July 1, 2011

LA MANDRAGORA (The Mandrake) group

La Mandrágora (The Mandrake)

Primarily a Chilean Surrealist group, La Mandrágora was officially founded on July 12, 1938 by Braulio Arenas, Teófilo Cid, and Enrique Gómez Correa. The group had previously met in Talca, and first started close communication with each other in 1932.

The group published a review of seven issues, the last being edited in October 1943 and published an anthology of poetry, El A, G, C de la Mandrágora, which included works by all the founders except Cid.

One of the main figures who introduced Surrealism to Chile, Vicente Huidobro (1893-1948), who himself formed the Creationist literary movement, was influential to them, and shared in many of their projects.

The second generation Surrealist, Ludwig Zeller, highly influenced by their poetic contributions, describes the goals of the group as follow:

Much like the French Surrealists, Mandrágora was a collective, which sought to change the world through the celebration of love through the exploration of the unconscious as it manifests in dreams and in madness.

Part of their theories, in fact, were based on Gómez Correa’s research at the mental asylum of Santiago in preparation for his doctoral dissertation, Sociology of Madness.

Other figures who soon joined the group included Gonzalo Rojas (1917-2011), the young 15 year-old Jorge Cáceres, Ferndo Onfray, Gustavo Osorio, Pablo de Rokha, the Venezuelan poet Juan Sánchez Peláez, as well as the painters Eugenio Vidauuázaga and Mario Urzú and the musicians Renato Jara, Alejandro Gaete and Mario Medina.

The group had a major impact of Chilean modernism, and much of their poetry still seems fresh and experimental even today.

Zeller and his wife Beatriz Zeller have translated much of their work into English, which is published in Zeller’s anthology The Invisible Presence: Sixteen Poets of Spanish America 1925-1995, which also includes Surrealists from several South American countries whose work lies outside of the Mandrake group.

—Douglas Messerli

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