Benítez-Rojo, Antonio 1931-2005
BENÍTEZ-ROJO, Antonio 1931-2005
OBITUARY NOTICE— See index for CA sketch: Born March 14, 1931, in Havana, Cuba; died January 5, 2005, in Northampton, MA. Educator and author. Benítez-Rojo was a prize-winning author who was also a professor at Amherst College. Graduating from Havana's Colegio de Belen in 1950 with a B.A., he attended graduate school at the University of Havana and American University during the 1950s. During the early 1960s, Benítez-Rojo was director of statistics for Cuba's Ministry of Labor. In 1970 and 1971 he served as director of the Latin American Center for Literary Research in Havana and during the late 1980s was head of the publishing department at Casa de las Americas. He was director for the Center for Caribbean Studies from 1979 until 1980. Initially a supporter of the Cuban revolution and of Fidel Castro, he later grew disillusioned with Castro's government and its suppression of artistic freedom. Using his writing skills as his ticket out of Cuba, he won a writing competition in Paris in 1980 and consequently was able to defect to France, later immigrating to the United States. In 1983 Benítez-Rojo moved to Massachusetts after accepting a teaching position at Amherst College. He became a full professor of Romance languages there in 1987, and in 1992 was named Thomas B. Walton Jr. Professor of Spanish. Benítez-Rojo's writings draw on his life in Cuba, as well as its history. Recognized many times for his talent, his first prestigious award was the Casa de las Americas Literary Award, which he won in 1967 for the short-story collection Tute de reyes (1967). He would later win awards for El escudo de hojas secas (1969; third edition, 1972), the screenplay Los sobrevivientes (1979), and the story "Heaven and Earth," which was published in the collection La tierra y el cielo (1978). He was also nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 1986 for the essay "The Repeating Island" and in 1988 for the story "Death of an Absolutist," the latter also earning a National Magazine Award nomination. More recently, in 1993 he won the Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize for La isla que se repite: El Caribe y la perspective pos-moderna (1989; second expanded edition, 1998), which was translated in 1992 as The Repeating Island: The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective. Though best known for his short stories and essays, Benítez-Rojo also wrote novellas and novels, most recently publishing the novel Mujer en traje de batalla (2001). He was the editor of many collections of fiction and essays, wrote screenplays, and in 1999 produced a CD-ROM titled Literature of the Spanish Caribbean to 1900.
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Boston Globe, January 10, 2005.
Charlotte Observer, January 9, 2005.
Miami Herald, January 10, 2005.