Cristina Peri Rossi was born on November 12 in the Uruguayan city of Montevideo and was the elder of two sisters of an Italian immigrant couple. As a child, she took refuge in libraries. She could not buy books in bookstores, so she spent hours and hours in the National Library of her hometown. Her father, Ambrosio Peri, was a textile worker who died when she was young. Her mother, Julieta Rossi, was a teacher who recognized early on her daughter's talent for writing and did not hesitate to encourage her, as well as her love of music and science. As a tribute to her, the writer always used her second last name. The family's economic situation was complicated. Her uncle, a bachelor, and communist owned a library and also used to lend her books.

Besides being a writer, she was a teacher. She attended primary school and high school in public institutions and, later, she was admitted to the Instituto de Profesores Artigas, where she began to study Biology, but ended up graduating as a teacher of Comparative Literature. She won the chair of that subject and taught for eleven years, until her exile in 1972.

Cristina Peri Rossi with a cat.
Cristina Peri Rossi with a cat.

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El País in February 2010, when asked which books made her become a writer, Peri Rossi answered: "Like the girls of my generation, Little Women, by L. M. Alcott. Later, A Room of One's Own, by V. Woolf, The Second Sex, by Simone de Beauvoir; Baby Dearest, by W. Saroyan, and the stories of Chekhov and Salinger".

Her first work was a collection of short stories, Viviendo ("Living"), which was published in 1963. The second: Los museos abandonados (The Abandoned Museums), in 1969. That same year she also wrote a novel: El libro de mis primos (The Book of My Cousins). After these publications, she began to be recognized as one of the most important writers of her generation. She received the Arca Youth Prize (1968) and the Marcha Prize.

Later would come the novels El amor es una droga dura (1999) ("Love is a hard drug") and Todo lo que no te pude decir (2017) ("Everything I couldn't tell you"), as well as the short stories Habitaciones privadas (2012) ("Private Rooms") and Los amores equivocados (2015) ("The wrong loves"), almost all published by Menoscuarto publishing house.

Cristina Peri Rossi
Cristina Peri Rossi

Adhering to the Frente Amplio ("Broad Front") as an independent member and participant of the magazine Marcha, closed by the military, at the age of 31 she decided to go into exile in Spain, threatened by the Uruguayan military dictatorship -which lasted until 1985-, which prohibited her work and the mention of her name in the media.

When, in 1974, the Spanish government collaborated with the Uruguayan government to refuse to re-authorize her Spanish passport, she traveled to Paris with her friend Julio Cortázar. She stayed there for two years until she returned to Spain, where she settled in the city of Barcelona, where she has lived until the present day. In interviews, she mentioned that she suffered a lot in exile and that she even thought of committing suicide. Today, the author seems to have grown accustomed to longing for Uruguay. She considers herself a citizen of the world. Her favorite cities are Montevideo, Barcelona, Berlin, San Francisco, and New York, and her chosen landscape is the sea.

Her work includes a wide variety of narrative works, poetry, essays, and a journalistic collection that has been translated into 15 languages.

The Uruguayan writer Cristina Peri Rossi.
The Uruguayan writer Cristina Peri Rossi.

Cervantes Prize

In that same interview with El país, she was asked who should win the Cervantes Prize. "Cristina Peri Rossi, to keep on writing," she said. She will continue writing then because as of yesterday she is the sixth woman to receive the award. The last of them had been the also Uruguayan Ida Vitale, after the Spanish María Zambrano (1988) and Ana María Matute (2010), the Cuban Dulce María Loynaz (1992) and the Mexican Elena Poniatowska (2013).

The Cervantes is an award granted annually by the Spanish Ministry of Culture -at the proposal of the Association of Spanish Language Academies-, which consists of 125,000 euros and acknowledges "the public testimony of admiration for the figure of a writer, regardless of his or her nationality, who, with his or her work as a whole, has contributed to enriching the Hispanic literary legacy".

In announcing this year's winner, the Spanish Minister of Culture, Miquel Iceta, said that the jury wanted to highlight how Peri Rossi's work has focused on "the condition of women and sexuality". Iceta also pointed out that the Cervantes prize recognizes the bridge between the two shores that Peri Rossi has built with her work: "a perpetual reminder of exile".

Which is my home?
Where do I live?
My home is the writing
I inhabit it as the home of the wayward daughter
the prodigal
the one who always returns to find the familiar faces
the only fire that will not be extinguished.
Cristina Peri Rossi
Cristina Peri Rossi

These were the verses of Peri Rossi that Iceta read at the announcement of the award.

Source: Argentina.gob, other sources: Cristina Peri Rossi web page, Poesía a media voz, Biografías y vidas, El país newspaper.