The Uruguayan writer Cristina Peri Rossi won the Cervantes Prize

Archive photograph of the Uruguayan narrator and poet Cristina Peri Rossi. EFE / Archive / Lluis Gené

The Uruguayan writer Cristina Peri Rossi —Who turns eighty years old this Friday— won the Miguel de Cervantes 2021 Prize for Spanish Language Literature, the most prestigious award for literature in Spanish and which is endowed with 125,000 euros. In recent editions, poetry dominated the awards with the Spanish Francisco Brines (2020), Joan Margarit (2019) and the Uruguayan Ida Vitale (2018).

She is the sixth woman to win the award: Peri Rossi is joined by Vitale, the Spanish Maria Zambrano (1988), Ana Maria Matute (2010), the Cuban Sweet Maria Loynaz (1992) and the Mexican Elena Poniatowska (2013). The Cervantes, which is awarded not for a specific book but for the entire literary work of an author, began in the mid-1970s and 47 editions have been made with today’s.

He was born in Montevideo in 1941 and went into exile to Spain in 1972. He has lived in Barcelona since then and from there he developed most of his intense literary career. Narrator, poet, essayist, translator, journalist, her work has been translated into more than twenty languages, including Yiddish and Korean. During the military dictatorship that ruled Uruguay from 1973 to 1985, he was censored, as well as the mention of his name in the media.

Cristina Peri Rossi (Photo: Matias Nieto / Cover / Getty Images)
Cristina Peri Rossi (Photo: Matias Nieto / Cover / Getty Images)

Despite his exile in Spain, under Franco, and also later in Paris, he continued to publish political works and never abandoned his activism. Critics consider it part of the Latin American boom along with Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Julio Cortázar and Carlos Fuentes; the only feminine icon of the movement. In the eighties he wrote two novels about exile: Crazy people’s nave and Lonely love.

Eroticism, sexuality and lesbianism are recurring themes in his work. According to the critic David William Foster, Peri Rossi texts affirm the need for the person to assume sexual identity as something separate from both biological and social impositions. He debuted in 1963 with Living, a collection of stories; followed with The abandoned museums and his first novel, The book of my cousins, which established her as one of the most important voices of her generation. She was the first woman to win the Loewe Prize for Poetry with the book PlayStation 2009.

Cristina Peri Rossi (Photo: Telam)
Cristina Peri Rossi (Photo: Telam)

With Cortázar he maintained an intense relationship of love and friendship. He published a biography of him, including a newspaper, poems and short stories that caused a great controversy: he stated that the Argentine author died of AIDS, a virus that he would have contracted during a blood transfusion in poor condition in the south of France. In recent decades, the Uruguayan author has kept a low profile and has spoken little to the press.

Cristina Peri Rossi joins the list of winners of the Cervantes Prize that includes authors such as Jorge Guillen, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Augusto Roa Bastos, Ernesto Sabato, Rafael Alberti, Juan Carlos Onetti, Jorge Luis Borges, Alejo Carpentier, Francisco Umbral, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Camilo José Cela, Mario Vargas Llosa, Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes, Jose Emilio Pacheco, Fernando Del Paso and Sergio Ramirez.

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The Uruguayan writer Cristina Peri Rossi won the Cervantes Prize