Juan Gelman (3 May 1930 – 14 January 2014) was an Argentine poet. He published more than twenty books of poetry between 1956 and his death in early 2014. He was a naturalized citizen of Mexico,[1] country where he arrived as a political exile of the Military Junta.

Juan Gelman
Born(1930-05-03)3 May 1930
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Died14 January 2014(2014-01-14) (aged 83)
Mexico City, Mexico

In 2007, Gelman was awarded the Cervantes Prize, the most important in Spanish literature. His works celebrate life but are also tempered with social and political commentary and reflect his own painful experiences with the politics of Argentina.


Juan Gelman Burichson was born on May 3, 1930, in Buenos Aires Villa Crespo neighborhood to Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. As a boy he read Russian and European literature widely under the tutelage of his brother Boris. [2] His father, José Gelman, was a social revolutionary who participated in the 1905 revolution in Russia; he immigrated to Argentina, went back shortly after the Bolshevik revolution, and then returned to Argentina for good, disillusioned.[2]

Gelman learned to read when he was three years old, and spent much of his childhood reading and playing soccer. He developed an interest in poetry at a very young age, influenced by his brother Boris, who read to him several poems in Russian, a language that the boy did not know. The experience of reading Dostoevsky's The Insulted and Humiliated (1861) at age eight made a profound impression on him.

As a young man he was a member of several notable literary groups and later became an important journalist. He also worked as a translator at the United Nations. He was always an ardent political activist. In 1975 he became involved with the Montoneros, though he later distanced himself from the group. After the 1976 Argentine coup, he was forced into exile from Argentina. In 1976, his son Marcelo and his pregnant daughter-in-law, Maria Claudia, aged 20 and 19, were kidnapped from their home. They became two of the 30,000 desaparecidos, the people who were forcibly "vanished" without a trace during the reign of the military junta. In 1990 Gelman was led to identify his son's remains (he had been executed and buried in a barrel filled with sand and cement), and years later, in 2000, he was able to trace his granddaughter, born in a backdoor hospital before Maria Claudia's murder and given to a pro-government family in Uruguay. The remains of Maria Claudia have not yet been recovered.

During his long exile, Gelman lived in Europe until 1988, then in United States and later in Mexico, with his wife, Argentinian psychologist Mara La Madrid.

In 1997, Gelman received the Argentine National Poetry Prize, in recognition of his life's work, and in 2007 the Cervantes Prize, the most important prize for Spanish-language writers. He also had a long and brilliant career as journalist, writing for the Argentinian newspaper Pagina/12 until his death.

Gelman included Uruguayan police officer Hugo Campos Hermida in a legal suit lodged in Spain for the "disappearance" of his daughter-in-law in Uruguay.[3]

His granddaughterEdit

At the beginning of the 21st century, Uruguayan President Jorge Batlle Ibáñez ordered an investigation and Gelman's granddaughter was found. Macarena, who had lived as an adopted child, took the surnames of her parents and started a career as a human rights activist.


Gelman died at age 83 of complications with preleukemia at his home in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City.[4] His granddaughter, Macarena, flew in from Uruguay to attend the funeral. Three days of national mourning was declared by Argentina's President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Personal PapersEdit

Juan Gelman's archive which includes drafts of writings and a collection of files he kept pertaining to his human rights investigations is available for research at the Manuscripts Division in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Princeton University.[5]


Published in English translationEdit

  • Unthinkable Tenderness: Selected Poems, trans.: Joan Lindgren, University of California Press, 1997
  • The Poems of Sidney West, trans.: Katherine M. Hedeen & Victor Rodríguez Nuñez, Salt Publishing, 2009
  • Between Words: Juan Gelman Public Letter, trans.: Lisa Rose Bradford, CIAL, 2010
  • Commentaries and Citations, trans.: Lisa Rose Bradford, Coimbra Editions, Poetry in Translation, 2011
  • Nightingales again, trans.: J. S. Tennant, in MPT Review, Series 3 no. 11 Frontiers, 2011
  • Com/positions, trans.: Lisa Rose Bradford, Coimbra Editions, Poetry in Translation, 2013

Published in SpanishEdit


  • Violín y otras cuestiones, Buenos Aires, Gleizer, 1956.
  • El juego en que andamos, Buenos Aires, Nueva Expresión, 1959.
  • Velorio del solo, Buenos Aires, Nueva Expresión, 1961.
  • Gotán (1956-1962), Buenos Aires, La Rosa Blindada, 1962. (Neuauflage 1996)
  • Cólera Buey, La Habana, La Tertulia, 1965. (Neuauflage 1994)
  • Los poemas de Sidney West, Buenos Aires, Galerna, 1969. (Neuauflage 1995)
  • Fábulas, Buenos Aires, La Rosa Blindada, 1971.
  • Relaciones, Buenos Aires, La Rosa Blindada, 1973.
  • Hechos y Relaciones, Barcelona, Lumen, 1980.
  • Si dulcemente, Barcelona, Lumen, 1980.
  • Citas y Comentarios, Visor Madrid, 1982.
  • Hacia el Sur, México, Marcha, 1982.
  • Com/posiciones (1983-1984), Barcelona, Ediciones del Mall, 1986.
  • Interrupciones I, Buenos Aires, Libros de Tierra Firme, 1986.
  • Interrupciones II, Buenos Aires, Libros de Tierra Firme, 1988.
  • Anunciaciones, Madrid, Visor, 1988.
  • Carta a mi madre, Buenos Aires, Libros de Tierra Firme, 1989.
  • Dibaxu, Buenos Aires, Seix Barral, 1994.
  • Salarios del impío, Buenos Aires, Libros de Tierra Firme, 1993.
  • Incompletamente, Buenos Aires, Seix Barral, 1997.
  • Tantear la noche, Lanzarote, Fundación César Manrique, 2000.
  • Valer la pena, Buenos Aires, Seix Barral, 2001.
  • País que fue será, Buenos Aires, Seix Barral, 2004.
  • Mundar, Buenos Aires, Seix Barral, 2007.
  • De atrásalante en su porfía, Madrid, Visor, und Buenos Aires, Seix Barral, 2009
  • El emperrado corazón amora, Barcelona, Tusquets und Buenos Aires, Seix Barral, 2011


  • Poemas, Casa de las Américas, La Habana, 1960.
  • Obra poética, Corregidor, Buenos Aires, 1975.
  • Poesía, Casa de las Américas, La Habana, 1985.
  • Antología poética, Vintén, Montevideo, (1993).
  • Antología personal, Desde la Gente, Instituto Movilizador de Fondos Cooperativos, Buenos Aires, 1993.
  • En abierta oscuridad, Siglo XXI, México, 1993.
  • Antología poética, Espasa Calpe, Buenos Aires, 1994.
  • De palabra (1971-1987). Prefazione di Julio Cortázar, Visor, Madrid, 1994.
  • Oficio Ardiente (2005), Patrimonio Nacional y la Universidad de Salamanca.
  • Fulgor del aire (2007), LOM Ediciones, Santiago del Chile
  • De palabra: Poesía III (1973-1989) (2008), Visor Libros, Madrid
  • Bajo la luvia ajena (2009), Seix Barral, Barcelona


  • Prosa de prensa, Ediciones B, España, 1997
  • Ni el flaco perdón de Dios/Hijos de desaparecidos (coautore con Mara La Madrid), Planeta, Buenos Aires, 1997
  • Nueva prosa de prensa, Ediciones B Argentina, Buenos Aires, 1999
  • Afghanistan/Iraq: el imperio empantanado, Buenos Aires, 2001
  • Miradas, Seix Barral, Buenos Aires, 2005
  • Escritos urgentes, Capital Intellectual, Buenos Aires, 2009
  • Escritos urgentes II, Capital intellectual, Buenos Aires, 2010
  • El ciempiés y la araña, ilustraciones de Eleonora Arroyo, Capital intellectual, México, 2011

Criticism of his worksEdit

  • The Reasoning behind the Act of Striking a Spent Match / Hernán Fontanet, 2019.
  • Juan Gelman y su tiempo: Historias, poemas y reflexiones / Hernán Fontanet, 2015.
  • Gelman. Un poeta y su vida / Hernán Fontanet, 2015.
  • Juan Gelman : esperanza, utopía y resistencia / Pablo Montanaro, 2006
  • La escritura del duelo en la poesía de Juan Gelman / Geneviève Fabry, 2005
  • El llamado de los desaparecidos : sobre la poesía de Juan Gelman / Edmundo Gómez Mango, 2004
  • Juan Gelman y la nueva poesía hispanoamericana / Miguel Correa Mujica, 2001
  • Juan Gelman : poesía de sombra de la memoria / Elena Tamargo Cordero, 2000
  • Acercamientos a Juan Gelman / José Bru, 2000
  • Palabra de Gelman : en entrevistas y notas periodísticas / Pablo Montanaro, 1998
  • La poesía de Gelman: cuando surgen las palabras" / Daniel Freidemberg, 1997
  • Juan Gelman : las estrategias de la otredad : heteronimia, intertextualidad, traducción / María del Carmen Sillato, 1996
  • Como temblor del aire : la poesía de Juan Gelman, ensayos críticos / Lilián Uribe, 1995
  • Juan Gelman : contra las fabulaciones del mundo / Miguel Dalmaroni, 1993
  • Conversaciones con Juan Gelman : contraderrota, Montoneros y la revolución perdida / Roberto Mero, 1987
  • La poesía de Juan Gelman o la ternura desatada / Hugo Achugar, 1985
  • Juan Gelman, poeta argentino / Beatriz Varela de Rozas, 2004

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Encabeza Peña Nieto la ceremonia por el XXV Aniversario de Conaculta". Fondo de Cultura Económica. Retrieved 18 July 2015. Antes de iniciar su mensaje, el mandatario rindió homenaje a la memoria del poeta argentino, naturalizado mexicano, Juan Gelman, por quien se ofreció un minuto de silencio.
  2. ^ a b "I am the only Argentinian in the family. My parents and my two siblings were Ukrainian. They immigrated in 1928." Juan Gelman: Semblanza Archived 2008-12-24 at the Wayback Machine (in Spanish) In the same brief autobiographical text, Gelman states that his mother was a student of medicine and the daughter of a rabbi from a small town. "[My parents] never shut us up in a ghetto, culturally or otherwise. [...] I received no religious education." Gelman would later write some poems in Ladino, i.e., Judeo-Spanish; he is also known for being sharply critical of Israel.
  3. ^ A los 73 años murió el inspector mayor (r) Hugo Campos Hermida (in Spanish)
  4. ^ "Fallece a los 83 años el escritor Juan Gelman". Excélsior. 14 January 2014. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  5. ^ "Juan Gelman Papers (C1511) -- Juan Gelman Papers". findingaids.princeton.edu. Retrieved 2016-10-12.

External linksEdit