Mario Benedetti

Mario Benedetti

Benedetti in 1983
Born (1920-09-14)14 September 1920
Paso de los Toros
Died 17 May 2009(2009-05-17) (aged 88)
Occupation Writer
Nationality Uruguayan

Mario Orlando Hardy Hamlet Brenno Benedetti Farrugia[1] (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈmaɾjo βeneˈðeti]; 14 September 1920 – 17 May 2009),[2] known as Mario Benedetti, was an 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,[3] but in the Spanish-speaking world he was considered one of Latin America's most important writers from the latter half of the 20th century.[4]

Early years

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 March.[5] 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.[6]

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 in Uruguay (1998?)

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.[7]

In 2006, Mario Benedetti signed a petition in support of the independence of Puerto Rico from the United States of America.

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.[8]

Before dying, he dictated to his personal secretary, Ariel Silva what would become his last poem:[9]

Mi vida ha sido como una farsa
Mi arte ha consistido
En que esta no se notara demasiado
He sido como un levitador en la vejez
El brillo marrón de los azulejos
Jamás se separó de mi piel


My life has been like a fraud
My art has consisted
In this not being noticed too much
I've been as a levitator in my old age
The brown sheen of the tiles
Never came off my skin



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:


Short stories

  • 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



  • 1969: Book Cubano, including poems, articles and interviews about Cuba and his experiences there [10]
  • 1996: Obras completas ("Complete Works"), in 28 volumes, published in Argentina[10]

See also


  1. Martinez, Ezequiel (2000). "Los 80 años de Mario Benedetti". Especial Mario Benedetti en El Clarín. Retrieved 27 October 2006.
  2. "The Associated Press: Famed Uruguayan writer Benedetti dies at 88". Retrieved 2009-05-17.
  3. Gregory, Stephen William George (1999) The collapse of dialogue: Intellectuals and politics in the Uruguayan crisis, 1960-1973 Thesis, Modern Language Studies, University of New South Wales. OCLC 44284108, abstract
  4. Mario Benedetti: Writer in the vanguard of South America's literary boom in the second half of the 20th century
  5. Fundación Mario Benedetti
  6. Generación del 45: severa en la crítica y brillante en la creación.
  7. El lado oscuro del corazón at the Internet Movie Database
  8. Benedetti dies (Spanish)
  9. El Diario de Ecuador: Mario Benedetti dictates his last poem (in Spanish)
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Web page titled "Biblioteca de autores contemporaneos / Mario Benedetti - El autor" (in Spanish), retrieved 27 May 2009
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