Cristina Peri Rossi Essay - Critical Essays

Rossi, Cristina Peri


Cristina Peri Rossi 1941-

Uruguayan novelist, short story writer, biographer, essayist, and poet.

The following entry presents an overview of Peri Rossi's life and career through 2000.

An Uruguayan writer living in exile in Spain, Peri Rossi is the author of lyrical poetry and prose that portrays the difficulties of life under a dictatorial government and as a political expatriate. Her darkly humorous writings reflect a strong opposition to the inequities of class and sexual division and to the social and political repression that exist within dictatorial states. Peri Rossi's works also address the gender divisions in modern society and often include elements of eroticism. Her novels, poetry, and short fiction are classified by many reviewers as having fantastic, satirical, and surrealistic elements.

Biographical Information

Peri Rossi was born on November 12, 1941, in Montevideo, Uruguay. In 1963 she published her first volume of short stories, Viviendo. For several years, she worked as a professor of literature in Montevideo. In 1972 she fled the repressive political system and eventual coup d'état in Uruguay. Settling in Barcelona, Spain, Peri Rossi was appointed as a professor of comparative literature at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. She has worked as a journalist and translator and continues to publish novels, poetry, and short stories, which are informed by her life as a political exile. Peri Rossi has received several awards for her work, including the Benito Perez Galdos Prize in 1980 and the City of Barcelona Prize in 1991.

Major Works

Because of her own experience under a dictatorial government and her life as a political exile, Peri Rossi's work often addresses the effect of oppression and political violence on the individual. Her novel, La nave de los locos (1984; The Ship of Fools), follows the peripatetic Equis, also known as Ecks, a political expatriate who is stuck on a never-ending journey. While touring various cities, his alienation and displacement is reflected in his shallow romantic encounters and his inability to effectively communicate with the world around him. In 1992 Peri Rossi released La última noche de Dostoievski (1992; Dostoevsky's Last Night). The novel follows Jorge, a magazine journalist who has an obsessive fascination with gambling. Like the Russian writer Feodor Dostoevsky, Jorge rationalizes his addiction as a way of escaping the dullness of his everyday life. In her short fiction, Peri Rossi has often employed the perspective of children to gain deep insight on the nature of adulthood. She has portrayed children as innocent yet aware of the absurdities and paradoxes of existence. The title story of La rebelión de los niños (1980) chronicles the “re-education” of the children of the dead or imprisoned victims of the coup d'état in Uruguay. When one of the children wins an art contest with a kaleidoscopic sculpture of glass tubes and liquid, she then turns her creation into a fireball, killing everyone in the school. In 1971 Peri Rossi published Evohé, a collection of verse that generated critical controversy over its candid and homoerotic content. Her essays have also explored themes of displacement and eroticism, as evidenced by the pieces in the collection Fantasías eróticas (1991).

Critical Reception

Commentators have praised Peri Rossi's utilization of fantastic and surrealistic elements in her works, asserting that they provide an unique perspective on the world. The erotic aspects of her poetry and prose have inspired a wealth of critical commentary, as reviewers have attempted to situate her work within the context of feminist and lesbian literature. Political issues have been a central concern of her oeuvre, and critics have often found parallels between her life as a political exile and her work. In fact, Peri Rossi's experience of living under a repressive and violent dictatorship is frequently identified as the major recurring theme in her writing. Her works that focus on the world of children have been viewed as allegories that explore the alienation and displacement of the modern world. Peri Rossi's work has often been compared to the works of other female Latin American writers, such as Luisa Valenzuela, Marta Traba, Pia Barros, and Isabel Allende.

Principal Works

Viviendo (short stories) 1963

El libro de mis primos (novel) 1969

Los museos abandonados (short stories) 1969

Indicios pánicos (poetry and short stories) 1970

Evohé: poemas eróticos (poetry) 1971

Descripción de un naufragio (poetry) 1975

Diáspora (poetry) 1976

La tarde del dinosaurio (short stories) 1976

Linguística general (poetry) 1979

La rebelión de los niños (short stories) 1980

El museo de los esfuerzos inútiles [The Museum of Useless Efforts] (short stories and essays) 1983

La nave de los locos [The Ship of Fools] (novel) 1984

Una pasión prohibida [A Forbidden Passion] (short stories) 1986

Europa después de la lluvia (poetry) 1987

Cosmoagonías (short stories) 1988

Solitario de amor [Solitaire of Love] (novel) 1988

Babel bárbara (poetry) 1990

Fantasías eróticas (essays) 1991

La última noche de Dostoievski [Dostoevsky's Last Night] (novel) 1992

Poemas de amor y desamor (poetry) 2000

Julio Cortázar (biography) 2001


Amaryll B. Chanady (essay date summer 1983)

SOURCE: Chanady, Amaryll B. “Cristina Peri Rossi and the Other Side of Reality.” Antigonish Review 54 (summer 1983): 44–48.

[In the following essay, Chanady examines the unique perspective in Peri Rossi's work and argues that through Peri Rossi's prose “we get a different insight into our own experiences and the world around us.”]

The first time I saw Cristina Peri Rossi was in Paris, at a conference on Latin American Literature held at the Unesco. She was sitting between her famous Uruguayan compatriot, Mario Benedetti, and the novelist Antonio Skármeta from Chile. The three were being interviewed in front of a group of professors, whose eyes would wander from the faces of the authors to the brilliant water jugs, and occasionally to some distant point as they gave in to the drowsiness of the fourth day of lectures and discussion. What immediately drew my attention to the figure in the centre of the long table was the extreme seriousness of Cristina Peri Rossi's gaze and the liveliness of her eyes. They would rapidly sweep the audience without seeming to miss a single detail and then focus pensively on the air in front of her as if she were suddenly inspired by something she had seen, and had started to imagine an absurd and fantastic plot for her next short story. She is one of those authors who can create a masterpiece from any experience and construct a story on the basis of a single glance or word exchanged between two people.

By one of those strange coincidences that we attribute to mere chance, I happened to meet Cristina Peri Rossi again the following week in Madrid. Over sweet, black coffee in miniscule cups she told me that, like so many poets, novelists and critics, she had to flee the turmoil of an impending coup d'etat in her native- Uruguay. With only ten dollars in her pocket and no luggage that would arose the suspicion of the authorities, she escaped on a boat in the middle of the night and sought refuge in Barcelona, where she has been living for the past eleven years. Soon after Uruguay was shaken by the coup that Cristina had foreseen. In fact, she had written a short story in 1971 in which she imagined the political events that were to take place two years later. Entitled “The Rebellion of the Children”1, the story describes the “re-education” of the sons and daughters of dead or imprisoned victims of the coup. The children are taken in by the “best and most patriotic families of the country, those who, in order to destroy the dangerous seed of subversion that (they) may have inherited, like a disease in the dark room of the genes, kindly offered their services to guard (them), re-educate (them) …” (p. 104). At an art workshop and competition organized by the government, a fourteen-year-old girl creates a kaleidoscopic machine of glass tubes and sprinkling water which wins first prize. As the audience is congratulating her, she activates the mechanism of the device, which spews out streams of gasoline all over the assembly, hurling the people against the walls with its sheer force and preventing them from opening doors and windows. A flame thrown into the hall converts everything into a blazing pyre. “The Rebellion of the Children” was condemned by the authorities as well as by their opponents, who considered it unrealistically pessimistic after Uruguay's democratic past. But the author's prediction was closer to reality than they suspected.

Cristina Peri Rossi is the author of four books of poetry and six collections of short stories, the last of which has just appeared in Spain with a rather strange title—The Museum of Useless Efforts. The title story introduces us into a fascinating universe, which, by its very absurdity, casts doubt on those...

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Cristina Peri Rossi and Psiche Hughes (interview date 1984)

SOURCE: Peri Rossi, Cristina, and Psiche Hughes. “Interview with Cristina Peri Rossi.” In Unheard Words: Women and Literature in Africa, the Arab World, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America, edited by Mineke Schipper, pp. 255–74. London: Allison & Busby, 1984.

[In the following interview, Peri Rossi discusses the stylistic and thematic aspects of her work and her role as a female Latin American author.]

Cristina Peri Rossi was born in Montevideo in 1941. Since 1972 she has been living as an exile in Barcelona. She is the author of several volumes of poetry: Evohé (1971), Descripción de un naufragio (1974), Diáspora (1976) and...

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Amy Kaminsky (essay date 1987)

SOURCE: Kaminsky, Amy. “Gender and Exile in Cristina Peri Rossi.” In Continental, Latin-American and Francophone Women Writers, edited by Eunice Myers and Ginette Adamson, pp. 149–59. Lanham: Md.: University Press of America, 1987.

[In the following essay, Kaminsky explores the ways in which gender and exile interact in Peri Rossi's work following the 1972 military coup in Uruguay.]

According to Angel Rama, “literary production in forced or voluntary exile is almost a continental standard from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego” (17).1 Though Rama may have overstated his case, it is certainly true that exile is a condition of literary production in much of...

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Mercedes M. de Rodríguez (essay date 1989)

SOURCE: de Rodríguez, Mercedes M. “Oneiric Riddles in Peri Rossi's La nave de los locos.RLA 1 (1989): 521–27.

[In the following essay, Rodríguez provides a psychoanalytic perspective on the theme of exile in La nave de los locos.]

La nave de los locos has been generally acknowledged as Cristina Peri Rossi's consummate novel on the subject of exile, a persistent theme in her previous works, particularly in her poetry and short stories. It seems pertinent to observe, however, that Peri Rossi renders in this novel her account of two different kinds of exile by means of a rhetorical mode of discourse. At one level, she deals with exile as banishment...

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Elia Kantaris (essay date July 1989)

SOURCE: Kantaris, Elia. “The Politics of Desire: Alienation and Identity in the Work of Marta Traba and Cristina Peri Rossi.” Forum for Modern Language Studies 25, no. 3 (July 1989): 248–64.

[In the following essay, Kantaris argues that both the work of Marta Traba and Peri Rossi deal with the mechanisms of dictatorship, particularly the function of alienation and group identity.]

In an essay entitled “Garcia Márquez y el arte del reportaje: de Lukács al post-boom”1, the (exiled) Paraguayan critic Juan Manuel Marcos describes how the military dictatorships which sprung up in the “Cono Sur” of South America during the 1970s provoked a decisive...

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Jöran Mjöberg (review date winter 1990)

SOURCE: Mjöberg, Jöran. Review of La rebelión de los niños, by Cristina Peri Rossi. World Literature Today 64, no. 1 (winter 1990): 79.

[In the following review, Mjöberg offers a positive assessment of La rebelión de los niños.]

Cristina Peri Rossi hails from Uruguay, but in 1971 she moved to Spain as an exile and for the last few years has been residing in Sweden. She has published at least seven books, including poems, short stories, and a novel. She worked first as a teacher and then as a political journalist, collaborating with such writers as Eduardo Galeano, Juan Carlos Onetti, and Angel Rama. Feminist concerns have also informed her work.


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Gustavo San Román (essay date April 1990)

SOURCE: San Román, Gustavo. “Fantastic Political Allegory in the Early Work of Cristina Peri Rossi.” Bulletin of Hispanic Studies LXVII, no. 2 (April 1990): 151–64.

[In the following essay, Román traces the role of political allegory in Peri Rossi's work.]

‘eso es una de mis debilidades: la alegoría’1

Although there has been a change of emphasis in what can loosely be called the themes of Cristina Peri Rossi (b. 1941) over the years, some basic preoccupations and literary strategies have remained constant throughout her highly productive career as poet and prose writer. Among her preoccupations...

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Cynthia A. Schmidt (essay date fall–winter 1990)

SOURCE: Schmidt, Cynthia A. “A Satiric Perspective on the Experience of Exile in the Short Fiction of Cristina Peri Rossi.” Americas Review 18, nos. 3–4 (fall–winter 1990): 218–26.

[In the following essay, Schmidt explores Peri Rossi's satiric treatment of exile in “La tarde del dinosaurio” and “La influencia de Edgar Allan Poe en la poesía de Raimuno Arias.”]

Cristina Peri Rossi's work was already well-known in her native Uruguay when she went into exile in Spain in 1972. Her years in exile have been highly productive. In addition to literary translations and journalistic writing, she has published four volumes of poetry, five collections of short...

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Gabriela Mora (essay date 1990)

SOURCE: Mora, Gabriela. “Enigmas and Subversions in Cristina Peri Rossi's La nave de los locos [Ship of Fools.]” In Splintering Darkness: Latin American Women Writers in Search of Themselves, edited by Lucia Guerra Cunningham, pp. 19–30. Pittsburgh: Latin American Literary Review Press, 1990.

[In the following essay, Mora provides a thematic and stylistic analysis of La nave de los locos, focusing on the story's ambiguity and emphasis on harmony.]

The Uruguayan Cristina Peri Rossi has published four books of poetry and eight of prose including two novels and six collections of stories. Committed to change in literature, politics and sexual...

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Christine Arkinstall (essay date 1992)

SOURCE: Arkinstall, Christine. “Fabrics and Fabrications in Cristina Peri Rossi's La nave de los locos.” In Travellers' Tales, Real and Imaginary, in the Hispanic World and Its Literature, edited by Alun Kenwood, pp. 150–58. Melbourne: Voz Hispanica, 1992.

[In the following essay, Arkinstall analyzes Peri Rossi's use of the Tapestry of the Creation from the Gerona Cathedral and sixteenth-century paintings as metaphors in La nave de los locos.]

The novel La nave de los locos by the Uruguayan writer, Cristina Peri Rossi, resident in Spain since 1972, has close links with her own life. The perpetual state of exile suffered by her character Equis or...

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Lorraine Elena Roses (review date July 1993)

SOURCE: Roses, Lorraine Elena. “A Wandering Magician.” Women's Review of Books 10, nos. 10–11 (July 1993): 35–36.

[In the following favorable review of A Forbidden Passion, Roses compares Peri Rossi with the Latin-American writers Isabel Allende and Luisa Valenzuela.]

If you aren't already a devotee of magical realism, a literary mode from Latin America whose hallmarks are levitating women, dissolving gypsies, time warps, invisible house guests and other pregnant inversions of fantasy and reality, let Cristina Peri Rossi initiate you into its riches. In her eerie world, a lone fallen angel exists unnoticed amid the grinding anomie and environmental...

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Rosemary Geisdorfer Feal (essay date 1995)

SOURCE: Feal, Geisdorfer Rosemary. “Cristina Peri Rossi and the Erotic Imagination.” In Reinterpretating the Spanish American Essay: Women Writers of the 19th and 20th Centuries, edited by Doris Meyers, pp. 215–26. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995.

[In the following essay, Feal argues that Peri Rossi's treatment of the erotic in Fantasías eróticas is unconventional, asserting that the essays break “with traditional notions of that genre.”]

New Year's Eve, 1989. She walks through the door at Daniel's, the small, intimate lesbian bar in Barcelona, after being recognized by the scrutinizing eye of the owner, who guards over her business as if it...

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Eric Henager (essay date 1996)

SOURCE: Henager, Eric. “Girls and Other Problems: The Young Male Character in Two Short Stories by Cristina Peri Rossi.” RLA 8 (1996): 509–14.

[In the following essay, Henager examines the portrayal of young male characters in Peri Rossi's “La índole del lenguaje” and “La navidad de los lagartos.”]

Cristina Peri Rossi's short stories often incorporate the, perspective of children into adult problems. With only a few notable exceptions,1 the children at the center of the stories are male, and often their encounters with females play significant roles in the tales' development. Several of the stories present young male characters who are only...

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Andrea L. Bell (essay date summer 1996)

SOURCE: Bell, Andrea L. “Creating Space in the Margins: Power and Identity in the ‘Cuentos Breves’ of Pia Barros and Cristina Peri Rossi.” Studies in Short Fiction 33, no. 3 (summer 1996): 345–43.

[In the following essay, Bell explores Pia Barros and Peri Rossi's use of the cuento breve [brief short story] to deal with issues such as oppression, misogyny, and the nature of identity.]

Creative expression, whether public or private, can be read as the manifestation of an individual's desire for freedom, for empowered selfhood, and for inclusion in the discourses of one's community. Pia Barros and Cristina Peri Rossi, two Latin American women who have...

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Mary S. Gossy (essay date 1996)

SOURCE: Gossy, Mary S. “Not So Lonely: A Butch-Femme Reading of Cristina Peri Rossi's Solitario de amor.” In Bodies and Biases: Sexualities in Hispanic Cultures and Literature, edited by David William Foster and Roberto Reis, pp. 238–45. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.

[In the following essay, Gossy provides a detailed reading of Solitario de amor as a lesbian novel.]

When I first heard that Cristina Peri Rossi had published an erotic novel I looked forward to Solitario de amor's being an addition to the fairly small population of “out” lesbian novels published in Spanish. I opened the book at random in a bookstore in...

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Linda Gould Levine (essay date 1996)

SOURCE: Levine, Linda Gould. “Cristina Peri Rossi's Gender Project: Rewriting Male Subjectivity and Sexuality in Solitario de amor.” In Latin American Women's Writing: Feminist Readings in Theory and Crisis, edited by Anny Brooksbank Jones and Catherine Davies, pp. 148–62. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.

[In the following essay, Levine considers Peri Rossi's conception of androgyny and her reconfiguration of male identity and sexuality in Solitario de amor.]

The writings of Cristina Peri Rossi have long seduced the imagination of the critic in search of transgressive models of gender definitions and sexual roles. Brandishing an allusive and enigmatic...

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Helena Antolin Cochrane (essay date September 1997)

SOURCE: Cochrane, Helena Antolin. “Androgynous Voices in the Novels of Cristina Peri Rossi.” Mosaic 30, no. 3 (September 1997): 97–114.

[In the following essay, Cochrane explores Peri Rossi's treatment of sexual identity and gender roles in her novels.]

In emphasizing the need for women to construct their own identities and challenge traditional concepts of gender, Anglo-American feminist critics sometimes overlook the adjustments in strategy that are necessary because of differences in social climates and cultures. As Amy Kaminsky has noted in her Reading the Body Politic: Feminist Criticism and Latin American Women Writers, in Hispanic cultures there are...

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Timothy Foster (essay date fall 1997)

SOURCE: Foster, Timothy. “Transgressions in Literature, Politics, and Gender: Peri Rossi's La nave de los locos.Confluencia 13, no. 1 (fall 1997): 73–86.

[In the following essay, Foster examines Peri Rossi's unconventional narrative strategy in La nave de los locos, focusing on her critiques of sociopolitical and gender issues.]

Cristina Peri Rossi's novel, La nave de los locos, questions and proposes transgressions of the seemingly “natural” sex-gender-desire continuum—a cultural matrix through which hegemonic heterosexualist discourse makes itself intelligible: gender follows from a specific sexual configuration and desires the...

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Z. Nelly Martinez (essay date 1997)

SOURCE: Martinez, Nelly Z. “Cristina Peri Rossi's The Ship of Fools, or the Garden of Forking Desire(s).” In Latin American Postmodernisms, edited by Richard A. Young, pp. 271–82. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1997.

[In the following essay, Martinez identifies and discusses two of the dominant motifs in The Ship of Fools.]

Two leitmotifs articulate Cristina Peri Rossi's The Ship of Fools (1984; La nave de los locos). The first, which extends over twelve brief chapters, focuses on the Tapestry of the Creation. An eleventh-century work depicting the creation of the world which was found in the Cathedral of Gerona, the Tapestry is described in...

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Cynthia Schmidt-Cruz (essay date fall 1998)

SOURCE: Schmidt-Cruz, Cynthia. “The Children's Revolt against Structures of Repression in Cristina Peri Rossi's ‘La rebelión de los niños.’” College Literature 25, no. 3 (fall 1998): 145–62.

[In the following essay, Schmidt-Cruz examines the role of the child figure in three of Peri Rossi's short stories: “Ulva lactuca,” “La rebelión de los niños,” and “Feliz cumpleanos.”]

Uruguayan writer Cristina Peri Rossi is concerned with all forms of repressive cultural practices which limit individual freedom. As a liberal intellectual who was exiled in Spain during the military dictatorship which terrorized Uruguay in the 1970's, Peri Rossi experienced...

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Consuelo Arias (essay date 2000)

SOURCE: Arias, Consuelo. “Writing the Female Body in the Texts of Cristina Peri Rossi: Excess, Monumentality and Fluidity,” In Literature and Homosexuality, edited by Michael J. Meyer, pp. 183–203. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000.

[In the following essay, Arias discusses Peri Rossi's role as a gay writer and how her works Solitario de amor, “El testigo,” and “Nochevieja en el Daniel's” function as lesbian texts.]

Why is it that the Lesbian seems like a shadow—a shadow with/in woman, with/in writing?

Writing the Lesbian means writing someone who does not yet exist.


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Further Reading


Arkinstall, Christine. “Refiguring the Blazon: The Politics of Empire-Building in Cristina Peri Rossi's Descripciòn de un naufragio.Revista Hispanica Moderna 51, no. 2 (1998): 423–40.

Arkinstall analyzes several of Peri Rossi's poems in Descripción de un naufragio, focusing on the complex relationship between gender and colonization in her work.

Stahl, Aletha. “Passionate Topography.” Belles Lettres 9, no. 3 (spring 1994): 61–63.

Stahl offers a positive assessment of A Forbidden Passion.

Additional coverage of Peri Rossi's life and career is contained in...

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