José Manuel Briceño Guerrero, 1929-2014

JMBGJosé Manuel Briceño Guerrero, the llanero philosopher and author whose dazzling prose did more to illuminate the Venezuelan condition to me than that of any of his contemporaries, died in his beloved Mérida last Friday. He was 85.

Obituary writers have hurried to pronounce his legacy “influential”, but in fact Briceño Guerrero was much more often celebrated than read, let alone understood.

That’s not surprising: he refused to simplify an argument for the sake of wider dissemination. His writing tended to a certain obscurity, with some of his fiction on the far outer edges of intelligibility. At its worst, it could be maddening; at its best, absolutely thrilling. To those willing to put in the time, the effort and the soulshare required, Briceño Guerrero offered depths of meaning and nuance unmatched in Venezuelan letters.

My own attempt to translate bits of his seminal Discurso Salvaje is here. My starstruck essay about the one time I met him is here.

A recent documentary about him follows: