Project Description

The Letters That Never CameMauricio Rosencof


Rosencof was born in Uruguay in 1933, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants. Many of his relatives died in the ghettos of Warsaw and Auschwitz. Rosencof worked as a journalist, writer and literary and artistic director. He was a leader of the National Liberation Movement (Tupamaros), arrested in 1972, and from 1973 he was held in solitary confinement, isolated for eleven and a half years, until the end of the military dictatorship in 1985. After his release, he restructured the Tupamaros. Rosencof was director of the Department of Culture of the Municipality of Montevideo between 2005 and 2010. He has been awarded in different areas, translated into more than ten languages, and adapted for the cinema: “A Night of Twelve Years” was released in 2018, based on Memories of the Jail, an autobiographical novel written together with Ñato Fernandez Huidobro. His novels The Bataraz and The Letters That Never Came also deserve special mention. For his biographical essay With the Root on the Shoulder, the Uruguayan Chamber of Books has awarded the prestigious Gold Book 2023 to Rosencof in the category of Recent Memory.

Mauricio Rosencof© Carlos Contrera


For the Little Ones to Come

More than sixty years ago, at the table of a bar that no longer exists, some of Montevideo’s cultural and political personalities met to debate, in the midst of a society threatened by fear.
From the symbolic space of this bar table, and with the Olivetti typewriter commanding the actions, El Ruso Rosencof conjures up memories and key figures from our recent history. Memory guides the journey, and through the pages appear the approaching dictatorship, the revolutionary movements that seek to change history, the politicians of the time, the chronicles of captivity together with the tenderness of a father who wants to tell his daughter a story, and in this way to ward off the horror. And, above all, the freedom that finds every opening from which light can spring.
This book unties the knots of memory, searching the past to think about the future. For the Little Ones to Come (“Por los chiquitos que vienen”).


With the Root on the Shoulder

On the verge of turning 90, Mauricio Rosencof decides to rummage through the drawers of his memory to weave the tale of his own history, the one that led him to undertake a feat that marked his life and that of many others. With the Root on the Shoulder (“Con la raíz al hombro”) is a brave, sincere and emotional book; indispensable. This book represents a highly personal and engaged look at the process that gave rise to the revolutionary movement which erupted in Uruguay during the 1960s. Rosencof writes about events he lived through; his gaze does not aspire to universality or objective truths. From the origins of the MLN-Tupamaros through the milestones of revolutionary action, prison, and torture, to the return of democracy, these pages represent a personal, unique, and reflective point of view. Mauricio Rosencof was a witness and a protagonist, he helped to change the destiny of his country. He is a man who fought tirelessly for freedom and democracy.


With the Root on the Shoulder


The Silences of the Old Man

An unexpected find in Mauricio Rosencof’s library was the creative impulse for his novel The Silences of the Old Man (“Los silencios del viejo”), whose roots go back to the origins of the story of a Jewish family who landed in Uruguay fleeing the Holocaust. A book whose process of writing revealed to the author himself surprising aspects of his own family’s history.
Don Isaac’s journey by train, to go and talk to Mauricio, his imprisoned son, symbolises another journey, deeper and more complex, which unites the destinies of different generations in their struggle against injustice and dislocation.


The Silences of the Old Man


The Shoebox

“The old photos contain little green. There are no trees in colour. Everything is grey, white, black. They are photos from before. I am from before. I’m part of the shoebox universe. And I try to fit in as best I can.”
To ignore the hood that imprisons him in a present of pain and injustice, the narrator escapes with his imagination to the shoebox where the photos are kept. This is the refuge where memories are a living present. The idealised childhood and youth in 1950’s Montevideo, the neighbourhood, first love, political persecution, family secrets, the aftermath of the Holocaust; all this comes together in a text that is suggestive, moving and full of poetry.

Mauricio Rosencof’s most personal book.


The Shoebox


The Private Life of Tota

In The Private Life of Tota (“La vida privada de la Tota”), the neighborhood’s in turmoil. The police arrived to raid the house of la Tota, apparently looking for her nephew, Antonio. The neighbors are crowded into the sidewalk, waiting for what might happen as they exchange ideas, suppositions, myths, gossip. Nobody knows much. But there is a denunciation, two shots were heard. They are looking for a body. This is the starting point for revealing the story of Tota, amiable character who is part of the neighborhood stage, someone who fights bravely to overcome loneliness. Other creatures parade along with her, born of the imagination and memory of Mauricio Rosencof, who puts them on stage with compassionate gaze and deep understanding of the human essence. The nostalgia, the tenderness and the small joys of people so heroic as well as inconsequential are part of the charm of this book, which is inscribed within the Rosencofian saga of a neighborhood that contains in itself the metaphor of our society. The volume is completed with an essay by Professor Leticia Collazo on this fictional space and its characters, and illuminates from a different perspective the creation of one of the most relevant writers of the last decades in Uruguay.


The Bataraz // The Letters That Never Came

Since Rosencof was freed in 1985 during a general amnesty he has been invited to numerous conferences and congresses at the most important universities in Europe and America. His dramatic works have been performed internationally. His prose texts The Bataraz (“El Bataraz”) and The Letters That Never Came (“Las cartas que no llegaron”) are yet to be discovered.

In Las cartas que no llegaron young Moishe talks about his oppressive childhood and youth, which were marked by war, loss, flight and indomitable courage. As an adult Moishe will report again later from La Paz. His letters are evidence of deep humanity that has survived death, letters full of music, macabre humour and sadness which never arrived. And those in El Bataraz were never written, for the first-person narrator had neither paper nor pen at his disposal to satisfy his urgent need to communicate during his years of solitary confinement. He does so with a cock, the bataraz. With fascination the reader enters into the narrator’s physical and mental world and asks himself, whether the bataraz actually existed: having shared the narrator’s fate of imprisonment and torture and having assumed the role of conversation partner, in the end, this cell companion mutates into his betrayer and executor.


The Letters That Never Came


The Fire Messenger

In his novel The Fire Messenger (“El enviado del fuego”), Rosencof passes the word on to the inhabitants of a mental home in a long monologue, which argues for unconditional love, tenderness, human dignity and humour being the only weapons against discontentment in every day life.


The Daisy

The sonnets entitled The Daisy (“La Margarita”), which were written in prison and smuggled out in the seams of clothes, tell in simple words the story of a first love, of an imaginary Margarita, a girl from the neighbourhood. In 1994 the popular Uruguayan rock musician Jaime Roos put 15 of the 25 sonnets to music. The poems and CD have now been reissued in an attractive new edition, together with interviews with those involved.


A Gondola Anchored in the Corner

Like the sonnets, Rosencof’s work A Gondola Anchored in the Corner (“Una góndola ancló en la esquina”) evokes the atmosphere of the southern quarter of Montevideo at the beginning of the 1960s. The wonderfully woven story tells of a confetti salesman who, on his search for love, makes a pact with the devil, and henceforth meanders through the area on a gondola until he finally finds happiness. The events – which include other small romantic dramas – are observed and commented on by four card players in the local café. It may not appear so at first, but they take on the very essentials of life.


Betrayals to Memory

In Half World (“Medio Mundo”) the author reflects on humanity and on the urgent need for man to take control of his destiny, a destiny that only depends on his strength and conviction, because God, this apparently omnipotent and eternal figure, created man as an intelligent and free being, even though the reality, both actual and historic, reveals that he left a lot of unfinished business, with many unpleasant events to follow.

In this novel the omnipotent God figure has lost his strength and in a last attempt to exercise his absolute control he cannot think of anything else to do but call a meeting, 2,000 years later, in a very non biblical setting, a suburb of Montevideo, with the protagonists of that biblical story: Jesus of Nazareth, Mary, Judas, Mary Magdalene and the fishermen. All these characters are called together for this particular meeting without knowing why or who it is that has brought them together. Only at the end, at the last supper, which on this occasion is a more human affair, with exquisite delicacies, do they realise that the God who called them together has no more cards to play. This punishing God who tried to correct a civilisation by drowning it in a flood and who refrained from acting during Hiroshima and Auschwitz, has nothing left to offer. Now everything is in our hands alone.

In this latest novel, Rosencof calls on the strength of humanity, on the strength of everything and every one of us to build a better future, one that is freer and less dark. In the rewriting of certain Biblical passages, man is given that unique opportunity, beyond Biblical maxims: to love each other.


For the Little Ones to Come (“Por los chiquitos que vienen”)
Montevideo: Alfaguara 2024, 222 p.

The Silences of the Old Man (“Los silencios del viejo”)
Montevideo: Alfaguara 2022, 160 p.
Denmark: Aurora Boreal · Germany: Assoziation A, fortcoming August 2024

The Shoebox (“La caja de zapatos”)
Montevideo: Alfaguara 2021, 220 p.

The Private Life of Tota (“La vida privada de la Tota”)
Montevideo: Alfaguara 2019, 146 p.

Doña Rosa’s Little Carriage (“La calesita de Doña Rosa”)
Montevideo: Alfaguara 2017, 95 p.

La segunda muerte del Negro Varela
Montevideo: Alfaguara 2015,  113 p.
Italy: Musicaos 2020

Ten Minutes (“Diez Minutos”)
Montevideo: Alfaguara 2013, 133 p.

Room 8 (“Sala 8”)
Montevideo: Alfaguara digital 2012, 142 p.
Italy: Nova Delphi 2014

Half World (“Medio mundo”)
Montevideo: Alfaguara 2009, 162 p.
Italy: David Iori 2018

A Gondola Anchored in the Corner (“Una góndola ancló en la esquina”)
Montevideo: Alfaguara 2007, 200 p.
Italy: David Iori 2016

The Neighbourhood Was a Party (“El barrio era una fiesta”)
Montevideo: Alfaguara 2005, 174 p.
Italy: Noripios 2011 · Spain: Alcalá 2011

The Fire Messenger (“El enviado del fuego”)
Montevideo: Alfaguara 2004, 177 p.
Germany: Edition Köln 2007

The Letters That Never Came (“Las cartas que no llegaron”)
Montevideo: Alfaguara 2000, 174 p.
Film rights under option
Brazil: Record 2013 · Denmark: Aurora Boreal 2023 · France: Les Folies d’ Encre 2009 · Germany: Residenz 1997 (extracts), Edition Köln 2004 · Italy: Le Lettere 2008, Nova Delphi 2015 · Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica · Spain: Alcalá 2014 · USA: University of New Mexico Press 2004, Texas Tech University Press 2014

The Bataraz (“El Bataraz”)
Montevideo: Alfaguara 1999, 190 p.
France: Les Folies d’ Encre 2011 · Germany: Libertäre Assoziation 1995 · Italy: Musicaos · Spain: Alcalá

With the Root on the Shoulder (“Con la raíz al hombro”)
Gold Book 2023 of the Uruguayan Chamber of Books in the category of Recent Memory
Montevideo: Aguilar (Penguin Random House) 2023, 272 p.
Third edition in three months

Memories of the Jail (“Memorias del calabozo”)
Montevideo: Banda Oriental, 3 vols.
(With Ñato Fernandez Huidobro)
Film directed by Álvaro Brechner under the title “Una noche de 12 años” (A Night of 12 Years), produced by Tornasol Film, release in September 2018
Brazil: Rua do Sabão 2020 · Germany: Libertäre Assoziation 1990, 2019 · Greece: Koukkida 2009 · Italy: Iacobelli 2009, Rayuela 2021 · Spain: Txalaparta 1993, 2018 · The Netherlands: Ravijn 1993 · Turkey: 1992

The Rebellion of the Sugarcane Growers (“La rebelión de los cañeros”)
Uruguay: Editorial Fin de Siglo, 2000

When the Jail Became a Theatre Workshop (“Als der Kerker zur Theaterwerkstatt wurde”)
(speeches and interviews)
Germany: Büro für Kultur- und Medienprojekte 1995

Dog’s Life (“Hundeleben”)
(poetry, speeches and interviews)
Germany: Libertäre Assoziation 1990 · Turkey: Belge 1992

Conversations with the Espadrille (“Conversaciones con la Alpargata”)
Montevideo: Arca 1989, 153 p.; Banda Oriental 2004, 94 p., with a foreword by Mario Benedetti.
France: Le rayon littéraire 1993 · USA: The Kenyion Review, vol. 13, 3, 1991

Incomplete Alphabet of Jewish Humour (“Abécédaire incomplet de l’humour juif”)
France: Folies d’Encre 2011

Cosas de pajarito (poesía)
Buenos Aires: Mágicas Naranjas 2021

How Great It Is to Be Small (“Lo grande que es ser chiquito”)
Montevideo: Alfaguara 2008, 30 p.
Spain: Alcalá 2010

Legends of the Afternoon Grandfather (“Leyendas del abuelo de la tarde”)
Montevideo: Alfaguara 2004, 62 p.
Germany: Libertäre Assoziation 1991 · Italy: Nova Delphi 2011 · Spain: Alcalá 2015

The Daisy (“La Margarita”)
new edition by Alfaguara 2006, 66 p. (book + CD)

… and Our Horses Will Be White and Other Works (“… y nuestros caballos serán blancos y otras obras”)
Uruguay: Santillana 2000

El Combate del establo, Los caballos, El vendedor de reliquias
Italy: Musicaos Editores 2023, 222 p.