e quel savio gentil, che tutto seppe – Inferno, Canto VII
(The Divine Comedy)
This November 21 would have been the Birthday Anniversary of Mexico’s greatest Erudite Ernesto de la Peña. I have written so much about Ernesto de la Peña (I hope that everyone here doesn’t get tired of it but I just love to remember him with love and respect and I always love to talk about him)
The world today need more people like him, with a huge passion for learning everything every day, he was the wisest and most erudite man of Mexico. He knew 33 languages, when people interviewed him and asked him what was the thing that he most loved… Ernesto de la Peña always answered… everything! Opera, classical music, literature, philosophy, languages, religions and food and wine! Destiny wanted Ernesto to be an erudite, he was raised in his Uncle’s library and at age six he larned the Greek Alphabet! And the curiosity for literature grew in young Ernesto in which Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Cristo” was his favorite novel when he was a child. Ernesto de la Peña decided to learn languages because he wanted to read the original books in its original language. Greek for Homer, Latin for Virgil, Italian for Dante, German for Goethe, French for Rabelais, English for Shakespeare, Russian for Tolstoy… etc.
Ernesto de la Peña had his radio program, (in which I always loved to listen), in which he talked about the history of culture, history of art, philosophy, Opera (of course) languages, religion, etc. It was so fascinating to listen to him to talk about Hypatia from Alexandria, Plato, Dante, Gilgamesh, Goethe, Tolstoy, Cervantes, Homer, the Greek Tragedies, Wagner, Mozart, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Elizabeth Barret Browning, Marcel Proust, the great german poets, from Friedrich Hölderlin, Heinrich Wilhelm von Kleist and Johann Georg Hamann to Rainer Maria Rilke.
Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Russian, Arabic, Sanskrit, Chinese, French, German, English, Portuguese, those were some of the many languages (33 in total!!!) that Ernesto de la Peña knew. The Coptic language was the final language that Ernesto de la Peña learned before his passing in 2012.
Ernesto de la Peña translated into Spanish poets as Valery, Nerval, Mallarmé, Hölderlin, Novalis, Rilke, Milosz, Ginsberg, among others and he also translated all the text of Anaxagoras and Hippocrates. My favorite books of Ernesto de la Peña are two excellent essays about Cervantes and Don Quijote and also about Homer.
Ernesto de la Peña’s final book was an excellent essay about French Humanist, François Rabelais, author of Gargantua and Pantagruel. Ernesto de la Peña had multiple distinctions, for example, he was appointed collaborator of the Encyclopedia Dantesque, (L’Enciclopedia Dantesca) and he was the only Mexican who had this honor.
Homer, Plato, Dante, Cervantes, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi, Schubert, were many of his heroes and he also loved Opera so much, all Operas were his favorites, Tosca, Turandot, La Boheme, La Cenerentola, Guglielmo Tell, Eugene Onegin, Don Carlo, Otello, Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, the Flying Dutchman, Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Tristan und Isolde, Boris Godunov, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, Wozzeck, Bluebeard’s Castle…. all! Because of his huge love for Opera and Classical music, Ernesto de la Peña received the “Mozart Medal Award.”
Ernesto de la Peña had a library of more of 26 thousand books and he also had 112 thousand records of opera and classical music! Among, 736 to Greek authors, 552 of Italian Authors, 494 on classical music, 482 of German literature, 314 in Latin, 250 old books, 105 on Czech literature, 104 in Arabic language, without leaving aside a smaller number dedicated to Chinese literature, Austrian literature, African literature, Armenian literature, Belgian literature, Brazilian literature, Bulgarian literature, Catalan literature, Egyptian literature, Galician literature, Persian literature, among other languages. Ernesto de la Peña was also a lover of good food and wine and he specially loved the French, Italian and Mexican food. Because of his huge erudition, Ernesto de la Peña received the “Alfonso Reyes” award (a very important award in honor of the also high cultivated, Mexican erudite Alfonso Reyes) and the Alfonso Méndez Plancarte award.
When Ernesto de la Peña passed away in 2012, they played for him, in the program “Operomania” (in which Ernesto de la Peña conducted with his friend, Mexican poet and also Opera lover Eduardo Lizalde) the music of “Siegfried’s Death and Funeral March” from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung.
Remembering with love, Mexican erudite Ernesto de la Peña on his Birthday anniversary.