Mario Benedetti, one of Latin America's most prolific and respected writers, died last Sunday at the age of 88. The Portuguese Nobel laureate José Saramago wrote this week in the Madrid daily El País: “The work of Mario Benedetti, my friend and brother, is surprising in all its aspects, whether the varied extent of genres it touches, the density of its poetic expression or the extreme conceptual freedom it employs.” His best know novel, The Truce, tells the story of an aging widower in Montevideo, his romance with a woman half his age. The film version of the novel was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign film in 1975. For more about his life and work, see this article from the NYT.

A translation of Benedetti's story, "The Rain and the Fungi," appeared in the last issue of HFR (#43). Harry Morales, the translator of the story, wrote in an introduction:

Benedetti is one of Latin America’s most highly renowned and beloved authors who writes (especially) about everyday life in Montevideo. Using well-balanced and appropriate doses of humor and colloquialisms, he shows a deep and poignant insight into his characters’ inner world and captures the problems of the city dwellers, who while trapped in an impersonal world, are building a shell to protect themselves from authentic feelings. As Jean Franco stated in The Modern Culture of Latin America, many of Uruguay’s problems stem from its high level of literacy and large middle class. “Modern Uruguay is a country of clerks and civil servants, and the hazards that face them are not those of violence and oppression, but of smugness and the excessive concern for security.” Consequently, Benedetti’s works are often set among office workers and members of the middle class, and in many, “the characters’ low-key lives take on a tragic tinge simply because they are caught in the trap of routine.”
Benedetti's "The Rain and the Fungi" begins:

Sincerity? Be careful with that little word. For the moment, dear, it wasn’t this meeting of ours four hours ago. Do you remember what we said? The past doesn’t exist. Of course, it’s difficult to abolish it. But you recognize that it would have been lovely to remain with our image of today, you and me in that dark hallway, temporarily sheltered from the downpour, you and me looking at one another, you and me feeling that suddenly the miraculous present is circulating among us, you and me tacitly dedicating ourselves to the commitment of coming here, or to any room as sordid as this one, to repeat, as always with established hopes, the search for love.

Benedetti's work is impressive, and his death a great loss. Our condolences to his friends and family.