Project Description

The Ballad of Johnny SosaMario Delgado Aparaín


Mario Delgado Aparaín was born in Florida (Uruguay) in 1949. Besides writing, he teaches literary workshops. He has published several internationally successful novels and volumes of short stories. For many years, Delgado was working as a journalist and university lecturer, was head of Montevideo’s Department of Culture. In 2002 he received the Instituto Cervantes Award in the Juan Rulfo Competition from Radio Francia Internacional for his short story TERRIBLES OJOS VERDES. Mario Delgado has his own TV programme, Café negro, where he interviews well-known writers and artists.

Mario Delgado Aparaín© Mario Tolosa


The Fable of Countess Andrea and her Grandmother Justiniana

The Fable of Countess Andrea and her Grandmother Justiniana (“La fábula de la condesa Andrea y su abuela Justiniana”) is based on real events and characters, such as the French pirate Etienne Moreau, a 17th century trader of slaves for Portuguese clients and smuggler of cow skins stolen from the Spanish. In addition to his fascination with history, Mario Delgado Aparaín has been interested in mythology since his student days, as well as in the role of shamans and healers in those worlds, particularly in the field of predictions and “magical” manipulations of time and space.

The story begins with the adventures of Andrea Chiaramonte, seemingly a teenage bootblack from the Sicilian village of Cefalù, but in reality a blue-blooded countess who must go into hiding because her father fought for Sicilian independence and was assassinated. Andrea and her grandmother Justiniana, “The Sorceress”, are kidnapped by Moreau in the early 1700s and travel by ship with sixty African prisoners from Sierra Leone, destined for the slave market in the Rio de la Plata. They are all freed by Moreau before the great battle of Valizas. The pirate dies, the Africans travel to Asperezas, a legendary refuge for slaves escaped from the Portuguese facendas, and Andrea and Justiniana take a two-hundred-year nap and finally return to Italy, encountering a monstrosity of today’s world: the boatloads of African immigrants seeking European salvation.


The Magnificent Eight

The Magnificent Eight (“Los ocho magníficos”), is the exquisitely vernacular recreation of a Western where smugglers, English railway workers and an army of criminals revolve around the border adventures of bandit Filisbino Nieto at the beginning of the twentieth century, a time when Halley’s comet foreshadowed the end of the world. This parody of power and war arises from the joining together of two short and endearing stories, State of Grace (“Estado de gracia”) and On Mother’s Orders (“Por mandato de madre”). It is a novel of contrasts, where the real and the fantastic compete in parallel between stubborn resurrections, incendiary passions and the insistence of the train that advances with the most uncertain future predicted by progress. An unforgettable story that leaves the reader with the unsettling conviction that in this world, nobody can save themselves alone.


Tango of the Ancient Mariner

Captain Lander used to travel the seven seas. He now lives as a scale-model boat builder in a cabin at the Uruguayan seaside, where he rescues a young tango dancer and receives a visit, after two decades, from his old friend Sampedro. What they don’t know is that the tango dancer’s father was Sampedro and his enemy during the dictatorship of the 70s and 80s, and that he has hired a hitman to kill them. A bold journalist, a clueless policeman, a beautiful nurse and the hitman himself, who turns out to have an “ethical code”, will be responsible for preventing the murder. Written with incisive humour and ironic prose, Tango of the Ancient Mariner (“Tango del viejo marinero”) is a great novel by Mario Delgado Aparaín at his best, dealing with subjects such as loneliness, absolution, love and friendship. Returning to his fictional town of Mosquitos, this novel is both local and universal. It is a reflection on self-knowledge as an act of resistance. Combining elements of political novel and thriller, this fascinating book will keep the reader in suspense from beginning to end.


Tango of the Ancient Mariner


The Man from Brussels

Delgado’s novel, The Man from Brussels (“El hombre de Bruselas”), shows in a refreshingly ironic way how the all-powerful Europe is seen from a small South American country. When election time comes around in the poverty-stricken town of Mosquitos, the mayor applies for support from the generous European Union. And really, a man from Brussels comes over to help and all the good red wine and a beautiful woman prompt him to a brilliant idea …


The Man from Brussels


The Worst Stories of the Grim Brothers

Together with Luis Sepúlveda, Delgado wrote The Worst Stories of the Grim Brothers (“Los peores cuentos de los hermanos Grim”), a humorous epistolary novel. In this witty parody of history, science and adventure stories a Patagonian and a Uruguayan professor mean to investigate the life of Caín and Abel, two musicians and poets of the early 20th century. Feeling extremely important, they mainly talk about women, alcohol and money.


The Ballad of Johnny Sosa

In The Ballad of Johnny Sosa (“La balada de Johnny Sosa”), Delgado abducts his readers to the fictitious small town of Mosquitos where the negro Johnny is working on his career as a singer, attracting the attention of a military leader. But when his friends mysteriously start to disappear, Johnny realizes that he has been used by the new rulers. With deft irony and tragi-comic elements, Delgado has created a finely honed parable on human dignity.


The Ballad of Johnny Sosa


Thou Shall Not Steal the Boots of the Dead

The author had become famous through his short stories, some of which were set in the small town of San José de las Cañas. They represent the author’s reaction to the growing number of people living in cities, and the increasing concentration on city life. Delgado Aparaín, who himself grew up in the country, tells stories about the lives of people who in their meagre existence have maintained the capacity to dream and to escape from the narrowness of their everyday life, which holds out so little hope of change.

When Delgado’s fourth novel, Thou Shall Not Steal the Boots of the Dead (“No robarás las botas de los muertos”) was published in 2002, Mario Benedetti, otherwise sparing with praise, closed his presentation with the words: … and so I believe that Thou Shall Not Steal the Boots of the Dead is not only Mario Delgado Aparaín’s most accomplished novel, but also one of the best examples of Latin American narrative at the turn of the century.


The Magnificent Eight (“Los ocho magníficos”)
Montevideo: Planeta Uruguay 2018, 237 p.
Italy: Guanda 2022

Tango of the Ancient Mariner (“Tango del viejo marinero”)
Montevideo: Planeta Uruguay 2015, 221 p.
Italy: Guanda 2017

La fábula del tucutucu real contada por un Cronista de Indias que casi no cuenta el cuento
Montevideo: Banda Oriental 2014 71p.
(Ill. by Ignacio Calero)

The Man from Brussels (“El hombre de Bruselas”)
Montevideo: Banda Oriental 2011, 187 p., Montevideo: Planeta
Italy: Guanda 2013

The Worst Stories of the Grim Brothers (“Los peores cuentos de los hermanos Grim”)
Barcelona: Roca 2004; Buenos Aires: Seix Barral 2004, 224 p.
(Together with Luis Sepúlveda)
France: Métailié 2005 · Greece: Opera 2006 · Italy: Guanda 2005, 2020 · Korea: Open Books 2007 · Poland: Noir sur Blanc 2008 · Portugal: ASA 2005, Porto Editora · Serbia & Montenegro: Paidea 2008

Thou Shall Not Steal the Boots of the Dead (“No robarás las botas de los muertos”)
Montevideo: Alfaguara 2002, 441 p., Montevideo: Planeta

Alivio de luto
Montevideo: Alfaguara 1998, 143 p., Montevideo: Planeta 2015, 221p.
Shortlisted for Premio Internacional Alfaguara 1998
Film rights sold to Lavorágine Films, released 2017. Screenplay by Guillermo Casanova and Inés Bortagaray
Nominee from Uruguay for the Oscar and Goya Award 2018
English translation available
France: Métailié 2000 · Germany: Alexander Fest 2001, edition día (eBook) · Italy: Guanda 1999 · Portugal: ASA 2001 · Uruguay: Planeta

El día del cometa
Montevideo: Banda Oriental 1985, 72 p.

State of Grace (“Estado de gracia”)
Montevideo: Banda Oriental 1983; Alfaguara (Uruguay, Argentina, Chile) 1996, 75 p.

On Mother’s Orders (“Por mandato de madre”)
Montevideo: Alfaguara 1996, 207 p.

The Ballad of Johnny Sosa (“La balada de Johnny Sosa”)
Montevideo: Banda Oriental 1991, 132 p. , Alfaguara ( Spanish world rights) 2000, Montevideo: Planeta 2014, 139 p.
Film rights under option
Brazil: Garamond 1993 · France: Métailié 1994, pb 2005 · Germany: Luchterhand 1996, Fischer pb 1998, edition día (eBook) · Greece: Opera 1998 · Italy: Anabasi 1994, Guanda 2009 · The Netherlands: Arena 1993 · Portugal: ASA 1999, Quetzal 2013 · Spain: Ediciones B 1995 · Turkey: CAN 2007 · Uruguay: Planeta 2018 · USA: Overlook 2002, pb 2005

Cinco fábulas del sur
Montevideo: Planeta 2021, 170 p.

La fábula de la condesa Andrea y su abuela Justiniana (published in “Cinco fábulas del sur”)
Greece: Editions Opera 2020, 50 p.

Un mundo de cuentos
Montevideo: Planeta 2013, 382 p.

Vagabundo y Errante
Montevideo: Banda Oriental 2009, 174 p.

El canto de la corvina negra y otros cuentos
Montevideo: Banda Oriental 2003, 93 p

Terribles ojos verdes
Montevideo: Alfaguara 2001, 53 p.
Premio Juan Rulfo, Radio France 2001

La leyenda del Fabulosísimo Cappi y otras historias
Montevideo: Alfaguara 1999, 306 p.

Las llaves de Francia
Montevideo: Banda Oriental 1989, 85 p.

Causa de buena muerte
Montevideo: ARCA 1982, 106 p.

Recordaré solo las noches
In: Cuentos completos, Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial Uruguay 2014
Film rights sold: Anfibia Cine, Uruguay

Viernes con lobos. Antología de cuentos de lobisones
Montevideo: Planeta 2019, 320 p.

Participation in anthologies:
Tu nombre flotando en el adiós
Barcelona: Ediciones B 2003
Italy: Guanda 2004 · Portugal: Oficina do Livro 2008

Cuentos del mar
Barcelona: Ediciones B 2001
Italy: Guanda 2002 (avail.) · Portugal: ASA 2002

Poetry in anthologies:
Poesie senza patria
Parma: Guanda 2003, 147 p.

El tapiz de los tupamaros
Mondevideo: Planeta Uruguay 2020, 480 p.
(eBook: together with Luis Mazzeo, Mario Mazzeo and Augusto Gregori)

Children’s books:
Un perro sin nombre
(ill. by Fidel Sclavo)

Montevideo: Banda Oriental 2017, 35 p.

La taberna del loro en el ombro
Mondevideo: Banda Oriental 2007
Mexico: CIDCLI 2003, 31 p.

Voces del café negro
Mondevideo: Planeta Uruguay, 2016, 408 p.