Max Aub: a Spanish intellectual in Mexico

Researchers of the life and work of Max Aub (Paris, 1903- Mexico City, 1972) will be pleased to hear about a recent donation from the family of Aub’s daughter María Luísa, affectionately called Mimin by family and friends.

Max Aub was a Mexican-Spanish novelist, playwright and literary critic of French origin. Max Aub portraitAs a child, his family (German father, French-Jewish mother) moved to Spain for business. As World War I broke out, they settled in Valencia, unable to return to France.  Max became a Spanish national in his twenties and during the Spanish Civil War, he sided the Republicans. When the war ended, he was exiled to Paris. He planned to move to Mexico but he was detained and sent to several concentration camps in France and the north of Africa. Three years later, with the help of American writer John Dos Passos, he finally travelled to Mexico with his family.

Max Aub was a major literary figure, particularly well known in Spain for his cycle of novels and short stories on the Spanish Civil War. The University Library holds some one hundred books by him, including the six-volume novel and the short stories of his Magic Labyrinth (Laberinto mágico) cycle: Campo cerrado, Campo abierto, Campo de sangre, Campo del moro, Campo de los almendros, Campo francés, Enero sin nombre: los relatos completos.

Aub is also well known for his diaries. His work Diarios contains references to many intellectuals of his time (André Malraux, Fidel Castro, Picasso, Federico García Lorca are some of them). While in Mexico, he wrote for the papers “Nacional” and “Excelsior.” He was a Professor at the Film Academy in Mexico and wrote, directed and translated screenplays.

Aub was a prolific playwright. The Library holds many editions of his theatre, some of them autographed. See his Teatro completo for a full set of his plays.

Aub also wrote poetry. Antología traducida 1963-1972 contains most of his poetry. He also wrote Versiones y subversiones and Imposible Sinaí.

Max Aub dedication

Max Aub’s dedication

This donation by María Luisa Aub’s family has boosted the University Library’s holdings in interesting ways. It includes miscellaneous material, of which the following are worth noting:

  • A selection of books by or about Max Aub. Most of the books authored by Max are from limited or early editions, many of them signed and dedicated by him to Mimín and to the family. All these books have been separately catalogued.
  • Four archive boxes containing Mimín’s collection of letters from her family (a handful written by Max). The letters are dated between 1950-1970 and beyond. They give an insight into the family’s daily lives in three different countries (Mexico, England and Spain), documenting the comings and goings of a well-connected family in a defined period of history. Although Max is not the focus of the letters, his life is mentioned. The letters can be consulted in the Manuscripts Reading Room (classmark: MS Add.10174)

    Max Aub letter

    Extract of Max Aub’s letter

  • A visitor’s album that María Luísa Aub encouraged her guests to sign when staying at her house in Mexico. The book contains dedications, poems and drawings from a long list of intellectuals of the day, including Max Aub himself, Alfonso Reyes, Dámaso Alonso, Juan Gil Albert, Ernestina de Champourcín, Jorge Guillén and David Alfaro Siqueiros, amongst many others. The album can be consulted in the Manuscripts Reading Room (classmark: MS Add.10175).


Sonia Morcillo

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