Sunday, May 17, 2009


The great Uruguayan poet Mario Benedetti died today in Montevideo at the age of 88. Below is one of his poems and my translation of it.


Cuando éramos niños
los viejos tenían como treinta
un charco era un océano
la muerte lisa y llana
no existía.

Luego cuando muchachos
los viejos eran gente de cuarenta
un estanque un océano
la muerte solamente
una palabra.

Ya cuando nos casamos
los ancianos estaban en cincuenta
un lago era un océano
la muerte era la muerte
de los otros.

Ahora veteranos
ya le dimos alcance a la verdad
el océano es por fin el océano
pero la muerte empieza a ser
la nuestra.


When we were very young
old people were thirty
a puddle was an ocean
death, smooth and plain
didn’t exist.

Later as children
old people were forty
a pond was an ocean
death but
a word.

Already when we married
the elderly were fifty
a lake was an ocean
and death was the death
of others.

Now as old hands
we are within reach of the truth
the ocean is finally the ocean
but death has started to resemble
our own.


Henrique Hemidio said...

O poeta é um animal em extinção...

John Hemingway said...

that would be sad

Anonymous said...

Como Uruguayo me siento triste porque se fue uno de los maximos ejemplares que tuvimos y vamos a tener. Muchas gracias por recordar a Mario.


Anonymous said...

Gracias por rendirle tributo al poeta. Agradecido como latinoamericano y como americano.

Thank you for allowing me to share with my English- only friends this beautiful and moving poem. Now I live in an old house in Oak Park, Illinois, where the previous owner (the old man that I bought the house from) was delivered at birth by the father of Ernest Heminghway, I was told. Age matters little for a house, I imagine then, the words live much much longer.

Thank you.
-Luis Contreras.

John Hemingway said...

Hola Luis! What a coincidence that the you live in a house whose previous owner was delivered by my great-grandfather! It really is a small world. I am glad that you like the translation of Pasatiempo, I tried to do it as best I could to honor the man.

What brought you to Oak Park, if I may ask?

Un abrazo,

Unknown said...

Hola John, lindo poema ! Me gusto mucho leerlo. Amitiés. Armand

John Hemingway said...

Hola Armand! es verdad, es muy lindo:-) Benedetti eres un grande.

un abrazo,