Julián del Casal, from sadness to deadly laughter

Julián del Casal, from sadness to deadly laughter

Heritage & Traditions

Cubaplus Magazine

Audacious in the perception of beauty, but with melancholy and pessimism as traveling companions in his short life, the Cuban poet Julián del Casal, among the great cultivators of modernism in Latin America, paradoxically died during a fit of laughter.

José Julián del Casal y de la Lastra, also a journalist, was born on November 7, 1863 in Havana, in a family of wealthy landowners, but very soon he lost his parents and his life began to be marked by economic precariousness and the suffocating conditions of a colony.

He undertook law studies that he did not complete, he worked as a clerk in the Ministry of Finance, but he lost the job as a result of a publication with critical allusions about the governor, and he devoted himself fully to literature.

In the three published titles that collected his work, his literary journey goes from nineteenth-century romanticism to new trends, and the remarkable scope of his creation: Leafs in the Wind (1890), Snow (1892) and Busts and Rhymes (1893) .

Literary critics point to French Teófilo Gautier, Paul Verlaine and Charles Baudelaire, icons of Parnassianism and symbolism in poetry, as inspiring Julián del Casal, who also addressed in his texts, beyond existential experiences, exotic cultures such as Hellenistic, Rococo or Japanese art.

In Paris, which was his goal in 1888, he could never get there for economic reasons and he stayed a few months in Spain, his only destination outside Cuba. There he met Salvador Rueda, who became a promoter of the recognition of the Cuban poet's work, together with famous Nicaraguan bard Rubén Darío, with whom Casal had corresponded since 1887 and who he met in Havana in 1892.

I just feel like annihilating myself / or living in my eternal poverty / with my faithful companion, discontent, / and my pale girlfriend, sadness. Verses from his poem "Nihilism" expresses the depressive mood of the Cuban poet, who died on October 21, 1893.

During a meal at the house of his friend, Dr. Lucas de los Santos Lamadrid, in Havana's Paseo del Prado, Julián del Casal laughed out loud at the joke of one of the diners, began to vomit blood and died as a result of the rupture of an aneurysm, although some specialists point out that it must have actually been a massive hemoptysis derived from pulmonary tuberculosis.

Fine spirit, fearful and tender affection, ideal pilgrimage, melancholic love for the absent beauty of his native land, "because letters can only be mourned in a country without freedom" ... were words dedicated by José Martí, National Hero of Cuba, to the young poet upon learning of his death.