Clorinda Matto de Turner (1852-1909)

Clorinda Matto de Turner b. 1852 in Cuzco, Peru and d. 1909 in exile in Buenos Aires, Argentina. During the late nineteenth century, Clorinda Matto was very well known in Peruvian intellectual circles. She edited numerous literary journals, the most important of which, El Peru Ilustrado, won her an international readership. Her output was divided primary between three genres, fiction (which besides three novels included "tradiciones" and legends), essay and a translation of the Gospels into Quechua, the language of the Incas and their descendants. Between 1889 and 1895 she published a trilogy of novels, Torn from the Nest, Character (Indole), and Heredity (Herencia) which were widely read and, from the social criticism which they imparted, won her many enemies. During a coup d'état which occurred in the capital city of Lima in 1895, her house was burned, her printing press smashed, and she fled into exile. In Buenos Aires she founded another magazine, Bucaro Americano, which also became an important vehicle for the liberation of women. An early translation of her novel Torn from the Nest appeared in London under the title, Birds from the Nest (1904).

After she died, memory of her was forced into oblivion by male critics such as Riva-Agüero and Mariátegui who disregarded her existence or who deemed her work inferior. By the mid-twentieth century, feminist critics began to study her work and by the last decades of that century she was being studied in university literature departments in Peru, Argentina, England and the United States. The end of the twentieth century saw a second translation of Torn from the Nest, which fittingly, like the first translation, was published by a British concern. It is most probable that there will be much more interest in this important feminist author who can now can rightly take her seat at the table of World Literature.

Thomas Ward

Loyola University Maryland


Clorinda Matto de Turner