Mauricio Rosencof

Uruguay

© Carlos Contrera

 

 

Rosencof was born in Uruguay in 1933, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants. Initially Rosencof worked as a journalist, writer and literary and artistic director. He became politically active, finally joining the National Liberation Movement Tupamaros. He was arrested in 1972 and sentenced to a 13 years’ solitary confinement in a 2-square-metre cell, a “hostage” of the military regime.

 

In The Private Life of Tota (“La vida privada de la Tota”), the neighborhood's in turmoil. The police arrived to raid the house of la Tota, apparently looking for her nephew, Antonio. The neighbors are crowded into the sidewalk, waiting for what might happen as they exchange ideas, suppositions, myths, gossip. Nobody knows much. But there is a denunciation, two shots were heard. They are looking for a body. This is the starting point for revealing the story of Tota, amiable character who is part of the neighborhood stage, someone who fights bravely to overcome loneliness. Other creatures parade along with her, born of the imagination and memory of Mauricio Rosencof, who puts them on stage with compassionate gaze and deep understanding of the human essence.

The nostalgia, the tenderness and the small joys of people so heroic as well as inconsequential are part of the charm of this book, which is inscribed within the Rosencofian saga of a neighborhood that contains in itself the metaphor of our society. The volume is completed with an essay by Professor Leticia Collazo on this fictional space and its characters, and illuminates from a different perspective the creation of one of the most relevant writers of the last decades in Uruguay.

 

 

Since Rosencof was freed in 1985 during a general amnesty he has been invited to numerous conferences and congresses at the most important universities in Europe and America. His dramatic works have been performed internationally. His prose texts The Bataraz (“El Bataraz”) and The Letters That Never Came (“Las cartas que no llegaron”) are yet to be discovered.

In Las cartas que no llegaron young Moishe talks about his oppressive childhood and youth, which were marked by war, loss, flight and indomitable courage. As an adult Moishe will report again later from La Paz. His letters are evidence of deep humanity that has survived death, letters full of music, macabre humour and sadness which never arrived. And those in El Bataraz were never written, for the first-person narrator had neither paper nor pen at his disposal to satisfy his urgent need to communicate during his years of solitary confinement. He does so with a cock, the bataraz. With fascination the reader enters into the narrator’s physical and mental world and asks himself, whether the bataraz actually existed: having shared the narrator’s fate of imprisonment and torture and having assumed the role of conversation partner, in the end, this cell companion mutates into his betrayer and executor.

 

Las cartas que no llegaron: Every formulation is pointed and apt, its unpretentious style polished and exact, without a single superfluous word.

Eva Massingue, LITERATURNACHRICHTEN

 

In his novel The Fire Messenger (“El enviado del fuego”), Rosencof passes the word on to the inhabitants of a mental home in a long monologue, which argues for unconditional love, tenderness, human dignity and humour being the only weapons against discontentment in every day life.

 

The sonnets entitled The Daisy (“La Margarita”), which were written in prison and smuggled out in the seams of clothes, tell in simple words the story of a first love, of an imaginary Margarita, a girl from the neighbourhood. In 1994 the popular Uruguayan rock musician Jaime Roos put 15 of the 25 sonnets to music. The poems and CD have now been reissued in an attractive new edition, together with interviews with those involved.


Like the sonnets, Rosencof’s work A Gondola Anchored in the Corner (“Una góndola ancló en la esquina”) evokes the atmosphere of the southern quarter of Montevideo at the beginning of the 1960s. The wonderfully woven story tells of a confetti salesman who, on his search for love, makes a pact with the devil, and henceforth meanders through the area on a gondola until he finally finds happiness. The events – which include other small romantic dramas – are observed and commented on by four card players in the local café. It may not appear so at first, but they take on the very essentials of life.

 

In Half World (“Medio Mundo”) the author reflects on humanity and on the urgent need for man to take control of his destiny, a destiny that only depends on his strength and conviction, because God, this apparently omnipotent and eternal figure, created man as an intelligent and free being, even though the reality, both actual and historic, reveals that he left a lot of unfinished business, with many unpleasant events to follow.

In this novel the omnipotent God figure has lost his strength and in a last attempt to exercise his absolute control he cannot think of anything else to do but call a meeting, 2,000 years later, in a very non biblical setting, a suburb of Montevideo, with the protagonists of that biblical story: Jesus of Nazareth, Mary, Judas, Mary Magdalene and the fishermen. All these characters are called together for this particular meeting without knowing why or who it is that has brought them together. Only at the end, at the last supper, which on this occasion is a more human affair, with exquisite delicacies, do they realise that the God who called them together has no more cards to play. This punishing God who tried to correct a civilisation by drowning it in a flood and who refrained from acting during Hiroshima and Auschwitz, has nothing left to offer. Now everything is in our hands alone.

In this latest novel, Rosencof calls on the strength of humanity, on the strength of everything and every one of us to build a better future, one that is freer and less dark. In the rewriting of certain Biblical passages, man is given that unique opportunity, beyond Biblical maxims: to love each other.

 

 

 

Rights:

 

Novels:

The Private Life of Tota (“La vida privada de la Tota”)

Montevideo: Alfaguara 2019, 146 p.

 

Dońa Rosa's Little Carriage (“La calesita de Dońa Rosa”)

Montevideo: Alfaguara 2017, 95 p.

 

Ten Minutes (“Diez Minutos”)

Montevideo: Alfaguara 2013, 133 p.

 

Room 9 (“Sala 8”)

Montevideo: Alfaguara digital 2012, 142 p.

Italy: Nova Delphi

 

Half World (“Medio mundo”)

Montevideo: Alfaguara 2009, 162 p.

Italy: David Iori

 

A Gondola Anchored in the Corner (“Una góndola ancló en la esquina”)

Montevideo: Alfaguara 2007, 200 p.

Italy: David Iori

 

The Neighbourhood Was a Party (“El barrio era una fiesta”)

Montevideo: Alfaguara 2005, 174 p.

Italy: Noripios Spain: Alcalá 2011

 

The Fire Messenger (“El enviado del fuego”)

Montevideo: Alfaguara 2004, 177 p.

Germany: Edition Köln 2007

 

The Letters That Never Came (“Las cartas que no llegaron”)

Montevideo: Alfaguara 2000, 174 p.

(Film rights under option)

Brazil: Record 2013 France: Les Folies d’ Encre 2009 Germany: Residenz 1997 (extracts), Edition Köln 2004 Italy: Le Lettere 2008, Nova Delphi Spain: Alcalá 2014 US: University of New Mexico Press 2004, Texas Tech University Press 2014

 

The Bataraz (“El Bataraz”)

Montevideo: Alfaguara 1999, 190 p.

France: Les Folies d’ Encre 2011 Germany: Libertäre Assoziation 1995 Spain: Alcalá

 

 

Other texts:

Memories of the Jail (“Memorias del calabozo”)

Montevideo: Banda Oriental, 3 vols.

(With Ńato Fernandez Huidobro)

Film directed by Álvaro Brechner under the title "Una noche de 12 ańos" (A Night of 12 Years),

produced by Tornasol Film, release in September 2018

Germany: Libertäre Assoziation 1990 Greece: Koukkida Italy: Iacobelli 2009 The Netherlands: Ravijn 1993 Spain: Txalaparta 1993, 2018 Turkey: 1992

 

When the Jail Became a Theatre Workshop (“Als der Kerker zur Theaterwerkstatt wurde”)

(speeches and interviews)

Germany: Büro für Kultur- und Medienprojekte 1995

 

Dog’s Life (“Hundeleben”)

(poetry, speeches and interviews)

Germany: Libertäre Assoziation 1990 Turkey: Belge 1992

 

Conversations with the Espadrille (“Conversaciones con la Alpargata”)

Montevideo: Arca 1989, 153 p.;

Banda Oriental 2004, 94 p., with a foreword by Mario Benedetti.

France: Le rayon littéraire US: The Kenyion Review, vol. 13, 3, 1991

 

 

Participation in anthologies:

Incomplete Alphabet of Jewish Humour (“Abécédaire incomplet de l'humour juif”)

France: Folies d’Encre 2011

 

 

For children:

How Great It Is to Be Small (“Lo grande que es ser chiquito”)

Montevideo: Alfaguara 2008, 30 p.

Spain: Alcalá

 

Legends of the Afternoon Grandfather (“Leyendas del abuelo de la tarde”)

Montevideo: Alfaguara 2004, 62 p.

Germany: Libertäre Assoziation 1991 Italy: Nuova Delphi Spain: Alcalá

 

 

Poetry:

The Daisy (“La Margarita”)

new edition by Alfaguara 2006, 66 p. (book + CD)