Literary nadaism: what is it, origin, characteristics and main authors?


What is nothingness?

Nadaism was a literary movement that emerged in the late 50’s in America, exactly in Colombia. This movement emerged as a response to the prevailing social system of the time, so the authors of the movement set out to revolutionize the statutes determined by the academy and institutions. To this end, Gonzalo Arango, creator of the movement, invited the new generations to join the movement.

What is nothingness

It was, mainly, a stance that was associated with the interpretation of one’s own existence and perception of life. That is why many critics called the movement a kind of social protest due to the controversy it raised and provoked the elite not only in the cultural field, but also in the religious, political, social and moral fields.

Origin of the nadaísmo

As for the emergence of the movement, it originated in 1959 in Colombia at the hands of Gonzalo Arango. From its beginnings, the movement was permeated by the political and social context that the country was going through and that was particularly distinguished by the double standards represented in the functioning of the state and by those who had to maintain order. That is why, in addition to being a literary movement, it was also considered a philosophical movement that arose in a dynamic field in which a coup d’état that left Gustavo Rojas Pinilla as president took place.

On the other hand, it is considered that this movement was inspired by other movements of western origin, such as surrealism and Dadaism. However, one of the main positions of nadaism was the rejection of academicism, which is why it was called a nihilistic current resulting from the concept of -nothingness-. Thus, part of its philosophy was oriented to the liberation of the human being from idealism and also from reason in order to completely surrender to his own instincts.

In this way, moments before, the founder had written in the First Nadaist Manifesto, the definition of what the movement would be, classifying it as a “state of the revolutionary spirit”, an idea that would form an essential part of its foundations and that in its literary development, would be characterized by the breaking of established canons. The movement came to an end with the death of its founder Gonzalo Arango, as well as other of its participants around 1976.

Development in the literature of nadaísmo

One of the axes that is fundamental to develop at this point was the vision that nadaism proposes about poetry. This is due to the fact that the movement advocates a much broader vision of the literary genre in which it started from an emerging process of a disoriented spirit, rejecting aspects such as sentimentalism. That is why during this movement poetry will be marked by tones related to the anti-traditional, rebellion, among others. It moves away from metric precepts and avoids falling into rhetoric. Thus, the poetry of this movement seeks its bases in the occult and the pure, looking for a different beauty.

Liberation Theology

Another essential aspect that should be highlighted at this time has to do with the fact that the nadaístas achieve the construction of a relationship, priests and nuns proclaim the theology of liberation. On the one hand, the priesthood sought to renew the church, while on the other hand, the movement presented an irruption with its questioning that questioned not only the church, but also the existence of God.

The most important characteristics of nothingness

Now it is time to identify in a deeper way the most important features that laid the foundations of the movement and maintained this literary trend through time. Among the main characteristics it is possible to observe the following:

Importance of social protest

For its founder and later for those who are part of the movement, social protest will be constantly appealing to the discomfort of the highest spheres of society. This social protest rises mainly towards the established norms, which is why Arango motivates young writers to join the current.

The destabilization of the established order was one of the main objectives of the nadaístas. And as a process of expression of freedom and perception of life, the nadaístas will begin to add innovations within the literary field that will allow them to reach it.

Proposals for greater freedom

One of the most important features of this movement was related to the freedom of the artists’ proposal, which was not linked to any particular type of organization, but rather, in its emancipatory process, advocated the expansion of possibilities not only in the literary field, but in general of the country’s culture.

Nadaism and the artist

Another of the characteristics that it is essential to add, was precisely the one that consists in the perception of the movement in terms of the figure of the artist. This is due to the fact that Nadaism does not see the poet or artist as a superior being, which is why it considered that he could not be seen as an entity far from the earthly, but that he should recover his humanity. This guaranteed that he could be understood.

The novelty of the nadaísmo

The movement sought for the citizen to find a completely new culture from the one he was familiar with. That is why it followed a transformation of the society that found itself in misery against a dominant ruling class. Nothingism wanted society to regain its freedom, providing knowledge so that it could eliminate the lie from its view of reality.

Independence of the movement

Another important feature that we should add was that nadaísmo was an independent movement both from the literary movements that were developing in Europe and that would arrive in the country, as well as from the movements that emerged in the Colombian territory. That is why it was initially conceived as an isolated form of expression.

Main Authors of the nadaism

Main Authors of the nadaism

Among the main authors and representatives, we find the following: Elmo Valencia, Eduardo Escobar, Jaime Jaramillo Uribe, Amílcar Osorio, Jotamario Arbelaez, Mario Rivero, Fernando Lalinde, Alberto Escobar, Humberto Navarro, Patricia Ariza, Fanny Buitrago, Germán Espinosa, Fernando Gonzáles, Rafel Vega Jacome, María de las Estrellas, Darío Lemos, among others.

As for the most important works of this movement, we find the following: Primer manifiesto nadaísta, Las camisas rojas, Sexo y saxofón, Prosas para leer en la silla eléctrica, Boom contra pum pum, Obra negra, Islanada y El universo humano de Elmo Valencia, Cuac, Confesión mínima, Correspondencia violada and Nadaísmo crónico y demás epidemias de Eduardo Escobar, El pensamiento colombiano en el siglo XIX, Algunos aspectos de la personalidad colombiana, Historia de la pedagogía como historia de la cultura and De la sociología a la historia by Jairo Jaramillo Uribe, Amílcar Osorio and his work El yacente de Mantegna, among others.

If you want to learn more about other literary movements, as well as genres, types, currents and more, in our Literature section you can access a wealth of information to continue learning about this artistic expression.