Antonio Skármeta [ Chile, Germany ]
Antonio Skármeta was born in Antofagasta, Chile, in 1940. As a grandson of Dalmatian immigrants, he grew up with his grandparents in very impoverished conditions. Despite difficult conditions, he managed to begin a course in Philosophy and Literature, at first in Chile and from 1964 to 1966 at the Columbia University. He completed his course with a study of the Argentine Julio Cortázar.
In 1967 his first volume of narratives, 'El entusiasmo' (Engl: Enthusiasm), appeared in which he explores the erotic world his generation experienced. Two years later he published a second volume, 'Desnudo en el tejado' (Engl: Naked on the Roof) which won him the Prize of the Cuban 'Casa de las Américas'.
Up to Pinochet’s military putsch in 1973 he worked in Santiago as a literary and artistic director and a professor of literature as well as working for the press and in broadcasting. After a year in Argentinia, Skármeta, with the help of a DAAD scholarship, went into exile in West-Berlin where he worked until 1989 as a freelance writer, screenplay author and lecturer at the 'Berlin Film and Television Academy'. Here he wrote, too, in 1975 his first novel, 'Sone que la nieve ardia' (Engl: I Dreamt the Snow was Burning, 1985) which at the same time was conceived as a screenplay.
Skármeta, for whom "neither life nor literature outside politics" is imaginable, had his internationally greatest success with 'Ardiente Paciencia' (Engl: Burning Patience, 1994).
At first a radio play, a stage drama and screenplay, it finally appeared as a novel in 1985. Skármeta, who with the protagonist in his novel shares great admiration for the Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda, portrays the latter as a poet, both modest and close to the people. On the Chilean island "La Isla Negra", where he lives, a special friendship developes between him and his own postman, Mario. Neruda lends him his own verses of love poetry, which leads to an unforeseen end. Michael Radford's film version of the novel, entitled 'Il Postino' (Engl: The Postman', 1994) won five Oscar nominations in 1994. The award-winning producer is currently about to realize the film version of 'El baile de la victoria' (2003).
In 1989, after the collapse of Pinochet’s military dictatorship, the writer returned to Chile in order "to create political space for freedom". He chaired an arts programme on television, which regularly attracted over a million viewers.
After an interval of almost ten years there appeared two novels in 1999 and 2000, which build on each other, 'La boda del poeta' (Eng: The Poet’s Wedding, 2002) and 'La chica de trombon' (Engl: The Girl with the Trobone) in which Skármeta, in a characteristically tragicomic way, gives a portrait of southern Euopean emigrants in Chile at the beginning of the twentieth century. In his books, the author says, "the people in all these tragedies cling to life through tenderness, fraternity, humour and solidarity. The smile of the soul comes with the experience of what pain is."
Antonio Skármeta lived in Berlin again where he represented his homeland as Chilean ambassador between 2000 and 2003. For this work, he received the German Cross of Merit.
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