José Martí, the National Hero of Cuba, in addition to his extensive revolutionary activities, was a poet, journalist, novelist, playwright, and essayist. The editors of this selection of his works have extracted passages from the 74 volumes of the Obras Completas de Martí, edited by Gonzalo de Quesada y Miranda. They have arranged his writings into a section on poetry, one on literary theory and expression, one on the philosophical, esthetic, moral, social, political, and economic ideas of Martí, and one on Martí’s thoughts on love, grief, death, and religion.
It thus becomes Number 28 by this reviewer’s count of single and multi-volumed reproductions of Martí’s works. This is not the first time that an attempt has been made to place the Cuban’s thoughts in some order by subject matter. Anthologies have been drawn up by Carlos Martínez-Fortún y Foyo, Lilia Castro de Morales, and M. Isidro Méndez.
Martí’s writings are more than matched by works about him. One bibliography lists over 10,000 items, including over 100 books, and more than 200 monographs. Professor González himself has recently published a collection of critical essays in Antología crítica de José Martí, as a companion volume to the Esquema, and he has also published Fuentes para el estudio de José Martí (1950), and José Martí, Epic Chronicler of the United States in the Eighties (1953).
Professor González has indicated that the Esquema is not for the expert on Martí, but rather for the student. He writes, “We would like this Esquema to be something like a breviary or book of hours in which young Americans, of both Americas, might steep themselves in faith, dignity, heroic sense of duty, aspirations to excel, esthetic pleasure, and integrity. In the Spanish language there is no more constructive literature than that of Martí.”
An introduction to the selections gives Professor González’ estimate of Martí’s place in the literature of the Spanish language. He finds, “With the exception of Cervantes, no other writer exists in our language who has so softly but yet so irresistibly put us in his debt. . .. In him can be seen at the same level three dimensions or potentialities that no other Hispanic writer shows: the heroic, the apostolic, and creative genius.” Martí revolted against the academicians of his time in the early 1880’s and wrote with a freshness that made him a forerunner of Modernism. Rubén Darío, the Nicaraguan poet, was very much indebted to him.
Superlatives come easily to the majority of persons writing in Spanish on Martí, and most are reluctant to find any faults in the Cuban patriot. Professor González is no exception. He writes of Martí, “In spite of such a prolific literary output, the fact is that one does not find in him a single page that is trivial, mediocre, or unworthy of comment.” Although greatly admiring Martí, this reviewer ventures to suggest that at times he was obtuse, wordy, and flamboyant.