From Associated Press:
ALCALA DE HENARES, Spain: Argentine poet Juan Gelman, who suffered wrenching personal loss under his country’s military rule and wrote of it in poignant verse, received the Spanish-speaking world’s highest literary honor on Wednesday.
Gelman, 77, is considered Argentina’s poet laureate and once belonged to the Montoneros, a leftist guerrilla group that fought the Argentina juntas that ruled in the 1970s and 80s.
In an acceptance speech, Gelman said that after being forced into exile in Europe in the mid-1970s, he cringed over the dictatorship’s cruelty.
“I died many times, and more with each piece of news of a murdered or missing friend or colleague,” said Gelman, a white-haired, soft-spoken man with sad eyes. …
Gelman’s prolific work in a 50-year career also addresses his Jewish heritage, the concept of family and his experiences as a political activist.
Gelman’s son Marcelo and daughter-in-law Maria Claudia were killed during the Argentine dictatorship. Gelman spent years tracking down a granddaughter born of that marriage and reared in adoption in neighboring Uruguay.
It is one of Argentina’s most famous cases of babies being born to political dissidents, taken from their mothers and given up for adoption. Gelman met his granddaughter Macarena for the first time in 2000. When she learned the poet was her grandfather, she changed her last name to Gelman.
Macarena Gelman was among relatives of the poet who attended Wednesday’s ceremony in this town 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Madrid.
The ceremony also served up a juxtaposition that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago: Gelman, a former leftist militant, ex-communist and political outsider, shaking hands warmly with a king.
Gelman said countries that have endured atrocities in the past, such as Argentina, must address them and not turn a blind eye by granting amnesty to those responsible. “The wounds are still not closed. They beat in society’s foundations like a cancer that does not rest. The only treatment is truth. And then, justice,” Gelman said.
In a poem entitled “Returns,” published in 2001, Gelman wrote to his son: “You keep coming back / and I have to tell you that you’re dead.”
- Poet Bonald wins Cervantes Prize (bbc.co.uk)
- Spanish novelist Javier Marías turns down €20,000 government prize (guardian.co.uk)
- Cervantes Prize winner (nebraskapress.typepad.com)