Chilean writer Jorge Edwards, Cervantes Prize winner and great friend of Neruda, dies at 91

Chilean writer Jorge Edwards, Cervantes Prize 1999 and protagonist of a good part of the Latin American literary and political scene of the 20th century, has died at the age of 91 this Friday in Madrid, as confirmed by his son. He was an assistant, biographer and friend of the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda; and author of numerous novels, short stories and essays, among which stand out the weight of the night, the imaginary woman, the origin of the world, city ​​people either The masks.

Edwards (Santiago de Chile, 1931) was one of the most important figures in current literature in the Spanish language. He studied at the Colegio de San Ignacio de Santiago, where he was a student of Father Hurtado, a Chilean saint canonized in 2005, and later graduated in Law and Philosophy at the University of Chile and Princeton. Between 1957 and 1973, he held various diplomatic posts in Latin America and Europe. In 1971 he was appointed business manager of the Chilean embassy in Cuba during the mandate of Salvador Allende in his country.

Only two years later he would publish his political experiences in a book titled Persona non gratawhich turned out to be a social critique of life in Cuba, for which reason he was expelled from the island by the Castro regime. On his return, he was sent to Paris as secretary of the embassy, ​​he visited the house of André Breton and strengthened ties with Neruda, who then lived in the city of the Seine. As if that were not enough, he was forced to go into exile in Spain after the coup d’état by Augusto Pinochet in his country.

(Jorge Edwards: “I am a living testimony of things that are over”)

In an interview with El Cultural in 2019, the author summarized the years of political effervescence that he lived through: “They spared my life, and I came out well. Now my mission is to tell it, because I have become a living testimony of many things ended, of so many people who no longer exist. As for Latin America, it can be said that many terrible things happened, but life continued its course. Everything was complex, but we were saved. We have survived.”

That life experience was condensed into Slaves of the slogan (Lumen), his second volume of memoirs, a testimony of what those years were like in which politics were intermingled with literature. By the way, “Edwards is the most relevant current memorialist in Spanish-language literature,” the writer JJ Armas Marcelo, a contributor to El Cultural, wrote in his blog.

From his post as a diplomat, towards the middle of the last century, he witnessed radical political, social and literary transformations, and met the future authors of the Latin American boom. He also witnessed radicalism and, in addition to the repression since the Cuban Revolution and Pinochet’s coup in his country, he lived through the French May and the Prague Spring.

Edwards, after escaping from the Chilean regime, went to Barcelona, ​​where he worked as director of the Difusora Internacional publishing house and collaborated as a consultant at the Seix Barral publishing house. He also helped to form, with the Chilean Writers Society, the commission for the Defense of Freedom of Expression. In 1982 he entered as member of the Academy of the Language of Chile and was appointed corresponding member of the Royal Spanish Academy.

Between 1994 and 1997 he was ambassador to Unesco in Paris, being a member of the Unesco Executive Council and Chairman of the Committee on Conventions and Recommendations (1995-1997). “Over time, I think it is impossible to totally escape politics, and it was more so in those highly politicized years. What I always fled from was radicalism “, he pointed out in the conversation with this magazine. In 2010 he was granted Spanish citizenship and was also appointed ambassador in Paris of the Chilean government.

(Edwards, the memory)

It is in those years when he wrote the last sister (Cliff). “I got up at six, and wrote from six to nine. Then I was thinking all day, taking notes, the same in meetings or when I was dealing with someone. An embassy is a nail, you’re all day doing little things, but you have to do them…, well, I already said goodbye, and now I’m not doing anything,” he said in an interview with El Cultural in which he was promoting his novel.

His literature focuses, above all, on the most urban aspects of Chile, unlike the majority of his compatriots, who always dealt with the rural issue. In Chile he was linked to the Literary Generation of 1950 and a Mexican critic, Christopher Domínguez Michael, considered that his fictions were “the art of the almost novel”.

Certainly, as a writer he has cultivated both the novel and the short story as well as the essay and the chronicle, and it has been translated into various languages. He has received, among other awards, the National Prize for Literature of Chile. Before winning in 2008 the Planet Awardthen endowed with €200,000, for his novel Dostoevsky’s Housein 1978 he published the stone guestsin 1980 The wax museum and in 1990 the autobiographical book goodbye poet…, in which he pays tribute to his friend and compatriot Neruda.

Regarding the controversial death of the poet, Edwards always considered that there was no murder, although just a month ago an expert report claimed that Neruda died of poisoning and not of cancer. “I don’t know what purpose killing a dying man can have,” he said in an interview with El Cultural. “The evidence does not indicate that he was murdered, he was seriously ill, totally invaded by prostate cancer.”

(Jorge Edwards: “The whim took on the appearance of necessity in Neruda”)

Throughout his career as a writer, he has collaborated in different European and Latin American newspapers: the world, The country, Corriere della Sera, The nation either Clarion. He was a member of the editorial board of the magazines Lap and Free Letters of Mexico and taught courses on Latin American affairs at different North American (Chicago, Georgetown) and European (Complutense University of Madrid, Pompeu Fabra University of Barcelona) universities.

Currently, the library of the Instituto Cervantes in Manchester bears his name. In 2015, he deposited a legacy in the Caja de las Letras of the Instituto Cervantes that will remain guarded until July 8, 2035.

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Deborah Acker

I write epic fantasy; self-published via KDP. Devoted dog mom to my 10 yr old GSD, Shadow! DM not a priority; slow response at best #amwriting #author.

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