Rufino Blanco Fombona

Rufino Blanco Fombona, a Venezuelan diplomat, political activist, and writer of the Modernismo, was born on June 17, 1874, in Caracas. He was born into an illustrious family of Spanish descent and received his primary education at the Santa María and San Agustín schools of Caracas as well as a bachelor’s degree from the Central University of Venezuela before going on to enter the Military Academy of Venezuela. At the age of eighteen, while enrolled at the Military Academy, he partook in the Revolución Legalista, a civil war in which President Raimundo Andueza Palacio sought to reform the Venezuelan constitution so as to extend his own presidential term, resulting in a successful military revolt against his administration. The same year, Fombona was appointed to a diplomatic post in Philadelphia. Upon his return to Caracas, he became involved with Venezuelan magazines such as El Cojo Ilustrado, marking his first foray into journalism and editorial work.

He travelled widely in his diplomatic career, to countries including the Netherlands, the United States, the Dominican Republic, and France. His first book, Trovadores y trovas, published by J. M. Herrera Irigoyen & Ca., appeared in 1899, and was shortly followed by Cuentos de poeta (Imprenta Americana, 1900), Cuentos americanos (Viuda de Rodríguez Serra, 1904), and Pequeña ópera lírica (Librería de Fernando Fé, 1904), which included a foreword by Rubén Darío.

During his service as the governor of the Estado Amazonas, he was jailed in Ciudad Bolívar for the murder of a colonel who had been sent to arrest him for defending the rights of Indigenous peoples against encroachment by the Venezuelan rubber industry. This experience served as the inspiration for his first novel, El hombre de hierro (Tipografia Americana, 1907). Later, when Juan Vicente Gómez staged the coup that would make him the president of Venezuela, Fombona, in his position as the secretary of the Chamber of Deputies, argued in a letter of protest against the coup and against the involvement of the United States Government, which backed Gómez. As a result, Fombona was exiled from Venezuela, taking him to Paris and, later, Madrid. His period of exile was one of great literary and intellectual production, during which he wrote many of his best-known works, including Judas capitolino (E. Garnier, 1912); the poetry collections Cantos de la prisión y del destierro (Librería P. Ollendorff, 1911) and Cancionero del amor infeliz (Editorial-América, 1918); the short story collections Dramas mínimos (Biblioteca Nueva, 1920) and Tragedias grotescas (Editorial-América, 1928); and the novels El hombre de oro (Editorial-América, 1915), La mitra en la mano (Editorial-América, 1927), La bella y la fiera (Renacimiento, 1931), and El secreto de la felicidad (Editorial-América, 1933).

After returning to Venezuela in 1939, he was admitted into the Academia Nacional de la Historia and was again appointed political and diplomatic positions in the Venezuelan government. The last years of his life were spent writing, and his final book of poems, Mazorcas de oro, was published by Impresores Unidos in 1943. He died on October 16, 1944, on a trip to Buenos Aires.

Over the course of his life, he was nominated six times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, though none of his nominations were ever successful.