Vuelvo

Mario Benedetti (14 Sep 1920 – 17 May 2009), the prolific Uruguayan writer, one of the most influential exponents of Latin American literature, is back! The Uruguayan Universidad de la República is in the process of printing three volumes containing a compilation of articles published by Mario Benedetti in the Uruguayan press: Marginalia, Número, Marcha and Asir y La Mañana. The collection of articles entitled: Sobre literatura, cine, artes escénicas y visuales, 1948 to 1965 will be available in Spanish by the end of this year.

Vuelvo / Quiero creer que estoy volviendo. Mario Benedetti - I return / I want to believe I am returning - Mario Benedetti - Graffiti

Graffito  with fragment of the poem Vuelvo: I return, I want to believe I am returning – Mario Benedetti.

Some mornings I wake up full of ideas. When it happens I wish I was a human octopus so I can quickly write them all down as fast as I can before they vanish into thin air. Today I woke up with lots of ideas bouncing around in my head and one in particular was about Mario Benedetti and his poem: Vuelvo, I return.

Today is the anniversary of his birthday, 14 September 1920. When I think about Mario Benedetti, the idea of a genius, committed writer and the vibrancy and turbulence of the 60’s and 70’s come to mind. The 1960’s marked great cultural changes in the world. In Latin America, the expansion of Rock & Roll, the use of  long hair (el cabello largo) and of the miniskirt (la minifalda) became prevalent along with the new youth culture rebelling, raising up and differentiating from that of their parents.

By the end of 60’s and during the 70’s Latin America was a continent in social, political and cultural upheaval. The works of Benedetti during that period were passed hand to hand in bohemian and rebel circles as a must read. The simplicity of his writing exploring everyday life and not being shy to spell out the political and controversial, made him one of the most popular writers of that time, particularly with youth. He called the reader for action, as in this fragment of the poem Oda a la mordaza:

pienso

luego insisto

—&—

I think

therefore I insist [1]

Mario Benedetti. Photo from family album. Courtesy of the Fundación M. Benedetti  © Fundación M. Benedetti.

Mario Benedetti. Photo from family album. Courtesy of the Fundación M. Benedetti © Fundación M. Benedetti.

The metaphor and imagery in his poetry, some of which became lyrics and were sung in popular venues, continue to be very appealing to wider audiences, such as this fragment from his poem Pregón, Street Cry:

Señor que no me mira mire un poco

yo tengo una pobreza para usté

limpia nuevita bien desinfectada

vale cuarenta

se la doy por diez.

—&—

Sir, you are not looking at me, look at me a little

I have poverty for you

it’s clean, new, good, disinfected

worth forty I’ll give it to you for ten. [2]

 

Mario Benedetti wrote to his wife, his lifetime companion, the poem Te quiero, I love you, which is perhaps one of his best known poems. Here there is a fragment of such a romantic piece:

Si te quiero es porque sos

mi amor mi cómplice y todo

y en la calle codo a codo

somos mucho más que dos.

—&—

If I love you it’s because

you are my love

my accomplice and everything

and in the street arm in arm

we are much more than two.[3]

 

The words of this poem were set to music and many interpretations followed. Please click here to listen to the version of the Argentinean singers Sandra Mihanovich and Celeste Carballo.

Mario Benedetti. Photo from family album. Courtesy of the Fundación M. Benedetti  © Fundación M. Benedetti.

Mario Benedetti. Photo from family album. Courtesy of the Fundación M. Benedetti © Fundación M. Benedetti.

The Latin American 1970’s was soon followed by military regimes with the saddest outcomes for Latin America’s history: torture, killings or “disappearances”, imprisonment or exile of those who were part of a social network committed to a more egalitarian culture.

Thousands were exiled. Mario Benedetti was one of these who departed in 1973 and would not return to his country until 1985. In 1974, whilst in exile, La Tregua, The Truce, a film based on a novel written by Benedetti, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. La Tregua is a great period piece of its time, set in the 70’s. It portrays the conflicts and aspirations between the generations. It is available with subtitles in English in  YouTube, click here.

Close to the date of  his return to Montevideo and the reunion with his wife, the poem Vuelvo explores the theme of returning after exile (Spanish: exilio).

Vuelvo de buen talante y buena gana

se fueron las arrugas de mi ceño

por fin puedo creer en lo que sueño

nosotros mantuvimos nuestras voces

ustedes van curando sus heridas

empiezo a comprender las bienvenidas

mejor que los adioses

—&—

I return in good spirit and willing

the furrows in my brow have vanished

Now I can believe in my dream

We maintained our voice

you continue to heal your wounds

I am beginning to understand the welcomes

better than the farewells. [4]

A notable version of Vuelvo as a song, is sung by Nacha Guevara, an Argentinean singer, songwriter and actress, and it can be found in YouTube, click here.

Mario Benedetti. Photo from family album. Courtesy of the Fundación M. Benedetti  © Fundación M. Benedetti.

Mario Benedetti. Photo from family album. Courtesy of the Fundación M. Benedetti © Fundación M. Benedetti.

Mario Benedetti invented a Spanish word “desexilio“, to refer to the action of returning to the country of origin by those in exile (exilio). Please note that this word is not yet, to my knowledge, in any official dictionary.

He published 96 books, including poems, short stories, novels, essays, theatre pieces and films scripts, many of which were translated in 20 languages. Despite of the great influence of his writing, it is not well known within the English speaking world.

As noted, he wrote lyrics for some interpreters. His book: Canciones del más acá, Songs From This Side, includes 60 lyrics and poems. Due to the simplicity of the language used in his prose, they are a good option to read for Spanish language students at an advanced level.

The Fundación Mario Benedetti, which is financed by copyright proceeds of Benedetti’s book sales, is in the process of an ambitious project to move its headquarters. The new building will house the manuscripts of the writer and his personal library of over 10,000 volumes for researchers; a loaning-library for the works of Benedetti and others; and a third library to address social issues and human rights to underpin the Foundation’s work in this area. In addition, the headquarters will have rooms for workshops, conferences and book presentations. A fundraising campaign will be launched by the Fundation in order to complete this project.

Mario Benedetti is back! In fact he never went away. His writing is contemporary as ever. It continues reflecting the world of today.

Stamp made by the Dirección Nacional de Correos del Uruguay, the Uruguayan national postal office, to celebrate Mario Benedetti's 90th birthday.

Stamp made by the Dirección Nacional de Correos del Uruguay, the Uruguayan national postal office, to celebrate Mario Benedetti’s 90th birthday.

[1] Free translation from the Poem Oda a la mordaza, From Tres odas provisorias, Inventario Uno, Poesía completa 1950-1985, Editorial Sudamericana.

[2] Free translation from the poem Pregón, Street cry, from Noción de Patria (1962/3), Inventario Uno, Poesía completa 1950-1985, Editorial Sudamericana.

[3] Free translation from the poem Te quiero, from Poemas de otros (1973/4), Inventario Uno, Poesía completa 1950-1985. 

[4] Free translation from the poem Vuelvo, from Canciones del más acá, Editorial Sudamericana.

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Hi, my name is Adrian Sanchez. I am passionate about words and languages, particularly Spanish, the language I learned at my mother’s knee. I am curious about how languages change and evolve. I am a qualified Spanish Teacher (CLTA) and a journalist. I have taught in literacy campaigns in Latin America and given Spanish tuition in Spain and in the UK. I would like to share some of my thoughts on the Spanish language; and particularly on what I have learned from my students, who in many ways have become my teachers throughout the years. Spanish is a vast and beautiful language and I would like you to accompany me on a journey of discoveries, so I will be presenting two blogs per month and I would like to hear from you. Here is a link to my webpage: spanish-tutor.info You can visit my blog here: spanishtutorinfo.wordpress.com Email: info@Spanish-tutor.info Thank you!

11 responses to “Vuelvo”

  1. Hugo says :

    Beautiful Benedetti’s remembrances. Thanks ! Do you know where to find “Montevideanos”? which I wish to read since a long, long time ago.
    Hugo

    Like

  2. cajoh1969 says :

    Very informative. Thanks

    Like

  3. Claudia Martínez says :

    Lindo desafío el de dar a conocer a Benedetti. Yo tengo una preferencia por una de sus poesías por estos tiempos, cuándo era más joven había otras que me acompañaban a todos lados.
    Se llama ” Este arroyo no vuelve”.

    Este arroyo no vuelve,
    no se detiene nunca,
    pero en tanto que sigue
    lentamente fabula.
    Descubre peces rojos
    improvisa riberas
    imagina los sauces
    las calandrias inventa.
    Y si no vuelve es porque
    sueña hacia dónde va:
    a meterse en un río
    y con él en el mar.
    Mario Benedetti

    Me resulta simple, sintético y poético. Describe sencilla y bellamente esta experiencia de la vida que nos lleva.
    Buen trabajo Adrián, muy bueno tu blog.
    Una seguidora desde Argentina.

    Like

  4. 123spanishtutor says :

    Great article!!! Very informative! Is it possible to share it and credit you in our blog?

    Like

  5. 123spanishtutor says :

    Reblogged this on 123 Spanish Tutor Blog and commented:
    Really interesting article about one of the most prolific writers in Spanish language. If you are learning Spanish, don’t forget to try reading some of his books!

    Like

  6. Tony says :

    Hola Claudia,

    ¡Qué poema más bonito! No lo encuentro en ninguno de mis libros ¿En qué libro está?

    Gracias.

    Tony

    Like

    • Claudia Martínez says :

      !Hola Toni! “Este arroyo no vuelve” podes encontrarlo en Inventario Dos, Poesía completa (1986-1991), Seix Barral, Biblioteca Mario Benedetti, Edición 1994, Argentina.
      !Un saludo desde el sur!

      Like

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