On September 14, 1920, one hundred years ago, he was born in Paso de los Toros, a small town 230 kilometers from Montevideo, Mario Benedetti, one of the greatest poets that the Spanish language has ever produced. A few years ago, Uruguay had ceased to be “the Switzerland of America” and was involved in political confrontations between the Blanco and Colorado parties, which always ended in rigged elections and in veiled civic or military dictatorships: that of Gabriel Terra in 1931, the of Luis Alberto de Herrera in the 50s, those of Oscar Diego Gestido and Jorge Pacheco in the sixties, those of Juan María Bordaberry and Alfredo Demicheli in the 70s, those of Aparicio Méndez and Gregorio Álvarez in the 80s …
The poet who wrote novels
After earning a living during his younger years in various trades, Mario Benedetti found journalism, to which he dedicated some of his best years in magazines such as Marginalia and the weeklies March, Number, Morning and Popular Tribune. In this profession, which he was never going to abandon, he ran from political chronicles to cultural journalism that ranged from literary and artistic criticism to cinema and theater. Some of his political articles were compiled in Chronicle of 71, and his cultural essay production in titles such as The country of the straw tail. Meanwhile he was writing his first short stories, for which he soon began to receive literary prizes, some of great prestige. The first ones were published under the title This morning. Death and other surprises, Geographies or The future of my past They are titles of other important compilations of his short stories. He also wrote good novels, a genre that gave him great satisfaction. When some of his stories had already been adapted to the cinema, the director Sergio Renán made two of his best films with his novels Truce (with Hector Alterio) and Thanks for the fire (with Lautaro Murúa). Simultaneously, poetry arrived, in which he revealed himself as one of its best Hispanic-American representatives. Poems of others and The house and the brick they consecrated him as one of the greats in the Spanish language, a position that he did not abandon until his last books, Goodbye and welcome and Witness to oneself. In between, unforgettable books like Office poems, their Inventories or Insomnia and sleep”.
His entire literary career was linked to his political commitment, close to the Tupamaros National Liberation Movement and the Frente Amplio, the left-wing coalition that was massacred by the military coup that established the 1973 dictatorship of Bordaberry that forced Benedetti to go into exile in Buenos Aires, Peru, Cuba and finally Madrid, where he arrived in 1976 when the transition after Franco’s death launched the restoration of democracy in Spain.
His entire literary career was linked to his political commitment, close to the Tupamaros National Liberation Movement and the Broad Front
Under the experience of exile he would write the novel Spring with a broken corner. He did not return to Uruguay until 1985, when finally, with the election of President Julio María Sanguinetti, democracy was restored in Uruguay after the black era of civic-military dictatorships. Shortly before returning to his country he had collaborated with Joan Manuel Serrat on the album The south also exists.
Upon his return to Montevideo he resumed his activity as a cultural journalist in the weekly Gap and in a reborn March, the magazine that he had directed until 1974 and that had stopped being published since its seizure by the Bordaberry government. During the following years Benedetti alternated stays in Spain and Uruguay until in 2006 the death of his wife Luz, the love of his life, and the ailments of age, forced him not to move from Montevideo, where he died on May 17, 2009. The Mario Benedetti Foundation preserves the writer’s work from the Uruguayan capital while, faithful to his ideology, he exercises great work in the defense of human rights. In 2006 he had donated his library to the University of Alicante, which manages his legacy from the Center for Ibero-American Studies named after the poet.
Poetry is the genre for which Benedetti is primarily recognized throughout the world. With it, she reached one of the peaks of Ibero-American production, awarded with important prizes, among them the Reina Sofía in 1999. But some of her novels and many of her short stories have also left a deep mark on her readers.