Chilean writer Jorge Edwards, winner of the Cervantes Prize in 1999, died on Friday March 17 in Madrid at the age of 91, his son announced to Agence France-Presse (AFP). He is the author of the bestseller Persona non grata in which he recounts his disenchantment with the Cuban revolution.
“Leaves us an exceptional novelist, a courageous essayist and a journalist aware of all layers of current affairs. His vitality and moral stature will be missed,” the Cervantes Institute wrote on Twitter.
Born in Santiago in 1931, Jorge Edwards studied at the Faculty of Law of the University of Chile and did graduate studies at Princeton University in the United States.
He served Chilean diplomacy from 1957 to 1973 until Augusto Pinochet's military coup (1973-1990). He was stationed in Paris, Lima and in an assignment that will mark him particularly: Havana.
Lucid about the Cuban Revolution
Mr Edwards spent three months in the Cuban capital in 1971 to open the Chilean embassy on behalf of the socialist government of Salvador Allende (1970-73), one of the first to restore diplomatic ties with Fidel Castro's regime .
His dual role as diplomat and writer allows him to come into contact with writers on the island who tell him a point of view different from the official version.
Jorge Edwards was never officially expelled, but he left Cuba earlier than planned for Paris, where he reunited with his friend Pablo Neruda, then ambassador to France. From this period in Cuba, he learned to "distinguish between appearances, outward gestures, formal speeches and realities", he admitted in 2018.
In 1973 he moved to Barcelona where he came into contact with other Latin American writers who lived there, such as the Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa.
Appointed Ambassador to UNESCO in Paris in 1994, he received the Cervantes Prize five years later. He will hold his last post as a diplomat at the Chilean Embassy in France from 2010 to 2014 in Paris, under the first term of conservative Chilean President Sebastian Piñera.
Jorge Edwards has written numerous novels, short stories, essays and autobiographical works. He has also collaborated with European and Latin American media including Le Monde, El Pais in Spain, Il Corriere della Sera in Italy, the Argentinian newspapers La Nacion and Clarin, as well as the Mexican magazine Letras Libres.