Mario Orlando Hardy Hamlet Brenno Benedetti Farrugia (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈmaɾjo βeneˈðeti] ( listen); 14 September 1920 – 17 May 2009), known as Mario Benedetti, was a Uruguayan journalist, novelist, and poet as well as being an integral member of the Generación del 45. Despite publishing more than 80 books and being published in twenty languages he was not well known in the English-speaking world, but in the Spanish-speaking world he was considered one of Latin America's most important writers of the latter half of the 20th century.
Benedetti was born in Paso de los Toros in the department of Tacuarembó to Brenno Benedetti (pharmaceutical and chemical winemaker) and Matilde Farrugia, a family of Italian descent. Mario completed six years of primary school at the Deutsche Schule in Montevideo, where he also learned German, which allowed him later to be the first translator of Kafka in Uruguay. When Nazism was present in the classrooms, he was immediately removed from the school by his father. For two years he studied at Liceo Miranda, but for the rest of his high school years he did not attend an educational institution. In those years he learned shorthand, which was his livelihood for a long time. At age 14 he began working, first as a stenographer and then as a seller, public officer, accountant, journalist, broadcaster and translator. He trained as a journalist with Carlos Quijano, in the weekly Marcha. Between 1938 and 1941 he lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 1946 he married Luz López Alegre.
He was a member of the 'Generation of 45', a Uruguayan intellectual and literary movement: Carlos Maggi, Manuel Flores Mora, Ángel Rama, Emir Rodríguez Monegal, Idea Vilariño, Carlos Real de Azúa, José Pedro Díaz, Amanda Berenguer, Ida Vitale, Líber Falco, Juan Carlos Onetti, among others.
He also wrote in the famous weekly Uruguayan newspaper Marcha from 1945 until it was forcibly closed by the military government in 1973, and was its literary director from 1954.
For 12 years, from 1973 to 1985, when a civic-military dictatorship ruled Uruguay, Benedetti lived in exile, first going to Buenos Aires. He then went to Lima in Peru where he was detained, deported and then given an amnesty. He went to Cuba in 1976 and the following year went to Madrid, Spain. His exile was made particularly trying as his wife had to remain in Uruguay to look after both of their mothers. In 1980 he moved to Palma, Majorca.
Return to Uruguay
Benedetti returned to Uruguay in March 1983 following the restoration of democracy, dividing his time between Montevideo and Madrid. He was granted Honoris Causa doctorates by the Universidad de la República, Uruguay, the Universidad de Alicante, Spain and the Universidad de Valladolid, Spain. In 1986 he was awarded Laureate Of The International Botev Prize. On 7 June 2005, he was named the recipient of the Menéndez Pelayo International Prize. His poetry was also used in the 1992 Argentine movie The Dark Side of the Heart (El lado oscuro del corazón) in which he read some of his poems in German.
In 2006, Mario Benedetti signed a petition in support of the independence of Puerto Rico from the United States.
Illness and death
In the last ten years of his life he suffered from asthma and spent his winters in Madrid (where it was summer) in order to avoid the cold, though as his health deteriorated he eventually remained in Montevideo. In 2006 his wife Luz López died, ending more than six decades of matrimony.
He died in Montevideo on 17 May 2009, a little after 6:00 pm. He had suffered from respiratory and intestinal problems for more than a year. His remains are buried at the National Pantheon, Central Cemetery of Montevideo.
Before dying, he dictated to his personal secretary, Ariel Silva what would become his last poem:
For his poetry and novels Benedetti won numerous international awards. La Tregua, first published in 1960, has since been translated into over 20 languages (into English by Harry Morales) and inspired the 1974 film The Truce. Each year below links to either the corresponding "[year] in literature" or "[year] in poetry" article:
- 1945:La víspera indeleble ("Indelible Eve"), his first published book
- 1956: Poemas de oficina ("Office Poems")
- Inventario, Poesía 1950–1958 ("Inventory, Poems 1950–1958")
- Poemas del hoy por hoy ("Poems of Today")
- 1977: La casa y el ladrillo ("The House and the Brick")
- 1981: Viento del exilio ("Air From Exile")
- 1986: Preguntas al azar ("Random Questions")
- 1988: Yesterday y mañana ("Yesterday and Tomorrow")
- 1991: Las soledades de Babel ("The Loneliness of Babel")
- 1994: Inventario dos (1985-1994) ("Inventory Two (1985-1994)"), published in Madrid
- 1995: ("The Exercise of Discretion: Oblivion Is Full of Memory"), published in Spain
- 1996: El amor, las mujeres y la vida. Poemas de amor.
- 1997: La vida ese paréntesis
- 2002: Insomnios y Duermevelas, ISBN 84-7522-959-X
- 2004: Defensa propia, ISBN 950-731-438-5
- Little Stones At My Window (Bilingual edition; translation and introduction by Charles Hatfield) ISBN 1-880684-90-X
- Poemas de otros
- Noción de Patria
- Sólo mientras tanto
- Quemar las naves
- A ras de sueño
- Letras de emergencia
- 2007: Vivir adrede
- 1960: Montevideanos
- Aquí se respira bien
- Los pocillos
- Acaso irreparable
- Escrito en Überlingen
- El reino de los cielos
- Miss Amnesia
- "Una carta de amor"
- La noche de los feos
- "La sirena viuda"
- "El buzón del tiempo"
- 1977: La vecina orilla
- 1960: El país de la cola de paja
- "La Colección"
- 1958: Ida y Vuelta
- 1979: Pedro y el capitán
- 1953: Quién de nosotros
- 1960: La tregua, the basis for The Truce (1974 film)
- 1965: Gracias por el fuego, the basis for a 1984 film of the same name; see List of Argentine films of 1984
- 1971: El cumpleaños de Juan Ángel
- 1982: Primavera con una esquina rota
- 1993: La borra del café
- 1996: Andamios
- 2003: El porvenir de mi pasado
- 1969: Book Cubano, including poems, articles and interviews about Cuba and his experiences there
- 1996: Obras completas ("Complete Works"), in 28 volumes, published in Argentina