Cristina Peri Rossi

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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.

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Principal Works