Elena Garro, a Mexican Literary Figure, Dies at 78
By ANTHONY DePALMA
MEXICO CITY -- The Mexican writer Elena Garro, whose novels,
plays and stories exploring the clash between illusion and reality in
Latin America made her one of Mexico's most important literary figures
behind her former husband, Octavio Paz, died on Saturday at
Cuernavaca Hospital, south of Mexico City.
She was 78 and had emphysema, said her daughter, Helena Paz Garro.
While male voices
predominate in Latin American literature, Ms. Garro,
through acerbic intelligence and lyric intensity, achieved a level of
recognition and importance usually barred to women. The president of the
National Council for Culture and the Arts in Mexico, Rafael Tovar y de
Teresa, labeled Ms. Garro one of the three most important female writers
that Mexico had produced, alongside the 17th-century nun and poet Sor
Juana de la Cruz and Rosario Castellanos, Ms. Garro's contemporary.
The Mexican literary
world "is in mourning again," said Tovar y de
Paz, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1990, died on April 19.
In the Mexico
City daily Reforma, the writer Carlos Fuentes called Ms.
Garro's first book, "Recollections of Things to Come," "one of the most
important Mexican novels of the 20th century." It is one of only a handful
of her more than 40 works that was translated into English.
Ms. Garro was
born in the pretty colonial town of Puebla, 75 miles from
to Paz in 1937 brought her into a circle of intellectuals
where her own radical ideas flourished and eventually clashed with those
of her contemporaries.
Soon after marrying,
she and Paz moved from Mexico City to Spain to
write about the Spanish Civil War. They lived in Paris after World War II
and became part of the literary group that included the Argentine poet
Jorge Luis Borges and the Surrealist André Breton. Later they lived in
Japan before returning to Mexico.
dissolved in the early 1960's and they never spoke to each
In the late 1960's,
Mexico, like many other countries, was immersed in
protest and rebellion. The Mexican student movement had been fired in
part by the country's intellectual elite. But Ms. Garro turned her back on
the movement, at one point calling it a "crazy adventure."
Her remarks stirred
open hostility and brought about an almost complete
break with Mexico's literary community. She moved to New York, and
later to Paris, remaining in exile for 23 years before returning to Mexico in
She found a changed
country, which she found hard to accept, and
became like a character in "Recollections of Things to Come" who tried to
step out of time by stopping the clock at the end of every day.
Still, Ms. Garro
continued to write provocatively and successfully. This
March, the English translations of two of her novellas, "First Love" and
"Look for My Obituary," were published by Curbstone.
In a review in
The New York Times, Peter Bricklebank said the works
possessed "understated eloquence," with characters who are "prisoners of
their own solitude, shackled by social expectations."
Besides her novels
and stories, she wrote eight works for the theater,
including "A Solid Home" (1957), "The Tree" (1963) and "Felipe
Angeles" (1979). Upon her return to Mexico in 1991, she was honored
for her life's work at the National Theater Program in Aguascalientes.
Ms. Garro spent
her last years with her daughter and more than a dozen
cats in a two-bedroom apartment in Cuernavaca.