Ida Vitale

Biography of Ida Vitale, distinguished Uruguayan poet, translator, essayist, teacher and literary critic.

Member of the artistic movement called “Generation of 45” and representative of “essentialist” poetry.

Click here if you want to see this biography in Spanish translation

Deserved tributes to the poet Ida Vitale

Ida Vitale was chosen to receive the 2018 Cervantes Prize for “poetic strength in the field of the Spanish language; and for having a poetic, intellectual, critical trajectory; and for being a first-rate translator “.

On April 24, 2019, one year after receiving the award, the King and Queen of Spain, Felipe VI and Letizia offered her a tribute lunch at the Royal Palace of Madrid.

The Cervantes Prize is the most important of literature in Spanish. It is delivered in a solemn ceremony, presided over by the Kings of Spain, at the University of Henares.

The Uruguayan poet is the fifth woman in the Cervantes Prize list and broke the custom of awarding the prize to a Spaniard in even-numbered years.

Ida Vitale is a woman of almost legendary courage. Due to her long and intense life, 95 years, she has become an exceptional witness of Latin America and its literature.

Ida Vitale
The poet Ida Vitale at the Madrid Student Residence, in November 2018. Credit: web elmundo.es/cultura/literatura

Childhood of the Uruguayan poet Ida Vitale

Ida Vitale was born in Montevideo, on November 2, 1923. She is part of the fourth generation of Italian emigrants in Uruguay.

Her family atmosphere was that of a cultured and cosmopolitan family. Four newspapers came to her house every day that contained their respective cultural pages. In these Uruguayan newspapers, it was normal for poems to be included.

She studied Humanities in Uruguay and practiced the teaching profession since 1947.

Ida Vitale, married couples and children

In 1950 she married the literary critic Ángel Rama and had two children: Amparo (1951) and Claudio (1954).

Angel Rama
Ángel Rama Facal Uruguayan writer born in 1926 and considered one of the main Latin American essayists and critics. Credit: web inccubadora.org

After 19 years of marriage, Ida Vitale and Angel Rama separated in 1969.

Enrique Fierro, a Uruguayan poet, had been a student of Ángel Rama, one of the great Uruguayan intellectuals. He met Ida Vitale in 1970 and they got married. He was 22 years old; she, 40.

Ida Vitale Enrique Fierro
Enrique Fierro Uruguayan poet, literary critic, translator and professor. Credit: web minovioesmasjoven.com

Journalistic activities of the poet Ida Vitale

Until 1974, that is, for more than 20 years, Ida Vitale had a great literary and journalistic activity:

  • She collaborated in the weekly “Marcha”;
  • Between 1962 and 1964 she directed the literary page of the Uruguayan newspaper “Época”.
  • She was co-director of the magazine “Clinamen”
  • She was part of the management of the magazine “Maldor”.

In 1974, when the military dictatorship in Uruguay had begun, she went into exile with her husband in Mexico. In that country, the writer Octavio Paz introduced her to the advisory committee of the magazine “Vuelta”.

In addition, she participated in the founding of the newspaper “Uno Más Uno” and continued dedicated to teaching at the “Colegio de México“.

Her activity was soon directed towards literature

Her enormous intellectual restlessness and her great capacity for work led her towards essays and literary criticism.

There were numerous specialized newspapers and magazines that knew how to take advantage of her talent.

Some of the newspapers in which he wrote were: “El País”, “Marcha”, “Época”, “Jaque“.

Among the magazines that published her articles, we can mention: “Clinamen”; “Grab”; “Maldoror”; “Crisis” of Buenos Aires; “Eco” from Bogotá; “Vuelta” and “Uno más uno” from Mexico; “The fish and the snake” from Nicaragua.

In addition, she translated books for the “Fondo de Cultura Económica“; she gave lectures and participated in literary juries.

Return to Uruguay of the famous poet

Ida Vitale returned to Uruguay in 1984, when the military dictatorship ended and democracy returned.

When she lived in Montevideo, she directed the cultural page of the weekly “Jaque”. However, she stayed only a few years in Uruguay. She emigrated again, although this time to the United States.

In 1989 she settled in Austin (Texas) with her second husband, also the poet Enrique Fierro. They lived in Texas for 28 years, until Enrique Fierro passed away. In 2016, she decided to return to Montevideo, where she currently resides.

Literary work of Ida Vitale

Ida Vitale is part of the tradition of the Latin American historical avant-gardes.

She is representative of essentialist poetry. Her work is characterized by short poems, a search for the meaning of words and a metaliterary character.

She is considered a member of the Generation of 45, with other Uruguayan writers such as Juan Carlos Onetti, Carlos Maggi or Idea Vilariño.

She has been a preferred reader of historical works and admirer of Uruguayan and Latin American poets: Delmira Agustini, María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira. In particular, Gabriela Mistral, who inclined her to lyrical poetry.

Her two great references were José Bergamín, her teacher in Montevideo; and Juan Ramón Jiménez, whom he met in person.

As a translator, Ida Vitale has translated particularly from French and Italian. Among the authors of its versions are, especially: Simone de Beauvoir and Luigi Pirandello.

A small sample of the beautiful poetry of Ida Vitale

Titulada «Agosto, Santa Rosa».
Una lluvia de un día puede no acabar nunca,
puede en gotas,
en hojas de amarilla tristeza
irnos cambiando el cielo todo, el aire,
en torva inundación la luz,
triste, en silencio y negra,
como un mirlo mojado.

Deshecha piel, deshecho cuerpo de agua
destrozándose en torre y pararrayos,
me sobreviene, se me viene sobre
mi altura tantas veces,
mojándome, mugiendo, compartiendo
mi ropa y mis zapatos,
también mi sola lágrima tan salida de madre.

Miro la tarde de hora en hora,
miro de buscarle la cara
con tierna proposición de acento,
miro de perderle pavor,
pero me da la espalda puesta ya a anochecer.

Miro todo tan malo, tan acérrimo y hosco.
¡Qué fácil desalmarse,
ser con muy buenos modos de piedra,
quedar sola, gritando como un árbol,
por cada rama temporal,
muriéndome de agosto!

Entitled “August, Santa Rosa”.
One day’s rain may never end
can in drops,
in sheets of yellow sadness
change the whole sky, the air,
in grim flood the light,
sad, silent and black,
like a wet blackbird.

Undone skin, undone body of water
shattering in tower and lightning rod,
it comes to me, it comes to me
my height so many times,
getting wet, mooing, sharing
my clothes and my shoes,
also my single tear so out of mother.

I look at the afternoon from hour to hour,
I look to find his face
with a tender accent proposition,
I look to lose fear,
but he turns his back on me already at dusk.

I look at everything so bad, so staunch and sullen.
How easy to lose heart
be with very good stone manners,
left alone, screaming like a tree,
for each temporal branch,
dying of August!

Awards that Ida Vitale has received

ida Vitale Queen Sofia
Ida Vitale receiving the Reina Sofía Award in 2015. Credit: web vallejoandcompany.com

In recent years, her merits have earned her several awards:

  • The Octavio Paz International Prize for Poetry and Essay (2009)
  • Alfonso Reyes International Award (2014)
  • The Reina Sofía Prize for Ibero-American Poetry (2015),
  • Federico García Lorca International Poetry Prize (2016),
  • The Max Jacob Award (2017)
  • FIL Prize for Literature in Romance Languages ​​(2018)
  • The Cervantes Prize (2018)

In 2010, she was named Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of the Republic of Uruguay.

Click here if you want to see this biography in Spanish translation

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