Complicit, refractory, insurgent, rebellious, unruly, haughty, provocative, thoughtful, deep, transgressive—all these words belong to an extended semantic family that provides a potential, multi-sided approach to the work of Cristina Peri Rossi (Montevideo, 1941). Hers is a body of work in which, beyond the taxonomies of the publishing industry and literary convention, the prose (essays, stories, novels, articles, and personal testimony) is not only saturated—as the critics have always pointed out—with poetic language and movement. Her prose is also built into a macro-project, a searingly original, personal, and radical poiesis in which all rigid classifications, all generic definitions, all habitual typologies crumble in from their expressive edges to join together into a single, distinct, organic being.
In her poetry, precociously and with emphatic clarity, the homoerotic vector comes through. Her poetry began to ossify the backbone of a cosmovision of love and of being for love, starting from a title that scandalized her native Montevideo: Evohé (1971). But it is her succession of narrative works—short stories and novels—that has allowed her to outline, for over fifty years, a fictional plot that nourishes and illuminates, that revises and refines a free, seductive vision of the world.
Seduction is the key sign of this lively body of work, which rises up from the text to incorporate the gestural, the attitudinal, the decisions of a ludic, creative engineering, metaphysically carnal, beyond the postulates of modernity.
From her first short story collection, Viviendo (1963), and from her first novel, El libro de mis primos (1969), Peri Rossi made herself an intruder in the order of letters. She burst, with willpower and daring, into the panorama consolidated over the course of half a century under the rational, effective communicative machinery of Uruguay’s so-called Generation of 45, a multifarious conjunction of fundamental critics like Emir Rodríguez Monegal (1921-1985) and Ángel Rama (1926-1983), along with authors as well regarded as Mario Benedetti (1920-2009) and the so-called “three mid-century poets”: Idea Vilariño (1920-2009), Amanda Berenguer (1921-2010), and Ida Vitale (1923). Peri Rossi’s narrative emerges from joy, from darkness, and from the subconscious.
The intruder in the order of letters turned out to be eminently instinctive, lubricous, brilliant, and unpredictable.
Unlike the boom authors (almost all men) who sought to erect a rationalized and sometimes rationalizing fiction, who pursued the “total novel,” an absolute creation born of a simile with God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, unfolding his universe around him—the image of the narrative’s author as Pater—Peri Rossi preferred to celebrate the mysteries of a different deity: lunar, seminal, multi-generic, ambiguous, luminous and dark at once, uterine, abysmal, and bracing as the night.
Onetti creates the world of Santa María through his alter ego or fictional vicar, Brausen the god; Rulfo builds his Mexican Genesis around Comala; García Márquez names the world for the first time in Macondo; and Vargas Llosa constructs a troubled Lima in the image and likeness of the Leoncio Prado Military Academy. Meanwhile, Cristina the intruder deploys sensuality and seduction, taking on a part of the inheritance of the only ludic author of the boom: Julio Cortázar.
From Cortázar, Peri Rossi inherited a sense of play, of ease, an anti-solemn stance and a will to erotic enticement. She also picks out select elements of Alejandra Pizarnik, while never lugging along her existential fatalism. Peri Rossi bets it all on pleasure. From Borges, she assumes fragmentary structures and a certain humor, while refusing to burden herself with the masculine weight of his erudition.
Peri Rossi, the intruder, trusts in and lays the groundwork for creative sensuality in a state of absolute freedom. This gioa di vivere, this pleasure at life, has deservedly earned her the Cervantes Prize.