Baltasar Gracían y Morales, SJ, 1601 - 1658

portrait of Baltasar Gracian

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Born: 8 January 1601, Belmonte, Aragon, Spain (current province of Zaragoza)
Died: 6 December 1658, Tarazona, Aragon, Spain

Gracían was a Jesuit writer and philosopher whose writings brought him both fame and censure. Son of a doctor, raised by an uncle, and taught in a Jesuit school, he became a brother himself in 1633 and dedicated himself to teaching. He was famed for his preaching, although some of his speeches were frowned upon by his superiors.

Upon his appointment as Rector of the Jesuit college of Tarragona, he wrote several works on courtly behavior such as El héroe (The Hero), El político (The Politician), and El discreto (The Discreet One). His masterwork, however, is the three part Criticón, published in 1651, 1653, and 1657. It is an allegorical novel in which Critilo, a worldly man, meets Andrenio, a man ignorant of civilization, after being shipwrecked. They embark on a long journey through many countries based upon real countries of that time, spending time amongst royal courtiers, lunatics, and inventors before finally reaching the Isle of Immortality. Another of his greatest works was Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia, often translated as The Art of Worldly Wisdom, a collection of three hundred maxims with commentary. To this day, Gracían is considered one of the great authors of the Spanish Golden Age of literature, the "Siglo de Oro". His works are still in publication in several languages.

Unfortunately for Gracían, the Criticón was not approved by his superiors, and when he refused to stop the publication of the third volume, he was exiled to Graus in 1657. He attempted to leave the Jesuit order, but was refused permission and died a year later.

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