Traba, Marta (1930–1983)

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Traba, Marta (1930–1983)

Argentinean novelist and critic. Born in 1930 in Argentina; died in 1983 in an airplane crash en route from Paris, France, to Bogotá, Colombia; daughter of Spanish immigrants to Argentina; graduated with a degree in philosophy and the history of art from the University of Buenos Aires; studied further in Chile on a scholarship; married second husband, Angel Rama (died 1983).

Moved to Colombia (1954); founded Prisma magazine; founded the Museum of Modern Art, Bogotá (1965); taught art and literature at universities in Latin America and North America; wrote about Latin America in poetry, essays, novels, and critical works; opposed tyranny and corruption while advocating human rights, democracy, and women's rights; expelled from Colombia following anti-military protests (1967).

Selected works:

(poetry) Historia natural de la alegría (Natural History of Happiness, 1951); El museo vacío (The Empty Museum, 1958); Los cuatro monstruos cardinales (The Four Cardinal Monsters, 1965); (novel) Las ceremonias del verano (Summer Ceremonies, 1966); Premios de Casa (House Prizes, 1966); El son se quedó en Cuba (The Sound Stayed in Cuba, 1966); Los laberintos insolados (Exposed Labyrinths, 1967); Pasó así (It Happened This Way, 1968); La jugada del sexto día (The Sixth Day's Play, 1969); Dos décadas vulnerables en las artes plásticas latinoamericanas, 1950–1970 (Two Vulnerable Decades in the Plastic Arts of Latin America, 1950–1970, 1973); Homérica Latina (Homeric Latin, 1979); Conversación al sur (Conversation to the South, 1981); Siglo XX en las artes plásticas latinoamericanas: una guía (Twentieth-century Plastic Arts in Latin America: A Guide, 1982–83); En cualquier lugar (In Any Place, 1984); Marta Traba: selección de textos (Marta Traba: Selected Texts, 1984); (essays) Entrevista atemporal (Atemporal Interview, 1984); De la mañana a la noche (From Morning to Night, 1986); Casa sin fin (Endless House, 1988).

Marta Traba was born in 1930 to Spanish parents who had immigrated to Argentina. Her early education is undocumented, although it is presumed that she attended schools in Buenos Aires. She earned a degree in philosophy and the history of art from the University of Buenos Aires and was awarded a scholarship for further studies in Chile. Traba lived for a year in Italy from 1951 to 1952, and traveled extensively in the United States as well as in South and Central America.

In 1954, Traba moved to Bogotá, Colombia. She founded Prisma magazine there and also established, in 1965, the city's Museum of Modern Art. Teaching art and literature and writing in all manner of genres about Latin America were Traba's special interests, however. She taught at universities in Latin America and North America, where she also was outspoken in her political views in favor of democracy, feminism, and human rights and in opposition to corruption, military force, and tyranny in Latin America. In June 1967, following military occupation of the University of Bogotá, President Carlos Lleras expelled her from Colombia because of her political protest against the action. An example of her views is expressed in her critical essay, Entrevista atemporal (Atemporal Interview), published posthumously in 1984.

Traba wrote works of criticism, essays, poetry, and a number of novels. Her fiction often used the device of a personal odyssey to voice political opposition. In 1951, she published her first book of poems, Historia natural de la alegría (Natural History of Happiness). In 1966, her first novel, Las ceremonias del verano (Summer Ceremonies), met critical acclaim and was awarded the 1966 Casa de las Américas Prize; it concerns a woman whose life is spent traveling. In 1979, Traba became the first Latin American woman to voice opinions in novel form about the political kidnappings and torture of political prisoners in Latin America; these reactions were fictionalized in the novel Homérica Latina (Homeric Latin) and were based on her own odyssey, forced expatriation from Colombia. She also addressed these issues in the first two novels of a trilogy, Conversación al sur (Conversation to the South) and En cualquier lugar (In Any Place), published in 1981 and 1984, respectively. Her trilogy was to be completed with a book titled "Veinte años no es nada" (Twenty Years Is Nothing), but this work was still unfinished at the time of her death. In 1983, the year she became a Colombian citizen, she and her second husband Angel Rama were flying from Paris, France, to Bogotá, Colombia, to attend the First Spanish American Culture Conference. The plane was carrying a number of Spanish American writers when it crashed and all on board were killed. Traba left behind several other novels that were published after her death.


Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

Gillian S. Holmes , freelance writer, Hayward, California