Chilean poet Gonzalo Rojas remembered and honored
Internationally recognized as one of the most important literary voices out of Chile since Pablo Neruda, Rojas died in Santiago at 93.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Often considered a surrealist in style, Rojas has over 50 published works to his name and won many prestigious prizes.
In a country of poets, the passing of a great literary giant becomes a moment for national mourning, and more importantly, remembrance.
One such giant, Chilean poet Gonzalo Rojas, died at 93 on Monday, April 25 in Santiago, ending a continent-spanning career that established him as one of the most important voices in 20th century Latin American poetry.
Born in 1917 in the southern Chilean fishing city of Lebu, he studied law and pedagogy at Santiago’s Universidad de Chile. He published his first book, The Misery of Man, in 1948 while serving as a professor at the Universidad de Valparaíso. But it was his 1964 second book, Against Death, that established Rojas as a major figure in Latin American letters.
Rojas left Chile, along with many of the country’s most esteemed artists and intellectuals, in 1973 to escape the brutality of the newly installed military regime. He went first to Germany and then lived in Venezuela from 1975 to 1980, where he began one of the most productive phases of his career. His third book, Dark, was published in 1977 and garnered the poet his highest praise to date, followed by three more volumes by the end of 1980.
From 1980 to 1994, Rojas lived in the United States, where he served as a visiting professor at Columbia University and the University of Chicago, and as a member of the faculty at Brigham Young University. In 1994 he returned to Chile and settled in the city of Chillán, where he lived until his death.
Often considered a surrealist in style, Rojas has over 50 published works to his name and won many prestigious prizes throughout his career, beginning with a UNESCO grant to travel to Europe in 1958.
In 1992, he received the prestigious Chilean National Prize in Literature as well as the Reina Sofía Ibero-American Poetry Prize. He also received the 2003 Cervantes Prize, one of the most coveted in the world of Spanish-language literature.
Media from around the world, including Spain, Britain, Argentina and the U.S. have lamented the loss of one of the great Latin American voices.
The poet’s body will lie in Santiago’s Bellas Artes Museum from 5pm on Monday for the Chilean public to pay their respects, while the government has declared Tuesday and Wednesday days of national mourning.