Juan Gelman, considered one of the greatest contemporary Latin American, and Hispanic, poets, has died. Gelman was Argentine, an opponent of the military dictatorship in that country, whose son and daughter-in-law were killed in captivity. Daughter-in-law was pregnant; the military stole the baby, then killed mama. Baby (girl) was given to the family of a policeman in Uruguay; eventually she was reunited with her grandfather and the rest of her biological family.
I was pleased to see that article, Bixa, as I hadn't read anything good in English. The title scared me, as "Leftist Argentine Poet" makes this intricate writer sound like some kind of crude social realist.
I guess Gelman simply wasn't well-known in the English-speaking world, except among Hispanists. He was very well known in French-speaking countries, and in Italy, as well as in the Spanish-speaking world, and in Portuguese-speaking countries.
When he was alone, José Arcadio Buendía consoled himself with the dream of the infinite rooms. He dreamed that he was getting out of bed, opening the door and going into an identical room with the same bed with a wrought-iron head, the same wicker chair, and the same small picture of the Virgin of Help on the back wall. From that room he would go into another that was just the same, the door of which would open into another that was just the same, and then into another exactly alike, and so on to infinity. He liked to go from room to room, as in a gallery of parallel mirrors, until Prudencio Aguilar would touch him on the shoulder. Then he would go back from room to room, walking in reverse, going back over his trail, and he would find Prudencio Aguilar in the room of reality. But one night, two weeks after they took him to his bed, Prudencio Aguilar touched his shoulder in an intermediate room and he stayed there forever, thinking that it was the real room.
I first read Cent ans de solitude in French, but have re-read it in the original, as well as other books and many commentary pieces, but obviously not all his sum of works. I never read his autobiography, which was suggested at the Guardian comment page on him.
I have a Latino-Americanist friend who knew him personally; I'm sure others have met him.
Though I always feel strange about the physical death of someone who no longer has a functioning brain; it is poignant, but I don't find it sad. I was much sadder when I realised that he could no longer write or contribute to the conversation.
I haven't read any of the major Spanish-language media about him yet, as there will be so much to read and I'll be overwhelmed. At least it is a weekend when nobody is likely to ask me to do a rush job (though I do have a small job to do, thank the lord - I hate Easter).
bixa, I believe Gabo also lived in Mexico at the end of his life, no?
Lagatta, Garcia Marques lived in Mexico for the past 30 years. He is celebrated as a Colombian, but in fact, I don't think he spent much of his adult life in Colombia. He lived in Europe (Paris for many years) and then in Mexico. Colombia was the country of his youth, and although he had a fancy house in Cartagena, he didn't live there very much.
Oh, sad news, but what a lovely tribute from you, Casimira. When I read it, I immediately went to look up her obituary & wound up reading the Wikipedia entry on her. What an amazing woman! Even the bald & factual bio entry can't help reading like the précis of a blockbuster novel. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Angelou
Over the course of the day NPR has paid homage to Ms. Angelou's life. One segment reported her early career as a Calypso singer. They played some snippets of some of her songs. One can hear a younger version of a very intense, deep, throaty voice. Another factoid about her years as a singer included a meeting of Ms. Angelou and Billie Holiday in 1958. Reportedly the two women got on quite well although Ms. Holiday told Ms. Angelou that she would become famous someday but not as a singer. It did not come across as being snarky or bitchy, but, more of an honest sentiment. Just the idea of these two great ladies being together in the same room gave me goose bumps.
I'm very sad to read that. I loved her writing. If I believed in an afterlife, I'd imagine her chatting with Nelson, and of course Maya Angelou would be in on the conversation, though she was American, not South African. They all saw beyond borders.
My husband and I were very saddened to hear that one of both of of our favorite writers passed away this past April.
Peter Matthiessen, writer, naturalist, three time winner of the National Book Award, co-founder of the literary journal The Paris Review, succumbed to leukemia at the age of 86 in Sagaponack, NY. How I missed this I don't know. (Maybe because I no longer receive my "home town newspaper being one reason). There were many, many remembrances however in many periodicals from the NY Times, Smithsonian, The New Yorker and others.
He was also a practicing Zen Buddhist priest and had a Zendo on his property in Sagaponack that my husband visited many times over the last 30 years. He was a kind and generous man,very invested in community causes, primarily environmental issues.
Author of both fiction and non-fiction, he received three National Book Awards. Among his most well known works, At Play In The Fields Of The Lord, The Snow Leopard, Far Tortuga and many others. He traveled extensively to the four corners of the world and shared his adventures in a most generous way.
(I have very fond memory of him. I did not know who he was at the time but learned years later. I was about 10 years old and riding my bicycle to the beach. Out of seemingly nowhere a fierce looking German Shepard came out of a hedgerow and chased me nipping at my heels with fierce determination. Mr. Matthiessen was walking on the roadway and intervened, running the dog off and took the time to soothe my hysteria and fright.)
Casi, I share your sadness at the passing of Peter Matthiessen whose Zen was of the compassionate nature and not like a barracks for samurai as many places are. Your husband would have gained much from Peter's teachings and example.
Travel! Set out and head for pastures new[br] Life tastes the richer when you’ve road worn feet.[br]Ibn Battuta[br]
There's a great story that I have heard and read about many times and was repeated in some of the remembrances of him.
Mr. Matthiessen was on a long adventure to some remote area of the world. In his absence, his second wife, Deborah Love had embraced Zen Buddhism. Mr. Matthiessen upon returning from his long trip was walking up his driveway late at night when he encountered a group of Zen monks. Mr. Matthiessen was tired and irritable and wanted to know who were these people in his driveway and apparently was quite rude to them. The monks in turn, smiled, shook their heads and said "Poor Debowah" as he proceeded to his house. It wasn't long afterwards that he too embraced the religion but, this particular story made for quite an amusing recanting.