Uruguay: The Passing of Writer Mario Benedetti

Uruguayan writer and poet Mario Benedetti passed away on May 17 at the age of 88. He had written more than 80 novels, as well as many more poems, essays and short stories as part of his body of work, which has been translated into approximately 20 languages. Benedetti is extremely important to Uruguayan society, especially because of his history as an exile and as an outspoken critic during the military dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s.

With news of his death, many Uruguayan bloggers have been reflecting upon what his work has meant to them over the years. The blogger at Psicosesion [es] describes what one might find in Benedetti's writing in the context of the turbulent time in the region's history:

Su escritura refleja los tiempos más difíciles de una Latinoamérica oprimida, por el autoritarismo, donde no se respetaron los derechos humanos, donde deja ver el sufrimiento humano a flor de piel, opresión que hizo que Mario se mantuviera durante largo período exiliado del país.

Pero siempre Mario desde donde cualquier lugar, hacia sentir su voz….jamás lograron callarle.

His writing reflects the most difficult times for Latin America oppressed by authoritarianism, where human rights were not respected, where he shows human suffering with great sensitivity, oppression that forced Mario to remain exiled from the country for a long period of time.

However, Mario always let his voice be heard no matter where he was…they never silenced him.

Gaba en Montevideo [es] also writes about the personal meaning and how Benedetti's words had accompanied her throughout life:

Murio benedetti, asi, con solo dos palabras se fue su inspiracion y dejo mil poesias. Mil poesias y una historia que se repetia una y otra vez, como marcada en fuego, en la vida de muchos uruguayos, en mi vida. Benedetti formo parte de mi memoria. Con Benedetti pase noches y dias y encuentros leyendo sus vivencias, su audacia, su historia de hombre comun. Su literatura ha sido parte de mi sangre, de mis entrañas, ha sido como el aire que he respirado para crecer. Y desde siempre mi brujula.

Beneditti died, and like that, with only those two words my inspiration has left and left behind a thousand poems. A thousand poems and a story that repeated over and over, as if marked by fire in the lives of so many Uruguayans and in my own life. Benedetti formed part of my memory. With Benedetti, I passed days and nights reading his experiences, his audacity, his story of a common man. His literature has been a part of my blood, of my insides, and has been like the air that I breathed in order to grow. And it has always been my compass.

Another Uruguayan blogger, Mario Blanco, recalls the time when he met Benedetti and received a dedicated inscription signed in one of his books [es]. Blanco is also especially proud of being Benedetti's “tocayo,” which is a term used when two people share the same name. In addition, they also both share the same initials “MB”

As an exile for ten years, Benedetti spent time in Spain, Cuba and Peru. It was not only the fact that he lived in other Spanish-speaking countries that made him popular throughout the region, but it was the words and convictions that resonated with citizens of other Latin American countries experiencing the same hardships under their own authoritarian regimes.

His literary works transcended borders, and other Latin American bloggers shared their experiences such as Modestamente Humano [es] from Guatemala who wrote:

por dedicar un poema de él que a fin de cuentas decía las cosas tal y como uno hubiera querido pero tal vez no tenía el talento para decirlas de una forma tan clara, tan franca, tan sencilla y tan bella.

by dedicating one of his poems, in the end, said the things that one would have wanted to say, but maybe did not have the enough talent to say it in such a clear, frank, simple and beautiful way.

From the Dominican Republic, Alexéi Tellerías of Catarsis Diaria [es] writes “Mario, we say goodbye to you (only) physically, because you are staying with us.” Zenia Regalado mentions that Benedetti spent time in Cuba when in exile [es] and when he worked at the House of the Americas in Havana.

Another blogger from a country where Benedetti spent time during his exile, Peruvian Juan Carlos De La Fuente of Noticias del Interior [es] writes that the Uruguayan author lived his life to the fullest:

A estas altura de mi vida, después de tantas muertes y tantos renacimientos, sé que Mario Benedetti vivió de lo que escribió y escribió de lo que vivió. Y sé que fue feliz, por más sospechosa que pueda parecerle esta palabra a algunos despiadados críticos, es decir –como decía Borges y lo repite mi amiga Luz María Sarria- no pasó un solo día sin estar un instante en el paraíso.

At this point in my life, after so many deaths and so many rebirths, I know that Mario Benedetti lived what he wrote and wrote what he lived. And I know that he was happy, for the suspicion that this word can seem to some heartless critics, in other words – as Borges and my friend Luz María Sarria says – he didn't go one day without being in paradise for a moment.

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