Argentinian poet, columnist, and translator, considered to be one of the most widely-read contemporary Spanish-speaking authors. He was born in 1930 in Buenos Aires as the third child of Ukrainian emigrants of Jewish descent. He became fascinated with literature very early on – when he was 3, he learnt to read, and at the age of 11, he published his first poem in the Rojo y Negro magazine. In 1955, together with other writers, he established the “El pan duro” (“Stale Bread”) group, members of which included left-wing-sympathising young people and which published volumes of poetry under its own imprint. In 1963, he landed in prison for his membership of the communist party which he left soon after. For a short period of time, he was connected with the Montoneros guerrilla movements, which aimed to remove the military junta. After the coup d’état in 1976, he was forced to emigrate. As a result of the junta’s bloody rule, he lost his son Marcel and his pregnant daughter-in-law Maria Claudia, who shared the fate of 30,000 “desaparecidos” – people kidnapped and killed by the armed forces. Gelman did not identify his son’s remains until 1990, and 10 years later, he also found his miraculously saved granddaughter, who was born shortly before her mother was murdered.
The long years spent in exile were a period of intense work for the poet. Since he made his debut as a journalist in 1966, Gelman has divided his time between writing articles and poems. After leaving the country, he often changed his place of residence, staying in Rome, Madrid, Managua, Paris, and New York. For this entire period, he also worked as a translator for UNESCO. In 1989, he moved to Mexico permanently.
Gelman’s rich literary oeuvre includes volumes of poetry, anthologies he edited, as well as collections of articles previously published in the press. Critics awarded his works many times, honouring him with numerous distinctions, such as Premio Nacional de Poesia (1997), Premio Juan Rulfo (2000), Premio Reina Sofia de Poesia Iberoamericana (2005), and the Cervantes Prize (2007) which, playfully called the Spanish-language Nobel Prize in Literature, constitutes the honouring of the poet’s entire oeuvre. Gelman’s works have been translated into English, French, German, Turkish, Italian, Dutch, and Swedish, among others.