Hugo Rodríguez-Alcalá (born in Asunción, Paraguay in 1917 – died on November 2007 at Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the age of 90) was a Paraguayan writer, essayist, poet, narrator and literature critic. Doctorate in Laws and Social Sciences by the National University of Asunción in 1943, and in philosophy and literature by the Wisconsin University in 1953.
He was a fine poet and an advanced critic. Maybe he was the most notable critic from Paraguay. He investigated a lot in the poetry and narrative from Paraguay, giving to know books that approaches us not just to the writer and his social context, but also instruct us, level us to the logic, because with his concise writing technique made possible the easy understanding of our literature.
Master of Arts in Foreign Languages (University of Washington, 1949), he retired after almost 40 years of superior teaching in universities as the Columbia University, the Rutgers University, the University of Washington, the University of California, among others. During that period he resided in the US.
He was the founder and first director of the Department of Hispanic Studies of the University of California, Riverside. Returned to Asunción in 1982 where he directed the Short Story Literary Workshop since 1983 and collaborating with many magazines and literary sections –both local and foreign– of the subject.
He was chief writer of the "Commemorative Series" from the University of California, member of the editorial council of many important literary magazines.
He directed the collection "Cuentos de Taller" (Stories from Workshop) from his Short Story Workshop, created in the Club Centenario, having 5 books published (1983, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1992) plus one more in 1994. That workshop was very useful for many Paraguayan narrators who saw their stories published in numerous editions.
He was included in bibliographic dictionaries like "Who's Who in America", "Who's Who in Latin America", "The National Register of Prominent Americans", "Directory of American Scholars", among others.
In Mexico he was director of the Studies Center of the University of California, between 1972 and 1974. He was president of the Paraguayan Academy of the Spanish Language from 1989 to 1994.
With the poets Elvio Romero, Josefina Plá, Hérib Campos Cervera, Oscar Ferreiro and Augusto Roa Bastos, he was a part of the brilliant, unique and poetic generation of the '40's.
Among his most important awards are the Humanities and Arts Award from US in 1969 and the Gabriela Mistral Medal conferred by the Government of Chile in 1996. He also obtained the academic grade of "Professor Above Scale" besides many other honors and awards.
On November 1982, the University of California conferred him the title of "Professor Emeritus".
Among the most important are the National Literature Award in 1999 for the poem book Tierra Adentro (Inner Land). When received it, he said: "From all the awards that I've received, few have touched me as this one".
From his essayist and critic work the most outstanding are:El arte de Juan Rulfo (The Art of Juan Rulfo). 1965.
Sugestión e Ilusión (Suggestion and Illusion). 1967.
Historia de la literatura paraguaya (History of the Paraguayan Literature). 1970.
Narrativa hispanoamericana (Spain-American Narrative). 1970.
Ricardo Güiraldes: apología y detracción (Ricardo Güiraldes: Apology and Detraction). 1986.
His narrative work include:Relatos del Norte y del Sur (Tales from the North and the South). 1983.
El Ojo del Bosque: Historias de Gente Varia / Historias de Soldados (The Eye of the Forest: Tales of Various People / Tales of Soldiers). 1985.
In poetry has published, among others, the poem books:El canto del aljibe (The Sing of the Reservoir). 1973.
El portón invisible (The Invisible Gate). 1983.
Terror bajo la luna (Terror Under the Moon). 1983.
He authored almost 4 books of literary history such as Latin-American Literature of the Illustration (Madrid, 1979), Latin-American Literature of the Independence, (Madrid, 1980), and philosophic and literary essays as "From North to South" (México, 1960).
We can mention the next as one of his most outstanding poems:
Primero fue la lluvia
Fue la ilusión primera.
Vi una puerta entreabierta
que daba a un patio.
Vi sobre baldosas crearse y deshacerse
copas brillantes, sin ruido.
Vi las mojadas plantas,
vi el paredón mojado,
vi el viento impetuoso
las copas instantáneas sobre el piso.
Vi contra el cielo oscuro
un tremolar de sábanas de fuego.
Vi el agua, el agua interminable
sobre los vahos del verano.
Vi, dentro, luz eléctrica:
vi unas figuras vagas
mirar la lluvia.
Yo, tras cristales húmedos,
estaba, en brazos fuertes, mudo y tibio
Afuera, la frescura
y la cristalería renovada
sobre el piso.
Y el viento rápido
que iba y volvía impetuoso…
Fue la ilusión primera.
Fue el principio del mundo.