Tomas Eloy Martinez

Today has died a great icon of our culture , the journalism lost a great talent and thinker, Tomas Eloy Martinez leaving a great legacy .
He has created and managed newspapers media such as Primera Plana, Pagina 12, he was newspaper 's columnist of La Nacion (Argentina), El Pais (Spain), and New York Times .
He mixed in his performances , journalism with literature which make him one of the most important writers of the century.

Tomás Eloy Martínez
(born July 16, 1934 in Tucumán, died January 31, 2010 in Buenos Aires) was an Argentine journalist and writer. He obtained a degree in Spanish and Latin American literature from the Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, and an MA at the University of Paris.

From 1957 to 1961 he was a film critic in Buenos Aires for the La Nación newspaper, and he then was editor in chief (1962-69) of the magazine Primera Plana. From 1969 to 1970 he worked as a reporter in Paris. In 1970 he and many former writers of Primera Plana worked at the magazine Panorama, where Martínez was the director.

On 15 August 1972 he learned of the uprising of political prisoners in the jail at Rawson, Chubut Province. Panorama was the only publication in Buenos Aires that reported the correct story of the affair in Rawson, which differed significantly from the official version of the de facto Argentine government. On 22 August he was fired at the behest of the government, whereupon he went to Rawson and the neighboring city of Trelew where he reported the Massacre of Trelew in his book The Passion According to Trelew. The book was banned by the Argentine dictatorship.

For three years (1972-75) Martínez was in charge of the cultural supplement of La Nación, after which he lived in exile (1975-83) in Caracas, Venezuela, where he remained active as a journalist, founding the newspaper El Diario. In his book "The Memoirs of the General" he recounts that he was threatened by the "AAA", the Alianza Anticomunista Argentina , and on one occasion gunmen held a pistol to the head of his 3-year-old son because they were witnesses to a crime which Martinez believes was an operation of the "AAA". He subsequently started the newspaper Siglo 21 in Guadalajara, Mexico, and created the literary supplement Primer Plano for the newspaper Página/12 in Buenos Aires.

Martínez has also been a teacher and lecturer. He taught (1984-87) at the University of Maryland. In 1995, he took a position as distinguished professor and director of the Latin American Studies program at Rutgers University, New Jersey. He lives in nearby Highland Park, New Jersey. He also has a home in Buenos Aires. He writes columns for La Nación and the New York Times syndicate, and his articles have appeared in many newspapers and journals in Latin America.

He has published a number of books, one of which, Santa Evita, has been translated into 32 languages and published in 50 countries. He was awarded the Guggenheim and Woodrow Wilson scholarships and won the Alfaguara award for the novel Flight of the Queen for the year 2002. His works deal primarily (but not exclusively) with Argentina during and after the rule of Juan Perón and his wife, Eva Duarte de Perón (Evita)
He died in Buenos Aires on 31 January 2010 by cancer disease .He was 75 years old.
Main Publications:
  • Sacred (1969)
  • The Passion According to Trelew (1973, reissued in 1997)
  • The Perón Novel (1985)
  • La Mano del Amo (1991)
  • The Hand of the Master (1991)
  • Santa Evita (1995)
  • The Memoirs of the General (1996)
  • Common Place - Death (1998)
  • The Argentine Dream (1999)
  • True Fictions (2000)
  • The Flight of the Queen (2002)
  • Requiem for a Lost Country (2003)
  • The Lives of the General (2004)
  • The Tango Singer (2004) [3]
  • Purgatory (2008)

Tomas Eloy Martinez is one of the country's most widely translated and popular novelists and journalists.

His critically acclaimed books include The Peron Novel and Santa Evita--inventive works that play on the border between fact and fiction, truth and imagination. Forced into exile by death threats during the 1970s, Martinez brings a unique perspective to his ongoing exploration of Argentina's complex reality.

The Peron Novel and Santa Evita, both translated by Helen Lane, are available from Vintage Books (Random House). The Tango Singer will be published in 2005 by Bloomsbury.

Known for novels such as Santa Evita and The Perón Novel (La Novela de Perón) and winner of awards such as the 2003 Rodolfo Walsh Award for his career in journalism, and the 2002 Alfaguara Prize with El vuelo de la Reina (‘The Flight of the Queen’),

Tomás Eloy Martínez
was also one of eighteen authors who made it on to the judges’ list of contenders for the inaugural Man Booker International Prize in February 2005.
He rubbed shoulders with authors such as Gabriel García Márquez, Milan Kundera and Ian Mc Ewan.

One of the greatest Interviews :

By Ascen Arriazu in 2005

He still finds a window in his busy agenda as Head of the Latin American Studies Programme at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where he has been living for many years, to patiently answer my questions.

Born in Tucumán, Argentina, in 1934, Tomás confesses that story-telling is his passion. He would indeed like to be able to write poetry but after a few early and failed attempts he confines himself to weaving his poems from time to time into the fabric of his fiction.

A well-respected professor of the postgraduate programme, he mentions how lucky he feels to be able to teach what he loves: "I have delivered seminars that compare the theories of cinema and literary narrative," he says, "or about Borges as a realist writer, or about the first Crónicas de Indias (‘Indian Chronicles’)." He asserts that it would be difficult for him as well as for his students to understand Latin American culture without grasping those subjects first.

During his exile in Venezuela in the late seventies and early eighties, he experimented with the production of several screenplays. I ask him what he thinks about the man in the street being influenced by the treatment that filmmakers give to historical subjects, and he explains how "film and literature, when they are truly art, enrich the human being in a fuller way than plain and simple education do".

In the period between the publication of his two great novels about Evita and Perón, he wrote another novel, La Mano del Amo (The Hand of the Master), as he once mentioned, to leave the subject slightly aside and to avoid making one novel of the two. In La Mano del Amo, he talks about happiness, the search for it, death, family and the confrontation between power and artistic talent. He introduces a Muslim family, the Alamino, in the middle chapters as a representation of what was then for him "the best of the human condition, as opposed to the formality and stiffness of the Carmona family, the main characters".

The many immigrants from Syria and Lebanon to his province, Tucumán, at the beginning of the 20th century, were the source of inspiration for the Alamino, or Al Amein. But what in its moment was written with a positive message emphasizing Carmona’s prejudices, can be interpreted in a very different way today, in a society where violence and cultural and religious clashes spearhead the headlines of the international media.

"The malice would be on the side of the potential reader, then," he states, ‘not on the writer’s. A writer does not know what will be politically correct next year. If that were the case everything in literature should be changed alongside with the apparition of new ideologies. Good writers do not write books to flatter people’s good feelings."

One of his books, the third edition of La Pasión Según Trelew (Passion According to Trelew), in which he narrates the killing of sixteen guerrillas who tried to run away from Rawson Prison on 22nd August 1972 and the events following the massacre, was burnt by the military dictatorship in the square of Tercer Cuerpo del Ejército in the Argentinean city of Córdoba.

"At the time of the events I felt that if they burnt the book it was because it raised some fears between the dictators. That sheer bonfire justified my writing. I felt shame that that sort of disgraces could happen in my Country. Even today I wonder how many of us became accessories to those barbaric acts, and why."

Like many of us, Tomás wonders about the controversial question: How should Perón go down in History, as hero or as villain? He says that he wrote a novel in order to find out: The Perón Novel (La Novela de Perón), one of the most widely read books about the President. He researched the happenings of the time thoroughly, had the chance to meet its main character on several occasions during his exile in Caracas where, between 1966 and 1972, he could interview Perón many times. Despite all of his enquiries, even after the publication of a series of biographical articles that scholars and historians consider to be the memories closest to reality, he was, like many others, left with a big question mark:

I suggest he may be both, like every human being.

He explains how reflecting on the story-telling technique used in Facundo, by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, one of the biggest literature works in Argentina in the 19th century, I encouraged him to write the book in the way he did. In an interview with Jorge Halpering (Clarin, 3rd May 1998), Tomás Eloy Martínez explains how Facundo, by Sarmiento, written as a political pamphlet, was constructed with the shape of a novel but thought of as a political denunciation and still considered literature. "I had published some canonical memories in the Buenos Aires media," he explains, "which were accepted by all historians as the unmistakable truth. These were some memories that Perón had touched up, so that he could use them as business cards throughout History. What prevented me, as novelist, to build a storyline that would shed some light on what I understood by the truth about the character called Perón?"

He used to compare Argentina with the Sleeping Beauty: "A Country that needs to be woken up by the love of someone," he says. “An old Argentinean illusion is that, if it was great once (and it was, during the three first decades of the 20th century), there are no reasons why that should not happen again. That is a lost illusion, but there is still faith in it. I also have faith sometimes.”

"Argentina is the body of a woman that has been embalmed," he said to Miguel Wiñazki in Noticias, in 1995. And it is with this sentence that we think of the relationship between the Country and its immortal 'mother'. Argentina’s Sleeping Beauty was undoubtedly Eva, the main character of his novel Santa Evita, a story where the action focuses not so much on the person of Perón’s wife, but on the long pilgrimage that her body suffered after her demise.

It is in that fashion, admiring and criticizing, remembering and living the reality of his own Country, that the life of an exiled man goes by. Tomás lives outside of Argentina but within its spirit. In his interview with Jorge Halpering for Clarín, he said that he is not interested in politics in general, but in very particular aspects of it. His writing is convincing, real, critical and daring. He focuses on fiction, in his own version of reality. He offers us a fictional account, a novel in its literary sense, not a historical description of events. He emphasizes that "every reality is historical, but not every piece of history is real."

I ask him about what the limit is for the manipulation of the historical reality into fiction, and he shoots me back my own question, eruditely mentioning Tolstoy and Victor Hugo: "What historical reality are you talking about? I don’t think there is any historical manipulation in Tolstoy’s Napoleon in War and peace or in Victor Hugo’s in his Les Miserables, neither is there in the Julien Sorel [character in The Red and the Black] of Stendhal, who is based, as is well known, on a real person. Writing novels is the freest act of the human spirit and it is up to the reader to discern novels from history books."

The 2006 Buenos Aires Book Fair management have asked him to deliver the opening speech. This year’s slogan is precisely ‘Books make History’. I ask him for a foretaste of the speech, and although he is clear that he has not yet worked on it, he tells me: "I may say that books are like water: people may impose bolts and dikes on them, but they always succeed at making their way in. Adversity would seem to make them stronger. Even during the worst moments, ideas that later become words have gotten around censorship and gags to scream out the obvious truths and continue being incorruptible and unsubmissive, even when everybody around them shuts up, submits and falls into corruption. The most diverse arms to shut them up have been tried: they have been repressed with imprisonment, with traps, with the stake, with the false voluntary confessions like those of Galileo in front of the Inquisition and Isak Babel in front of Stalin; bribery has been attempted, as well as the seduction of prizes and honours, not to mention the hospice, death threats and exile, without ever succeeding to force those ideas turned into words, or verbs, to bury or tame their truths."

He leaves me with the aftertaste of his ideas and as I think his words over, he enjoys a few weeks in his native Argentina, where he hopes to get an update on the political and economical situation. He says that his Country suffers from huge structural poverty and endless mismanaged wealth, and I wonder whether his opinion will be the same when he returns from this visit, after a year’s absence.

In the meantime, I dive into the magic of the bleached hair of his Santa Evita, of the wonderful voice of his Carmona, of his own truths about an Argentina of revolutions, injustice, magnificence, passion and beauty, and I feel privileged to have shared in these moments of my own history, the ideas turned into words of one of the most important figures of the current Argentinean literary panorama.


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