José Agustín: Biography, Style, Works, Phrases

José Agustín Ramírez Gómez (1944), better known in the literary field as “José Agustín”, is a Mexican writer whose work encompasses genres such as novels, short stories, essays and theater. He was part of the “Literatura de la Onda” movement, which took place in the mid-sixties.

José Agustín’s work is characterized by being critical and ironic. He used humorous language and his theme was based on the reality of life. The author expressed in an interview in 2013 that the validity of his writings is due to youth issues and especially to how he developed them.

Among his more than forty publications are: The tomb, Deserted cities, Inventing what a dream, There is no censorship and The hotel of lonely hearts. The writer had a wide participation in the cinema as a screenwriter, director and producer. His work has been recognized with several awards.


Birth and family

José Agustín was born on August 19, 1944 in Guadalajara, Jalisco; although it was presented in Acapulco, Guerrero. He came from a cultured middle-class family, his parents were: Augusto Ramírez Altamirano and Hilda Gómez Maganda.

Academic training

In his childhood years he moved with his family to Mexico City, there he studied primary and secondary school. At that time he showed a talent for writing and his interest in social problems was born. When she was seventeen years old, she went to Cuba to help teach literacy.

In 1962 he returned to his country and began to train for three years in the literary courses created by Juan José Arreola. Later he studied classical letters at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He also studied dramatic composition and directing at different institutions.

A hasty marriage

José Agustín married Margarita Dalton (currently a historian and novelist) in 1961 with the intention of becoming adults and being able to travel to Cuba. By that time the Cuban Revolution was in development and they wanted to join the literacy system. They were married for only a month.

Second matrimony

In 1963 he married for the second time when he was just 19 years old. On that occasion he did it with a young woman named Margarita Bermúdez, who became his life partner. The couple conceived three children: José Agustín, Jesús and Andrés.

Literary beginnings

The writer began in literature at an early age, several of his writings were published in print media in Mexico City. In 1964 his first novel came to light, which he titled La tumba. Two years later he published De Perfil y Autobiografía.

The “Literature of the Wave”

In 1966 a movement called “Literatura de la Onda” emerged in Mexico, named after the author Margo Glantz as. José Agustín was part of this current (although he did not agree). This “Literature of the Wave” was mainly oriented to give a space of literary and social expression to the rebellious youth of the time.

The members of the “Onda” were viewed disparagingly by many intellectuals of the time. This was due to the fact that with their texts they defended social freedoms, sexual diversity and imposed new linguistic elements that displaced the norms established by formal literature.

Other work of the writer

This Mexican writer also worked in other areas. He participated in the creation of the newspaper Reforma, and has collaborated in several printed publications such as: La Jornada and El Universal. He has also participated regularly on television and radio producing educational and cultural programs.

Between jail and cinema

At the end of the sixties José Agustín was taken to prison to the old Black Palace of Lecumberri along with some friends for consuming marijuana. There he coincided with the writer and political activist José Revueltas, who was arrested for the student protests of sixty-eight.

After being released from prison, the writer resumed the activities he had left pending. He rejoined film production and traveled to Spain to work together with Gabriel García Márquez on the development of a script for a Paul Leduc film. Then he returned to Mexico where he continued his work.

Last years

During the last two decades of his life, José Agustín has devoted himself to what he likes most: writing, cinema and theater. His latest titles are Life with my widow, Diary of a brigadista and Flight over the depths. In 2009 he suffered a fall from a stage that caused serious fractures.

After more than twenty days in intensive care he managed to recover. In 2011 he was recognized with the National Prize of Sciences and Arts for his literary work. His last known residence has been located in the town of Cuautla in the state of Morelos, sometimes he attends cultural and literary events.

Awards and honours

– Scholarship of the Mexican Center of Writers from 1966 to 1967.

– Scholarship of the International Writing Program of the University of Iowa in 1977.

– Fulbright Scholarship in 1977-1978.

– Guggenheim Scholarship 1978-1979.

– Colima Fine Arts Narrative Award for Work Published in 1983, for the novel Deserted Cities.

– Juan Ruiz de Alarcón National Prize for Literature.

– National Prize of Sciences and Arts in the area of ​​Linguistics and Literature in 2011.


José Agustín’s literary style has been characterized by the use of an uninhibited, ironic language, loaded with words typical of young people and some terms in English. There is humor, dynamism and puns in his works, it is a creative narrative, lacking academic rules.

The reality and the popular are part of the theme of his works, mostly aimed at youth. The author was interested in raising issues of social and cultural interest, lifestyles and respect for differences, which is why and much more his texts do not lose validity.



– The grave (1964).

– In profile (1966).

– It’s getting late (1973).

– The king approaches his temple (1977).

– Deserted cities (1982).

– Near the fire (1986).

– The belly of Tepozteco (1992).

– Two hours of sunshine (1994).

– Life with my widow (2004).

– Armablanca (2006).


– Inventing what a dream (1968).

– The look in the center (1977).

– Morning furor (1984).

– There is no censorship (1988).

– Do not pass this door (1992).

– The spilled honey (1992).

– Complete stories (2001).


– Autobiography (1966).

– The Rock of Jail (1984).

– Brigadista diary. Cuba, 1961 (2010).

Essay, journalism and chronicle

– The new classical music (1969).

– Mexican Tragicomedy 1: Life in Mexico from 1940-1970 (1990).

– Against the current (1991).

– Mexican Tragicomedy 2: Life in Mexico from 1970-1982 (1992).

– The counterculture in Mexico: the history and meaning of the rebels without a cause, the jipitecas, the punks and the bands (1996).

– Mexican Tragicomedy 3: Life in Mexico from 1982-1994 (1998).

– The hotel of lonely hearts (1999).

– The great rock records: 1951-1975 (2001).

– The rear window: rock, cinema and literature (2004).

– The house of the rising sun, rock and other songs (2006).

– Flight over the depths (2008).


– Abolition of property (1969).


– Here comes the plague (1985). Written jointly with: Gerardo Pardo and José Buil.

– The apando (1995). Co-authored with José Revueltas.


– The sacred word (1989).

– Juan José Arreola (1998). Prologue and selection.

Other titles

– External light (1977). First part of The king approaches his temple.

– Internal light (1989). Second part of The king approaches his temple.

– Good love (1996). It was composed of:

– “What’s the wave”.

– “Who am I, where am I, what did they give me”.

– “Tomb”.

– “Good love”.

Cinematographic work

– 5 chocolate and 1 strawberry (1968). Directed by Carlos Velo.

– And think we can (1968). Script written jointly with Sergio García, director of the short film.

– Someone wants to kill us (1970). Director Carlos Velo.

– I already know who you are (I’ve been watching you) (1971). Direction and original script.

– Mourning (1971). Original screenplay; short film directed by Sergio García.

– External light (1973). Direction, production and original script.

– The apando (1976). Script written jointly with José Revueltas.

– The year of the plague (1979). Dialogues

– The widow of Montiel (1979). Script written jointly with director Felipe Cazals.

– Love around the corner (1986). Script with the director of the film.

– Stone disease (1986).

– City of the blind (1991). Screenplay with the director Alberto Cortés.

– You’re killing me, Susana (2016). Film directed by Roberto Sneider.

Brief description of some of his works

The grave (1964)

It was the first published novel by this remarkable Mexican writer, it was marked in the “Literatura de la Onda”. José Agustín developed the text with a common language, not at all sophisticated, and the style also adapted to the social fashion that prevailed in the sixties.

The author told the story of Gabriel Guía, a sixteen-year-old boy, well off. His life was spent by rebellion, literature, sexual experiences and alcoholism. The novel presented an argument that opposed what society imposed as a “norm.”


“When I got to Martín’s house, I parked the car and walked to the living room. Martín, preparing drinks, raised his eyes.

“Hello, Chekhov!”

—Stop your joke that I’m not willing to take it.

“Calm down, little boy.”

“I just got tired of that tune.”

“Well, unburden yourself,” and he added with an air of complicity, “there’s Dora.”


“Yep.” How does it sound to you?


-What do you want to drink?

“I don’t know, anything.”

Profile (1966)

It was one of the best known novels of José Agustín outlined towards youth. The narrative is somewhat tangled, although the story is told in the present tense, the author incorporated past events. It was set in the capital of Mexico.

The protagonist of this work was a young man to whom the writer did not give a name. He was characterized by being innocent in many aspects of life, and to some extent that did not make him feel good. So he decided to take on a bolder and more rebellious personality.


“Behind the great stone and the grass, is the world in which I live. I always come to this part of the garden for something that I cannot explain clearly, although I understand it. Violeta laughs a lot because I frequent this corner.

“That seems normal to me: Violeta is my mother and she loves to say that I am not entirely sane. Now I have to go home, because Violeta would call me and I can’t tolerate things like that… ”.

Deserted Cities (1982)

This novel by José Agustín reflected his literary maturity, it was no longer about young people but about love. It was an expressive, lively and penetrating narrative, the writer used a more cultured language than in his previous works. He also made an ironic criticism of North American society.


“One morning in August Susana got up very early. She bathed and leisurely chose what to wear. She chose the leather jacket and jeans. Luckily, Eligio had gone to see his parents in Chihuahua, so Susana was relatively calm ”.


– “They always tell you that you are extremely lucky to be here, and they never tell you that they are fortunate to have us.”

– “People have become little robots, their souls are dying, they have become old men when in reality you are a very young people.”

– “Your smile has been an incentive, and your eyes (gray, radiant, beautiful) have prevailed in my mind since I met you, the ones that would make me fight against everything if I knew that I would never look at them.”

– “I think that if I don’t understand what my wife writes, it’s because I don’t know essential parts of her.” “She almost never cried, and when it happened it was out of desperation, impotence in the face of something that would not yield”.

– “They were soul mates, somehow the two were much more alone than the others, sharing the same abyss hole.”

– “What you do not understand is what is not apparent, what is behind things.”

– “The indigenous roots were much closer to the surface than I believed and than all Mexicans believed.”

– “The truth is that we like to smoke so that the meddles in the health of others get angry.”

– “You were already the mother of everything, and that’s why you left, but wherever you go is the same, because the anger is not on me or anyone, but on you.”


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