Chile’s artistic and literary community went into mourning this week with the passing of renowned poet and writer Miguel Arteche, who died of a respiratory failure in the early hours of Sunday, July 22, at the age of 86.
Arteche, the winner of the Chilean National Literature Prize in 1996, suffered from temporal arthritis and had been confined to his house for several years.
Life and work
Miguel Arteche was born in the city of Nueva Imperial, in the Araucanía Region of southern Chile, on June 4, 1926.
His literary interest was sparked at a young age, soon earning a reputation that would see him placed among Chile’s famed literary generation of the 1950s, whose ranks included Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda and Vicente Huidobro.
He was the author of twenty published books of poetry, prose and essays, beginning with La invitación al olvido (“The invitation to oblivion”) in 1947 until his last work, a collection of poems entitled Jardín de relojes (“Garden of watches”), published ten years ago.
However, Arteche considered himself a writer until what was literally his final hours, saying in an interview with La Tercera, on the day before his death that “one doesn’t stop writing, others stop writing about him.”
Throughout his career, the outspoken writer was no stranger to controversy, and he was renowned for taking on some of the biggest names in Chilean literature, once dismissing the style of writing developed by Nicanor Parra, known as “antipoetry” as a “plague.”
Chilean author Teresa Calderón, daughter of the late poet, critic and writer Alfonso Calderón, who won the same national prize in 1998, had a long standing relationship with Arteche.
“My father was his best friend, I knew Miguel from the age of three and over time, he became both my mentor, and a great friend,” Teresa told La Tercera. “Although he had a very strong personality and was very cranky, I always made him laugh. He said what he thought and was never afraid of criticism from anyone, that didn’t matter to him. He was a genuine person and above all a great poet. I admired him very much.”
The remains of the poet were buried in the Cementerio General in Santiago on Monday.