Alfonso Reyes was born in Mexico in 1889. Beginning in 1906 he played an active role in the Ateneo de la Juventud, a role he continued until 1913. In the early months of that year his father was killed in an assault on the National Palace. Shortly after, Reyes left for Paris with his wife and young son.
At the outbreak of World War I he left Paris and settled in Madrid, where he remained for the next decade. In the early years of this period, Reyes worked at the Center for Historical Studies, an institution headed by Ramón Menéndez Pidal that was well known for its research and publications in historical and literary fields. In 1920 Reyes became a member of the Mexican diplomatic corps in Madrid. During the years in Madrid, Reyes matured as a writer and developed a style with a “unique blend of profundity, lyricism, and sparkling ingenuity of thought that . . . earns him a place among the greatest essayists of the twentieth century” (p. 4). Reyes also became a close friend of leading writers of the generation of ’98. From these friendships comes the correspondence examined in Professor Aponte’s careful and perceptive study.
From 1924 until 1938, Reyes continued as a diplomatic representative of Mexico in Paris and Buenos Aires among other places. In 1938 he returned to Mexico, where he was instrumental in founding the Colegio de México, whose purpose was to assist the Spanish intellectuals exiled by the Spanish Revolution. As president of the Colegio until 1959, when he died, Reyes helped it become “a private, non-profit, corporation dedicated to humanistic studies, a home and a haven for the investigative and creative talent of the intellectual elite who would promote the development of the human sciences in Mexico” (p. 191).
Professor Aponte’s book portrays Reyes’ relationship with the Spanish literary community, giving special attention to Unamuno, Ortega y Gasset, Valle-Inclán, Jiménez, and Gómez de la Cerna. The chapters on each of these men reproduce much of their correspondence with Reyes and clarify the circumstances from which the correspondence emerged. The analysis of these circumstances adds to one’s understanding of the intellectual environment and cultural atmosphere in which Reyes and his colleagues worked. The book also works sensitively with different aspects of Reyes’ character and personality and as such is a significant contribution to understanding him and his influence during the first half of the twentieth century.
The bibliography at the close of the book is sound and adequate.