The visitors’ album of María Luisa Aub : a hidden treasure

The visitors’ album of María Luisa Aub came to the University Library in 2018. María Luisa (1927-2013), affectionally called “Mimín” by family and friends, was the eldest daughter of Mexican-Spanish writer Max Aub. She had close links to Cambridge, having lived in the city for over 25 years, but she also lived in exile in Mexico for many years. 

María Luisa Aub (Source: Mediateca INAH, Archivo Max Aub y familia)

In the late 1930s, the fall of the Spanish Republic during the Civil War forced some 500,000 refugees to cross the border into France. Amongst them was Max Aub, who was arrested in 1940 after being denounced as a Communist militant. He spent three years in and out of concentration camps in France and Algeria and eventually managed to flee to Mexico in 1942. Mexico became a haven for many Spanish writers and intellectuals after President Lázaro Cárdenas offered political asylum to an unlimited number of Spanish refugees. In 1946, Max Aub’s wife and three daughters finally joined him in exile in Mexico. 

The family was well-connected and had a wide network of friends that included prominent figures in Mexico and abroad. María Luisa’s visitors’ album is testament to this. It includes entries by well-known writers, diplomats, film makers, artists and intellectuals of her time who came to stay at her house in Mexico. Most of the entries are dated between 1946 and 1958, with many of them without a date, and two entries dated 1971, one of which might not have been written in situ (an unidentified dedication is signed: Monte Carlo, 6.V.1971). 

The Visitors’ Album (MS.Add.10175)

The album contains poems, songs, dedications, and other texts, mostly in Spanish, with some in French, and a poem in Dutch with parallel English translation by Ludo Pieters, a Dutch poet. Some of the poems have been published, but they may still provide interesting variant versions for research; some other texts, especially dedications, are clearly unique. 

Numerous drawings and watercolours by famous artists also populate its pages. There are beautiful illustrations (some of them coloured) by Ricardo Martínez de Hoyos (Mexican, 1918-2009), Manuela Ballester (Spanish, 1908-1994), David Alfaro Siqueiros (Mexican, 1896-1974), Peter Scott (British, 1909-1989) and José Moreno Villa (Spanish poet and artist, 1887-1955). 

There are poems by Alfonso Reyes (Mexican, 1889-1959), Xavier Villaurrutia (Mexican, 1903-1950), Juan Gil Albert (Spanish, 1904-1994), Tomás Segovia (Mexican, 1927-2011), Francisco Giner de los Ríos (Spanish, 1839-1915), León Felipe (Spanish, 1884-1968), Jorge Guillén (Spanish, 1893-1984) and Octavio Paz (Mexican, 1914-1998).  

There are also songs by Dámaso Alonso, (Spanish, 1898-1990), Antonio Castro Leal (Mexican, 1896-1981) and Juan Rejano (Spanish, 1903-1976); dedications to Mimín from her father Max and Pepe Medina, a close family friend; and texts in prose by Max Aub and Eulalia Galvarriato, amongst others. 

The album can be consulted in the Manuscripts Reading Room (classmark: MS Add.10175). 

Sonia Morcillo

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