Cover Image

Larger ImageView Larger

Unthinkable Tenderness

Selected Poems

Juan Gelman (Author), Joan Lindgren (Editor), Joan Lindgren (Translator), Eduardo Galeano (Foreword)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 256 pages
ISBN: 9780520205871
March 1997
$29.95, £25.00
Juan Gelman is Argentina's leading poet, but his work has been almost unknown in the United States until now. In 2000, he received the Juan Rulfo Award, one most important literary awards in the Spanish-speaking world, and in 2007, he received the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's top literary prize. With this selection, chosen and superbly translated by Joan Lindgren, Gelman's lush and visceral poetry comes alive for an English-speaking readership.

Gelman is a stark witness to the brutality of power, and his poems reflect his suffering at the hands of the Argentine military government (his son, daughter-in-law, and grandchild were "disappeared"). While political idealism infuses his writing, he is not a servant of ideology. Themes of family, exile, the tango, Argentina, and Gelman's Jewish heritage resonate throughout his poems, works that celebrate life while confronting heartache and loss.

"remembering their little bones when it rains/ the compañerosstomp on darkness/set forth from death/wander the tender night/I hear their voices like living faces"—from Remembering Their Little Bones
Born in Buenos Aires in 1930, Juan Gelman went into political exile in Europe in 1976, where he remained until 1989. Today he lives in Mexico City. Joan Lindgren spent seven years studying Gelman's work and made six visits to Argentina while doing her research.
"At last, a marvelous translation into English of the soulful and celebratory and heartbreaking words of Juan Gelman, one of Latin America's most extraordinary poets."—Ariel Dorfman, author of Death and the Maiden

"Perhaps the most admirable element of [Gelman's] poetry is the unthinkable tenderness he shows where paroxysms of rejection and denouncement would be justified, or his calling upon so many shadows for one voice to lull and comfort, a permanent caress of words on unknown tombs."—Julio Cortàzar

"Gelman's poetry is epic in its scope—no corner of life goes unnoticed in this work. Here we find politics and history as seen through one vital human spirit. Rendered in a breathless style, this is the diary of a human heart in a rough world where artistry is the first salvation."—Oscar Hijuelos

"This selection of Juan Gelman's poetry introduces to an English-speaking readership the full range of Argentina's leading poet and a chief architect of Latin America's postcolonial social conscience."—Victor Perera, author of Unfinished Conquest: The Tragedy of Guatemala

"This is a voice that sings and makes others sing. It speaks of struggles and dignity: It offers a faith that springs from doubt and a sense of freeedom strengthened by prison walls. It celebrates life while standing in its very midst."—Eduardo Galeano, from the Foreword

Cervantes Prize, Spanish Cultural Ministry

The author of twenty books of poetry, Juan Gelman has long been counted among Argentina's leading poets, though all but unkown to English-language readers. For Unthinkable Tenderness, editor-translator Joan Lindgren has selected ninety-three poems to form a narrative of Argentina's recent history as seen through Gelman's eyes. Poetry that reverberates with the melancholy poetics, the wistful, even obsessive, music of the tango--which Gelman has laced with Spanish and Jewish mysticism--its themes are love and exile, torture and the disappearances of the Dirty War, which include the poet's children and closest colleagues. Its shadow is the beloved, the homeland, Argentina, as it is, as it can and must be. A new foreword by Eduardo Galeano, along with the translator's preface and a newly translated foreword by Julio Cortázar, introduce these poems; an epilogue by Juan Gelman ends the collection, which is followed by chronologies of Argentina's Dirty War and of Gelman's life and works.

Join UC Press

Members receive 20-40% discounts on book purchases. Find out more