Life and Work of an Eminent Thinker – Arturo Uslar Pietri

Column: People who changed the world - Arturo Uslar Pietri

Arturo Uslar Pietri

Arturo Uslar Pietri

Arturo Uslar Pietri, was born in Caracas Venezuela, and lived from 1906 to 2001. He was a Venezuelan intellectual, lawyer, journalist, writer, diplomat, television producer and politician.

He was considered the renovator of the short stories in Latin American, the father of the modern style historical novels in Spanish, and the predecessor of the magic realism opening the doors to a new genre in writing. Uslar Pietri led a remarkably fruitful life, that influenced Venezuelan politics, historical analysis, literature, and education policy.

His parents were from prominent families with wide intellectual achievements and related to heroes of the Venezuelan Independence war.

His Early life was spent among different cities in the northern area of Venezuela, but he moved back to Caracas for his higher studies. His first university degree was earned in January of 1924 when he was 18, as Bachelor of Philosophy with a thesis  «Todo es subjetividad » (Everything is subjective). But in June 1923 he had already published his first short story in a magazine called Billiken.

He earned a Ph.D. on Political Sciences from the “Universidad Central de Venezuela” in 1929, at the age of 23, the same year he also earned a law degree.  During his years at the “Universidad Central”, he enjoyed a very intense political life, being part of the student’s councils, writing and publishing essays and giving lectures.


Valores Humanos, book and TV Cultural show created for Dr. Arturo Uslar Pietri.

Right after school he left to Paris, where he was a cultural attaché of the Venezuelan diplomatic delegation. During these early years of his career, he held posts such as “Secretary for the Venezuelan Delegation to the League of Nations” and the delegate at the “International Labour Organization”. Later he was Minister of Education, Minister of Finance, contributor to the Act of Constitution of the New Democratic Government (1958), ambassador to the United States of America, head of the Supreme Court of the State of Aragua, professor of Latin American literature at Columbia University, professor of political economics at the Central University of Venezuela, chief editor of a main national newspaper (El Nacional), candidate for the Presidency of Venezuela and member of the Royal Spanish Academy.

In 1975, he was the ambassador from Venezuela to la UNESCO. There he served as the vice-president of its board of directors, and vice-president of the world union for media and information.

During his whole life, he was a champion for democracy, education, and knowledge. His deep passion for democracy led him to exile many times during his life while dictatorships and Caudillismo ruled on his country. But later in democracy he was also a very prominent figure in politics. He was always active in it during the great democratic era in Venezuela between 1958 and 1999.

In his literary works, he championed mestizaje (race integration or miscegenation), as a valuable feature of Latin American culture. He was a very prolific author, he wrote and published 7 novels, 45 essays, 40 short stories, 3 poems, 4 plays, and for many years he wrote, produced and hosted a Cultural TV show called “Valores Humanos” (Human Values) which was an educational weekly lecture focused on history, arts, opinions and ethics. Every week he started his show with “Bienvenidos amigos invisible” or “welcome my invisible friends”.

He had won several literary awards, like the national prize for literature in Venezuela and others at the continental level, but his literary output was internationally recognized in 1990 with a Prince of Asturias Award, considered the maximum price for literature on the Spanish language. He was several times nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

His most famous novel was “Lanzas Coloradas” (The Red Laces), about the independence war, but his “Prince of Asturias” award was for the novel “La Visita en el Tiempo” (Visit in time). As some of the jurors described its value, the award was mostly for being the creator of the historic modern book in the Hispanic world, and for the enrichment and spreading of culture on common language in the continent with it.

Arturo Uslar Pietri is a man to know and remember, as we do today here in “People Who Changed the World”.


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