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Uruguayan writer Cristina Peri Rossi in 1986. Photo: Wikpedia
Uruguayan writer Cristina Peri Rossi in 1986. Photo: Wikpedia

Cristina Peri Rossi: The only Latina writer of the Latin American 'boom'

The Uruguayan writer will receive the prestigious award for Hispanic literature from the King of Spain on Friday.

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On Friday, April 22, Uruguayan writer Cristina Peri Rossi, who lives in Barcelona, will receive the Cervantes Prize, the highest award in Hispanic literature, from King Felipe VI of Spain in a ceremony at the auditorium of the University of Alcalá de Henares, after a two year delay.

The writer, one of the most outstanding writers in the Spanish language, won the Cervantes Prize for her career as one of today's great literary voices in a wide variety of genres, for her constant exercise of exploration and criticism and commitment to issues such as the status of women and sexuality, according to the jury that awarded her the prize last November.

With her writing, Peri Rossi has criticized authoritarian governments and dictatorships, and given a voice to women, exiles and the LGBTQ+ community.

The Cervantes Prize, awarded each year by the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, is endowed with 125,000 euros (around $135,000). It is awarded every year on April 23, coinciding with the date of the death of the writer Miguel de Cervantes. Ceremonies in the last two years have not been possible because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Para que yo pudiera amarte/ los españoles tuvieron que conquistar América/ y mis abuelos/ huir de Génova en un barco de carga  (So that I could love you/ the Spaniards had to conquer America/ and my grandparents/ flee Genoa in a cargo ship," wrote Peri Rossi at the beginning of "Historia de un amor," one of the many poems she dedicated to the love of a woman for another woman. 

Coinciding with the awarding of the prize, the publishing house Lumen republished Desastres íntimos, a book of erotic short stories Peri Rossi originally wrote in 1997. In the series of poems, she addresses the inner world of characters trapped in their particular delusions — a club of fetishists who exchange their sexual manias, a man in love with a whale-wife, a husband whose wife has left him for another, or a beautiful and efficient secretary-model-mom suffocated by the nuclear family — according to EFE.

Her first book of poetry, Evohé, was published in 1971 and she has written poetry for more than 40 years with different recurring motifs, from love, sex and desire, to the scenarios of memory, exile, history, literature, music or painting.

In narrative, she made her debut in 1963 with Viviendo, which was later followed by Solitario de amor, Desastres íntimos or La nave de los locos.

Born in Uruguay on Nov. 12, 1941, she spent her childhood reading in her uncle's library at her own choice, and studied at a national school until she entered university, where she became a teacher. In 1964, Perri Rossi obtained a professorship and after that she was exiled during the military dictatorship that ruled Uruguay.

Since then, she has lived in Barcelona and has been considered the only female writer linked to the Latin American boom, a movement that is generally associated with authors like Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Carlos Fuentes.

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