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Renowned Argentine poet dies in Mexico

Argentine poet Juan Gelman has died aged 83 in Mexico City. He is considered to be one of the greatest authors in Spanish and was awarded the prestigious Cervantes Prize in 2007.

Gelman, a left-wing activist and a guerrilla in Argentina in the 1960s and 1970s, lived in Mexico for 20 years.


Juan Gelman

He wrote more than 20 books and regular columns for newspapers. His son and his pregnant daughter-in-law died after being abducted by the military government in the 1970s.

Official accounts say almost 20,000 people disappeared at the hands of the regime in between 1976 to 1983, but human rights groups say the figure is at least 30,000.

In 1990 Gelman identified his son's remains, discovering that he had been executed and buried in a barrel filled with sand and cement. He was never able to find the remains of his daughter-in-law Maria Claudia.

But in 2000, he was also able to trace his granddaughter, born before Maria Claudia's presumed murder. The child had been handed over to a pro-government family in Uruguay.

The reunion was one of the most high profile involving disappeared people in Argentina's history - fewer than 600 victims of the 1976-83 “dirty war” have been found.

Correspondents say that Gelman's work celebrates life but is also tempered with social and political commentary, reflecting his own painful experiences with the politics of his country.

Here is a poem penned by Gelman

Gotan

The woman was like the word never,
a special charm rose up from her neck,
a kind of forgetfulness where her eyes were safe,
the woman settled in my left side.
Watch out watch out I'd scream watch out
but she possessed me like love, like the night,
and the last signals I made that autumn
settled down quietly under the surf of her hands.
Sharp sounds exploded inside me,
rage, sadness, fell down in shreds,
the woman came down like a sweet rain
on my bones standing in the solitude.
She left me shivering like someone condemned
and I killed myself with a quick knife-thrust,
I'll spend all my death laid out with her name,
it will be the last thing to move my lips.

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