7 junio, 2024

Arturo Borja: biography, literary style, works

Who was Arturo Borja?

Arturo Borja (1892-1912) was a poet born in Quito, Ecuador. Although his literary production was very short, he is considered one of the forerunners of modernism in his country. Along with three other authors, he formed the Headless Generation, named after the early death of all its components.

Borja began writing from a very young age. His personality was very marked by his father’s education. Thus, the strict discipline to which he was subjected caused him to grow up in a repressive environment, increasing his natural tendency to depression.

During a trip to Paris, the author came into contact with several of the best-known writers of the day, the so-called cursed poets: Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud and Stéphane Mallarmé, among others.

On his return to Ecuador, he imitated what he had seen in the French capital, leading a group of young authors, all characterized by their bohemia and talent.

In 1812 he married in October and spent several weeks on his honeymoon. On November 13, the young poet committed suicide with an overdose of morphine. His work was published in a special edition by his friends in 1820.

Biography of Arturo Borja

Birth and early years

Arturo Borja Pérez was born in the city of Quito (Ecuador) on September 15, 1892. His family had very notable ancestors, since Borja was a direct descendant of Pope Alexander VI (the Borgia Pope) and the granddaughter of Fernando II of Aragon. .

His childhood was marked by the personality of his father, Luis Felipe Borja Pérez, well known in Ecuador for his political, legal and literary work. According to the poet’s biographers, his childhood was calm, but not happy. This was due, as noted, to the character of his father.

In the family home reigned an iron discipline. Some scholars come to consider Arturo’s father as obsessive. It seems that the father imposed strict schedules and strict discipline on all his children, which ended up repressing the development of Arturo’s personality.

The consequence of this repressive education was the poet’s propensity to suffer from depression. Many biographers point out that it had a decisive influence on his suicide.

On the other hand, Borja was always very interested in poetry. He was only 15 years old when he wrote his first poems.

trip to paris

It was precisely while he was writing that Arturo hurt his eye with the pen. It is not known how it happened, but the fact is that the tip of that feather was stuck in one of his eyes. To try to improve the injury, the poet and his father traveled to Paris in 1907, when he was 15 years old.

As a result of the accident, Arturo had to wear a black bandage over his injured eye for a year. This, while still a teenager, increased his emotional problems, affecting his state of mind.

According to biographers, her attitude varied depending on the moment, alternating phases of melancholy and sadness with other energetic and sociable ones.

However, that trip to Paris became a great opportunity for the young poet. Arturo had a great facility for languages ​​and enrolled in a literary course in the French capital.

cursed poets

The aforementioned literature course was not the only benefit that Borja took from his stay in Paris. During the time he was there, he came into contact with the so-called cursed poets: Baudelaire, Verlaine, Samain and Mallarmé. From them he learned part of his writing style, vibrant and melancholic from him.

Not only did he soak up the literature of these poets, especially that of Baudelaire, Mallarmé, and Rimbaud, but he also caught some of their behavior. These authors lived in bohemia, ingesting a large amount of alcohol, absinthe and other drugs.

Return to Ecuador

At the age of 17, Arturo Borja returned to Ecuador. It seems that, upon his return, Borja’s character had improved and the chronicles describe him as a smiling young man. Imitating what he had seen in France, he formed a literary group, gathering around him a series of young authors.

Among the most frequent at his meetings were Ernesto Noboa Caamaño (with whom he had met in Europe), Humberto Fierro and Medardo Ángel Silva, among others. These authors were not only attracted to French poets, but also to Rubén Darío and Juan Ramón Jiménez.

At that time, Borja and his companions adopted a bohemian way of life, showing continuous displays of ingenuity and joy. His poem «Madre Locura» was written during this period.

Regarding his personal life, Arturo Borja began a courtship with Carmen Rosa Sánchez Destruge, described by her contemporaries as a beautiful Guayaquil. Apparently, both met frequently in the cemetery, something that gives indications about their character.

Newspaper The Press

Leaving aside his bohemian side a bit, Borja tried to take on more responsibilities. For this, he agreed to direct the literary sheet of the newspaper The Press.

This medium, quite close to revolutionary political positions, paid a lot of attention to grammar. The confrontations between Arturo and a literary critic on that subject ended up tiring the young man.

On the other hand, in 1910 he translated into Spanish «Les Chants de Maldoror» by the Count of Lautréamont. His work was published in the magazine Letters.

death of his father

A tragic event caused a change in the life that Arturo Borja led. In 1912 his father died, leaving him 8,000 sucres as an inheritance. The poet decided to stop working and just dedicate himself to writing and doing the activities he liked the most.

Upon receiving the inheritance, Borja also began to express his intention to commit suicide when his father’s money ran out. At that time, his friends did not take those words too seriously, thinking that it was just a macabre joke.

However, biographers point out that Borja very possibly began taking morphine at that time, as did his companions Noboa and Caamaño. Before receiving the inheritance he had not been able to acquire it and, being able to pay for it, he became addicted.


After dating for a time, Arturo Borja and Carmen Sánchez Destruge got married on October 15, 1912, when he was 20 years old. They both enjoyed several weeks of their honeymoon at a farm near Guápulo.

As a sign of his feelings, he dedicated some poems to his wife, such as «In the white cemetery.»


As previously noted, none of Arturo Borja’s friends and fellow literary group had believed his threat to kill himself when he ran out of money from the inheritance.

However, the poet meant it completely. Thus, on November 13, 1912, once his honeymoon had ended, Arturo Borja took an overdose of morphine that caused his death.

According to the chroniclers of the time, both spouses had come to commit suicide together. For unexplained reasons, Borja’s wife failed to fulfill her part and continued to live.

At that time, all relatives, including the widow, tried to hide the suicide to avoid social scandal. The version they offered was that she died of a collapse.

Works by Arturo Borja

Arturo Borja died when he was only 20 years old. For this reason his work was not very extensive, although experts affirm that they are enough to prove the quality of the poet. There were, in total, twenty-eight poems, most of them published posthumously in the book The Onyx Flute.

Despite this scarce production, Borja is considered one of the pioneers of modernism in Ecuador. Together with the rest of the members of the Decapitated Generation, he brought to the country a new way of writing poetry, both in terms of style and theme.

His early works show some optimism, as can be seen in his poem «Idilio Estival». However, over time, his writing evolved into a more sinister theme, with death playing a notable role.

Critics say that the poems show a deep despair, so much so that it becomes a desire to die.

Some of his most recognized poems were «Madre Locura», «Las flores lejanas» and «Flauta del Ónix».

The Headless Generation

Arturo Borja was part of the so-called Decapitated Generation, a literary group made up of four Ecuadorian poets, during the first decades of the 20th century.

They were part of that group, in addition to Borja, Medardo Ángel Silva, Ernesto Noboa y Caamaño and Humberto Fierro. They are considered the precursors of modernism in their country and their work shows a clear influence from the French poets and Rubén Darío.

The denomination “headless generation” appeared long after the death of the four poets. In the middle of the 20th century, literary critics and journalists found similarities between the authors’ works, grouping them within the same artistic current.

The name “Decapitated Generation” comes from the premature death of the four poets, all of whom died at a very young age.

Both Arturo Borja and his other three companions were from upper-class families. His poetry is characterized by reflecting existential boredom, eternal doubt, tragic love and the misunderstanding of society.

This attitude had its correspondence in the way of life of the poets. He prevailed an introverted attitude, accompanied by a high drug use. It was, in short, a way of confronting and rejecting a society that they considered dehumanized.

Style and theme

Death was one of the most common themes among modernist poets, and Borja and the rest of his generation were no exception. Several of his poems show a death wish, glorifying his features.

Some critics link this longing to a French word very frequent among French modernists: ennui. Its meaning is “state of paralyzing indifference and reluctance to live”. It is a definition that fits perfectly in Borja’s work.

On the other hand, the members of the Headless Generation stop writing about reality and only suggest it through different symbols. They describe, through these literary devices, feelings of frustration, confusion or resentment.

As an example of the above, experts point to «On the path of chimeras», by Arturo Borja. In that poem, the poet affirms that death is the only way out of the pain and suffering he suffers.


One of the stylistic characteristics of Borja’s work is the musicality of his creations. Even to describe the darkest and most negative feelings, such as melancholy or boredom, Borja used a brilliant and melodious style.

To achieve this effect, the author combines verses of different measures and rhythms, which ends up producing surprising and innovative effects compared to previous poetry.

The Onyx Flute

As has been pointed out, Borja’s early death meant that he did not leave many works behind. In addition, part of them ran the risk of being lost and not becoming known to the general public.

For this reason, a group of friends of the poet decided to take action in 1920, eight…

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