: Alberto Blest Gana


Chilean novelist and diplomat Alberto Blest Gana was born on this day in Santiago, Chile to an Irish immigrant father and a Chilean mother whose family was wealthy and well connected and primarily of Basque ancestry.  As a young man, he studied at the Military Academy in his birth country, and then studied for one year in France.  In 1866, he began to serve his country as a foreign diplomat, holding posts in Washington D.C., London and Paris.  Probably his biggest achievement in the public sector was getting Chile admittance into the Universal Postal Union.  He was a voracious reader of novels, he was particularly a fan of Honoré de Balzac.  He began writing his own novels, and is now known as the father of the Chilean novel.  Though his diplomatic duties took up much of time, he still found time to write and after his retirement from diplomacy, his writing increased exponentially.  Filmed adaptations of his work, mostly his novel Martin Rivas (dating from 1862), number under 10, but the very first film using his work came in 1920 with Manuel Rodríguez, which is based on his novel Durante la  reconquista--which was published in 1897.  The film was a Chilean production.  Martín Rivas followed in 1925.  The first sound filmed adaptation came on Chilean television series in 1968 with El loco estero.  The most recent use of his work in film dates from 2010 also on Chilean television with Martín Rivas.  Alberto Blest Gana died on the 9th of November in Paris, France at the age of 90.  He is buried there in Pére Lachaise.

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