Life and work
Huidobro was born into a wealthy family from Santiago, Chile. He spent his first years in Europe, and was educated by French and English governesses. Once his family was back in Chile, Vicente was enrolled at the Colegio San Ignacio, a Jesuit secondary school in Santiago, where he was expelled for wearing a ring that he claimed was a wedding ring.
In 1910 he studied literature at the Instituto Pedagogico of the University of Chile, but a good part of his knowledge of literature and poetry came from his mother, poet María Luisa Fernández Bascuñán. She used to host "tertulias" or salons in the family home, where sometimes up to 60 people came to talk and listen her talk about literature, with guests including members of the family, servants, maids and a dwarf. Later, in 1912, she would help him financially and emotionally to publish his first magazine "Musa Joven" (Young Muse).
In 1911 he published Ecos del alma (Echoes of the Soul), a work with modernist tones. The following year he married Manuela Portales Bello. In 1913 he published Canciones en la noche (Songs in the Night). The book included some poems previously published in "Musa Joven" as well as his first calligram, "Triángulo armónico" ("Harmonic Triangle").
In 1913, along with Carlos Díaz Loyola (better known as Pablo de Rokha), he published three issues of the magazine Azul (Blue), and published both Canciones en la noche and La gruta del silencio (The Grotto of Silence). The next year, he gave a lecture, Non serviam, in which he reflected on his aesthetic vision. The same year, in "Pasando y Pasando" (“Passing and Passing”), Vicente explained his religious doubts, earning himself the reproach of both his family and the Jesuits.
The same year, he published "Las pagodas ocultas" (1916), and signed it for the first time as Vicente Huidobro.
In 1916, he traveled to Buenos Aires with Teresa Wilms Montt, a young poet whom he had rescued from a convent. While in Buenos Aires, Huidobro outlined his creationism literary theory, later a literary movement, and published "El espejo de agua" (The Mirror of Water).
Also in 1916, he moved to Europe with his wife and children. While passing through Madrid, he met Rafael Cansino Assens, with whom he had exchanged letters since 1914.
He settled in Paris and published Adán (1916), a work that began his next phase of artistic development. Huidobro met and mixed with most of the Parisian avant garde of this period: Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Jacques Lipchitz, Francis Picabia, Joan Miró, Max Ernst, Paul Éluard, Amedeo Modigliani and Blaise Cendrars.
In 1917, he contributed to the magazine Nord-Sud edited by Pierre Reverdy, along with Guillaume Apollinaire, Tristan Tzara, Jean Cocteau, André Breton, Louis Aragon and Max Jacob, until a disagreement with Reverdy forced him to leave the magazine. That same year he published Horizon carré, including poems previously shown in "El espejo de agua" translated to French with the help of Juan Gris.
In October 1918, Huidobro traveled to Madrid, making the first in a series of annual trips to that city. There he shared both Creacionismo and his knowledge of the Parisian vanguard with the artistic elite. In Madrid, Vicente met with Robert and Sonia Delaunay, refugees in Spain, and resumed his friendship with Rafael Cansinos-Assens. He started the literary movement Ultraísmo, corresponded with Tristan Tzara and collaborated with him on his Dadaist magazine.
In 1919, he brought to Madrid a rough draft of the series of poems that would eventually become his masterpiece, Altazor. That same year, he took some science classes and became interested in esoteric subjects like astrology, alchemy, ancient Kabbalah among other forms of occultism.
While in Paris, he worked with Amédée Ozenfant and Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris) at L' Esprit Nóuveau, a magazine directed by Paul Dermée. There he also worked for the Spanish magazines "Grecia", "Cervantes", "Tableros" and "Ultra".
In the El Liberal, a Spanish newspaper, journalist and literary critic Enrique Gómez Carrillo published an interview with Pierre Reverdy where he accuses Huidobro of antedating the edition of "El espejo de agua" and claims that he himself created "creacionismo". Grecia magazine took Huidobro’s side, and between August and September Huidobro traveled to Madrid to refute Gómez Carrillo’s claims.
Altazor and creacionismo
In 1921, Huidobro founded and edited an international art magazine, Creación (Creation), in Madrid. The magazine featured a Lipchitz sculpture and paintings by Georges Braque, Picasso, Juan Gris and Albert Gleizes. In November he printed a second issue in Paris, titled Création Revue d'Art. In December he presented his famous lecture, La Poesía (Poetry), which served as prologue to his works Temblor de Cielo (Tremor of Heaven), and "Saisons Choisies" (Chosen Seasons).
The next year, Huidobro presented his theory of "Pure Creation" at "Branche Studio" in Paris, and then in Berlin and Stockholm.He wrote for the Polish magazine "Nowa Sztuka". In Paris, his "Painted poems" exhibition at the Théâtre Edouard VII was shut down for being too "disruptive".
In 1923, he published "Finis Britannia", a critique of the British empire, which provoked antipathy from the British and resulting in him receiving a postcard in support from Mahatma Gandhi. In 1924 he was -arguably- kidnapped for this reason, disappearing for three days. Later in an interview, he briefly commented that the perpetrators of the kidnap were two "Irish scouts" but refused to give more details.
Huidobro continued with his diverse artistic activities in Europe, producing the third edition of "Création", where he published his "Manifeste peut-être" (Maybe Manifesto). Collaborator in this edition included Tristan Tzara, René Crevel, Juan Larrea and Erik Satie. He joined the French Masonic Lodge and met Spanish philosopher and writer Miguel de Unamuno, who was exiled in Paris at the time.
In 1925 he returned to Chile, where he edited and published "Acción. Diario de Purificación Nacional" (Action: Journal of National Purification) a political newspaper where he criticised the state and reported fraudulent activities. He was consequently assaulted and beaten outside his home and, on 21 November, the newspaper was shut down. He started another newspaper, "La reforma" (Reform), in a symbolic gesture, young supporters of the progressive party declared him as their candidate for president. A bomb was then set off outside of his house, though Huidobro escaped unharmed.
While in Chile, he wrote for the publications "Andamios", "Panorama" and "Ariel" and published "Automne Régulier" (Regular Autumn) and "Tout à coup" (Suddenly).
In 1926 published a fragment of what would become the fourth canto of "Altazor" in "Panorama".
In 1927 he traveled to New York, where he met Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Gloria Swanson, wrote a script for a film of his novel "Cagliostro", and wrote the "Canto a Lindbergh" (Song for Lindbergh) dedicated to aviator (Charles Lindbergh).
He returned to Europe by the late 1920s, where he began to write the novel, Mío Cid Campeador; he also continued his work on Altazor and began Temblor de Cielo (Tremor of Heaven). It was at this time that he discovered that he was heir to the Marquisate of Casa Real. He also participated in the Mandrágora, a Chilean surrealist movement founded in 1938. There was a scandal when he got married to Ximena Amunátegui in a Muslim ceremony.
In 1930, while in the Italian Alps, he wrote "La Proxima" (The Next), and published his poem "Chanson de I'oeuf et de l'infini" (Song of the Egg and Infinity) in the magazine "Revue Européenne" and a fragment of "Altazor", in French, in the June edition of "Transition".
In 1931, he went back to Madrid to publish "Altazor", where he attended Federico García Lorca’s poetry recital "Poet in New York" and started his friendship with Uruguayan painter Joaquín Torres García. The same year he published "Portrait of a Paladin" and the English versions of his "Mío Cid Campeador", "Temblor de Cielo" and "Altazor".