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Benedetti, compañero and friend

Fidel BennedettiNo, one, except perhaps a few infected with the virus of envy and mediocrity, question the poetic stature, the narrative depth (La tregua, Montevideanos and Gracias por el fuego, among other titles) or the brilliance of the essays of Mario Benedetti, the writer from Uruguay, or better, Our America, whose life we celebrated September 14.

At this very moment, young readers in Spain are the first the leaf through the pages of a poetry anthology prepared, on the occasion of Benedetti’s centenary, by Joan Manuel Serrat. The singer-songwriter introduces the book with words that merit quoting, “It is not easy to select the most representative from Benedetti’s extensive body of work, but I am confident that this anthology contains all the Benedetti that Mario carried in his backpack,

the common office worker, the middle class Montevidean, the committed journalist, the curious traveler, the militant of the domestic homeland, the exile, the returned exile and also the political activist, and of course the meticulous, hard-working poet, that he always was…”

The common denominator of his multiple trades is a word the Catalonian emphasized: commitment. To which I would add: consistency. Here, we can say that Mario never faded. Not in the good times or the bad. A fact well known by those of us who had him as one of our own, during his years at the Casa de las Américas. His co-workers at the institution remember him and hold valuable memories of his closeness to its founder Haydée Santamaría, his contributions to literary investigations, and later to the shaping of young writers in the early 1970s, many who testify to the effect and thank him, like Víctor Rodríguez Núñez, Alex Fleites, Norberto Codina, Abilio Estévez, Jesús Barquet, and many others who attended the Roque Dalton literary workshop, on University Hill.

He was a simple man, generous, cordial, immersed in the vicissitudes of the Revolution, always under attack but resilient, and at the same time the poet and militant who internally suffered the horrors of the dictatorship, installed at that time in Uruguay, a condition he revealed in one of his texts from the Cotidiana series: “From the eighth floor of my third exile, I see the excessive sea they lend me… I think of the terrible sweetness and solidarity of this people that knows how to hold its allies close, asking for nothing in return… while blind deaf mute (their enemies) strike heads, plains and headlines, balls and wombs, that is attempting to destroy the future in every sprout.”

When Fidel reached his 80th birthday, Benedetti sent a message of congratulations and recognition to our leader, in whom he appreciated, “the simplicity of his proposals… the frankness he insists on despite our objections, and his unwavering will to defend and improve the lot of his people.”

He affirmed, “I have spent several periods in Cuba: the first time as a guest and later, many other times as an exile. Since it exploded onto the scene, the Cuban Revolution has given Our America a good dusting. In Río de la Plata, cultural sectors had turned primarily to Europe, but the Revolution made us look to Latin America. Not only to delve into the problems of the sub-continent, but also to attenuate the power and pressure of the United States.”

How did the writer understand commitment? Creation, civic duty and revolutionary passion. He believed in the emancipation of his homeland, that began with Uruguay and was extended to other lands of the continent and other peoples of the world.

In 1987, he published a collection of reflections in El escritor latinoamericano y la revolución posible (The Latin American writer and the possible revolution), presenting ideas we can return to time and time again, given their continued relevance. Remaining intact is his call to assume a commitment that “must not be a mental cyst, but rather an ability under development, a kind of vitality, that listens, understands, and interprets the present contemporary reality, not comfortably installed in a pure state, basically verbal, which dictates norms,

formulates demands, judges conduct, and mandates how revolutions should happen and in what direction they should move.” An exercise in humility and participative vocation that we must always keep in mind.

As we should also remember another lesson he left us, in a letter sent to the critic Ángel Rama from Havana, in which he addresses the impact of the Revolution on human beings, “For the individual, it is frightening entertainment that keeps you on the alert, even against your wishes, and in the background is training you to make quick decisions, for deep changes, for original proposals. You cannot avoid the temperamental oscillation between feeling pessimistic and optimistic, though every time you return to the latter, you feel more at home.”

(Source: Granma)

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