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Juan Gelman Papers, 1927-2014 at Princeton University Library

Juan Gelman portrait (Juan Gelman Papers, Box B-000759, folder 6) Juan Gelman portrait (Juan Gelman Papers, Box B-000759, folder 6)

The Princeton University Library’s Manuscripts Division has recently added the papers of the poet, translator and journalist Juan Gelman (1930-2014) to its premier collection of archives, manuscripts, and correspondence by Latin American writers and intellectuals.

Juan Gelman, considered by some critics to be the most important Argentinean poet of his generation, was born in Buenos Aires to Jewish immigrants from Ukraine.  Among his most important works of poetry are Violín y otras cuestiones (1956), El juego en que andamos (1959), Velorio del solo (1961), Gotán (1962), Cólera Buey (1964), Los poemas de Sidney West (1969), Fábulas (1971), Hechos y relaciones (1980) and Anunciaciones (1988).  Carlos Monsiváis described his work as “a back and forth between the atmospheres of the everyday and reflections on poetry writing, a sorrow for the lost homeland, for the loved ones destroyed by the dictatorship, for the revolution that never came, for exile compensated by a new sense of rootedness, by the composition of circumstances.”  Gelman’s work as a journalist started in 1954 when he became an editor of La Hora. From the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, he was editor and columnist for various left-leaning publications including Confirmado, Panorama, La Opinión, and Crisis. Years later, he would become a prolific contributor of the newspaper Página/12.

Gelman was forced into exile from Argentina after the 1976 military coup.  He lived in Europe until 1988, then in the United States and later in Mexico City where he settled permanently.  In 1976, his 20-year-old son and his son’s wife, who was seven months pregnant, became part of the thousands of desaparecidos or vanished by the state-sponsored terrorist campaign conducted by Argentina’s military junta. Gelman’s search for information about his family members’ fates made him a symbol of the fight for human rights. Years later he was able to find and identify the remains of his son, and he finally located his granddaughter in 2000.

Gelman’s literary achievements were recognized in 2007 by the Cervantes Prize, the highest literary honour in the Spanish-speaking world.  He also received, among many other awards and recognitions, Argentina’s National Poetry Prize in 1997, the Premio de Literatura Latinoamericana y del Caribe Juan Rulfo in 2000, and the Premio Reina Sofía de Poesía Iberoamericana in 2005.

Already open to researchers, the archive contains handwritten, typewritten, and printout drafts and notes of Juan Gelman’s writings, audiovisual materials, photographs, correspondence, newspaper clippings, printed materials, awards, analog and born-digital research and investigation files related to the search for his disappeared family members, and documentation related to politics and human rights abuses in Argentina and Uruguay.

A detailed finding aid created by Elvia Arroyo-Ramírez.

Fernando Acosta-Rodríguez
Librarian for Latin American, Iberian and Latino Studies Princeton University Library

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