Authors: Eduardo Barrios

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Chilean novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

El Niño que enloqueció de amor, 1915

Un perdido, 1917

El hermano asno, 1922 (Brother Ass, 1942)

Gran señor y rajadiablos, 1948

Los hombres del hombre, 1950

Short Fiction:

Del natural, 1907


Por el decoro, pr. 1912

Lo que niega la vida, pr. 1913

Vivir, pr. 1916


Eduardo Hudtwalcker Barrios (BAHR-yohs), who wrote about many facets of abnormal psychology, had a varied background. His father, a Chilean army officer, died when Eduardo was a small boy; Eduardo’s Peruvian mother then took him to her native country, and he spent his childhood there. When he was fifteen, he was sent to a military school in Chile, but he had no desire to follow in his father’s footsteps and, after running away from the school, began a series of haphazardly chosen occupations. Among other things, he worked as a bookkeeper in a Chilean nitrate mine, as a rubber worker in Peru, as a weight lifter in a circus, and as a traveling salesman selling stoves in Buenos Aires. During this period, he found time to study the humanities in Chile and Peru, and for a time he lived in a Franciscan monastery. These formative years, strikingly reminiscent in themselves of a picaresque novel, furnished Barrios with an inexhaustible fund of themes and with the broad experience of humanity essential to psychological insight.{$I[AN]9810000249}{$I[A]Barrios, Eduardo}{$I[geo]CHILE;Barrios, Eduardo}{$I[tim]1884;Barrios, Eduardo}

His literary career began with a volume of short stories that was printed in Iquique, Chile. Becoming interested in the theater, he wrote several plays, among them a satire on bureaucracy, Por el decoro (for the good of the office); several fantasies, the first of which was Lo que niega la vida (what life denies); and Vivir (to live), a psychological tragedy that many consider to be his best play. By this time, it had become evident to Barrios that he could not earn a living in the theater, and he turned his full attention to novel writing. His chief preoccupation was always the human personality, and he excelled in depicting people with defective emotional structures who are eventually overbalanced and destroyed by them. His first novel, El Niño que enloqueció de amor (the boy who went crazy with love), deals with a ten-year-old boy who conceives an infatuation for a contemporary of his mother and whose frustrations drive him mad. Un perdido (a lost soul), published two years later, concerns someone who is destroyed by his own abnormally heightened sentimentality.

Barrios did not limit himself entirely to studies of the abnormal–Gran señor y rajadiablos (great lord and devil-cutter), for example, is a more or less realistic novel of Chilean farm life in the nineteenth century–but psychology remained his chief interest throughout his life. Los hombres del hombre (a man of many aspects), a study of multiple personality published in 1950, is characteristic.

Interestingly enough, Barrios’s best-known novel represents a complete departure from his usual themes. Brother Ass is one of the few works of literary mysticism produced in Latin America. Material and inspiration for it were drawn from his sojourn with the Franciscans; in it, he explores, with great sensitivity and understanding, the monastic life–its temptations and sacrifices and its direct relationship with God.

At the time of his death in Santiago in 1963, Eduardo Barrios was considered the most important figure in Chilean literature and the founder of a strong psychological trend in that country’s fiction. He also served for a time as the director of the National Library and as minister of education.

BibliographyBrown, James. “El hermano asno: When the Unreliable Narrator Meets the Unreliable Reader.” Hispania 71, no. 4 (December, 1988): 798-805. In-depth study of the literary techniques displayed in Brother Ass. Stresses the relationship between the reader and the novel’s narrator. Discusses the use of irony in the plot.Davison, Ned J. Eduardo Barrios. New York: Twayne, 1970. A standard biography from Twayne’s World Authors series.Foster, David William, and Virginia Ramos Foster. “Barrios, Eduardo.” In Modern Latin American Literature, edited by David William Foster and Virginia Ramos Foster. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1975. A survey study of Barrios’s work. Provides excerpts of critical studies by various critics. An excellent starting point.Souza, Raymond. “Indeterminacy of Meaning in El hermano asno.” Chasqui 13, nos. 2/3 (February-May, 1984): 26-32. An in-depth analysis of Barrios’s literary craft and the treatment of rape as a literary motif. Focuses on women’s issues.Walker, John. “Gálvez, Barrios, and the Metaphysical Malaise.” Symposium: A Quarterly Journal in Modern Foreign Literatures 36, no. 4 (Winter, 1982/1983): 352-358. Comparative study of Barrios and novelist Manuel Gálvez; both authors were interested in metaphysical subjects. Stresses their interest in metaphysical issues as ways to improve contemporary society.Walker, John. Metaphysics and Aesthetics in the Works of Eduardo Barrios. London: Támesis Books, 1983. Studies the relationship between Barrios’s novels and his strong interest in metaphysics.
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