Elena Poniatowska

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Elena Poniatowska at an autograph session in Mexico City in 1989

Elena Poniatowska (actually Hélène Elizabeth Louise Amélie Paula Dolores Poniatowska Amor ; born May 19, 1932 in Paris ) is one of the most renowned writers and journalists in Mexico .


Hélène Poniatowska Amor was born in Paris in 1932 as the daughter of the Mexican Paulette Dolores Amor (whose family had fled to France after the expropriation of their lands in the course of the Mexican Revolution ) and the Polish nobleman Jean Evremont Poniatowski (another year of birth, 1933, was born by many times wrong copying has been passed on since Emmanuel Carballo made this mistake in his anthology). In 1941, the mother fled with their two daughters before the Nazis and returned in 1942 to Mexico. The father fought in the French army until the end of the World War and only then came after. The author has processed some of these formative childhood experiences in her autobiographical novel La Flor de Lis (1988). The Mexican poet Guadalupe ("Pita") Amor (1920-2000) was her maternal aunt.

The eight-year-old learned Spanish from her Mexican nanny Magdalena Castillo, because her parents did not consider this important and sent her to English-speaking convent schools in Mexico and the USA . But Elena did not fit the stereotype of a Polish princess from an early age; instead of marrying appropriately, she tried herself as a journalist, and so successfully that she was soon one of the most sought-after interviewers. In 1954, shortly before her first son Emmanuel was born, she published Lilus Kikus , a collection of poetic tales about a rebellious little girl who always asks inappropriate questions. She began to be increasingly interested in Mexico outside of high society , developing the style that is so typical for her texts, somewhere between documentary and narrative literature, because she wanted to “lend her voice to those who could not speak for themselves”. In 1963 she published the book Todo empezó el domingo , a chronicle of the Sunday excursions of the dispossessed.

One day she was so fascinated by the voice of an old laundress that she began to interview this woman who would go down in the annals of Mexican literature as "Jesusa Palancares", the main character in Poniatowska's novel Hasta no verte, Jesús mío (A life despite everything). A sullen, embittered outsider tells in first person her life, which is tied into the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution and so does not correspond to the usual cliché of a middle-class woman's life. 1968 marked a deep turning point in Mexican history with the " Tlatelolco massacre " on October 2nd during the presidency of Díaz Ordaz , in which the government shot at a student demonstration, with a net result of probably several hundred deaths. According to eyewitnesses, survivors, political prisoners and their relatives, Poniatowska compiled a chronicle, La noche de Tlatelolco , which was intended to decisively counteract the shameful silence of the official media. When she was supposed to receive the prestigious Xavier Villaurrutia Prize from the hands of President Echeverría in 1971 , she turned it down on the grounds: "And who awards the dead?"

In 1978 Querido Diego (Dear Diego) was published, a series of fictional letters from the Russian painter Angelina Beloff , whose typical female fate touched the painter Diego Rivera Poniatowska 's abandoned lover . The following year she lent Gaby Brimmer, a spastic woman who was paralyzed and only able to use her left big toe for communication, her voice for her autobiographical records. Also in 1979 was the collection of short stories De noche vienes and a year later Fuerte es el silencio (Strong is the silence), a collection of reports on the poor neighborhoods of Mexico City and the self-organization of their residents. She took the severe earthquake of 1985 as an opportunity to write another documentary in which the seamstresses, the homeless, the widows and survivors all have their say ( Nada, nadie ... ). In 1992 she published her second novel, which cost her ten years of her life: Tinissima , a literary biography of the photographer Tina Modotti , who caused a sensation in Mexico in the twenties because of her free-spirited lifestyle and her involvement in various political assassinations, and finally as a Stalinist Served as an agent in Moscow , the Spanish Civil War and Mexico. In Luz y luna, las lunitas (1994) Poniatowska explained the background of Jesusa's story again, reported nostalgically about the last street vendors in Mexico City and wrote about the "muchachas", the Indian maids without rights.

Private life

Elena is the cousin of the French politician Michel Poniatowski (1922–2002). The politicians active in French politics, Ladislas Poniatowski (1946−) and Axel Poniatowski (1952−), are second cousins.


  • Premio Mazatlán , 1970, for Hasta no verte Jesús mío .
  • Premio Xavier Villaurrutia , 1970 (rejected by her), for La noche de Tlatelolco .
  • Premio Nacional de Periodismo (as the first woman) for her interviews, 1978.
  • Premio Manuel Buendía , 1987.
  • Coatlicue Premio , 1990.
  • Premio Mazatlán de Literatura , 1992, for Tinísima .
  • Premio Nacional Juchimán , from the Fundación Juchimán, 1993.
  • Premio Alfaguara de Novela , 2001 for La piel del cielo
  • Premio Nacional de Ciencias y Artes (Lingüística y Literatura), 2002.
  • Premio Internacional de Novela Rómulo Gallegos , 2007 for El tren pasa primero .
  • Premio Biblioteca Breve , 2011, for Leonora .
  • Cervantes Prize , 2013.


Elena Poniatowska has a very unique way of working as a writer; she combines her work as a journalist and writer in her works by incorporating elements of extra-linguistic reality into her stories, especially on the basis of interviews, or even making them her main topic.


  • Lilus Kikus , México: Los Presentes, 1954; newer edition: México: Ed. Era, 1991 ISBN 968-411-132-0
  • Melés y Teleo. Apuntes para una comedia . México: Revista Panoramas, 1956.
  • Todo empezó el domingo . Ill. By Alberto Beltrán. México: Fondo de Cultura, 1963. Newer edition: México, DF: Ed. Océano de México, 1998 (Tiempo de México) ISBN 970-651-052-4
  • Palabras cruzadas. Crónicas . México: Era, 1961. (Biblioteca Era)
  • Hasta no verte, Jesús mío . México 1969. Newer edition: Barcelona: Nuevas Ed. de bolsillo, 2002 (Ave Fénix de bolsillo; 326.4). ISBN 84-8450-829-3
    • Jesusa - A life in spite of everything . From the chip. by Karin Schmidt. Göttingen: Lamuv-Verlag, 1992 (Lamuv-Taschenbuch; 123) ISBN 3-88977-309-5 [First edition under the title Allem in spite of ... The life of Jesusa . (= Hasta no verte, Jesús mío). Translated from the Spanish by Karin Schmidt. Bornheim-Merten: Lamuv, 1982.]
  • La noche de Tlatelolco. Testimonios de historia oral . México 1971. Newer edition: México, Ed. Era, 1993 ISBN 968-411-220-3
  • Querido Diego, te abraza Quiela . México 1978; newer edition: México, DF: Ed. Era, 1988 (Biblioteca Era; 109). ISBN 968-411-214-9
    • Dear Diego . From d. mexican chip. by Astrid Schmitt. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1988; Paperback edition: Frankfurt a. M .: Suhrkamp, ​​1989 (Suhrkamp-Taschenbuch; 1592) ISBN 3-518-38092-3
  • De noche vienes . México: Grijalbo, 1979; newer edition: México: Ed. Era, 1992 ISBN 968-411-136-3
  • Gaby Brimmer . México: Grijalbo, 1979. ISBN 968-419-101-4 . Newer edition: 3rd ed. Buenos Aires; México; Barcelona: Ed. Grijalbo, 1980.
  • Fuerte es el silencio . México 1980; newer edition: México: Era 1991 (Biblioteca Era; 128/10: Série crónicas) ISBN 968-411-054-5
    • The silence is strong. 4 reports from Mexico . Translated by Anna Jonas and Gerhard Poppenberg. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, ​​1982 (Suhrkamp-Taschenbuch; 1438) [2. Edition 1987] ISBN 3-518-37938-0
  • Domingo 7 . México 1982; newer edition: México: Oceano, 1985. ISBN 968-493-023-2
  • El último guajolote . México: Cultura / SEP; Martín Casillas, 1982. (Colección Memoria y olvido: imágenes de México)
  • ¡Ay vida, no me mereces! Carlos Fuentes, Rosario Castellanos, Juan Rulfo, la literatura de la Onda México 1985; newer edition: México: Joaquín Mortiz, 1992. ISBN 968-27-0495-2
  • La "Flor de Lis" . México: Ed. Era, 1988; newer edition: México: Era, 1992. ISBN 968-411-171-1
  • Nada, nadie. Las voces del temblor . México: Era, 1988; newer edition: México: Ed. Era, 1994 (Biblioteca Era: Crónica). ISBN 968-411-173-8
  • Todo México I-VII . México: Diana, 1991-2002. ISBN 968-13-2093-X
  • Tinísima . México 1992: newer edition: México: Era, 1993. ISBN 968-411-305-6
  • Luz y luna, las lunitas . México: Ed. Era, 1994. ISBN 968-411-374-9
  • Paseo de la reforma . Barcelona: Plaza & Janés, 1996 (Ave Fénix: serie mayor) ISBN 968-11-0193-6
  • Las soldaderas . México: Ed. Era [u. a.], 1999. ISBN 968-411-451-6 ISBN 970-18-2068-1
  • Octavio Paz, las palabras del arbol . Barcelona: Plaza & Janés, 1998. ISBN 968-11-0299-1
  • Las mil y una ... La herida de Paulina . Barcelona: Plaza & Janés, 2000. ISBN 968-11-0405-6
  • Juan Soriano. Niño de mil años . México: Plaza y Janés, 2000. ISBN 968-11-0331-9
  • Las siete cabritas . México, DF: Ed. Era, 2000 (Biblioteca Era: 40) ISBN 968-411-498-2
  • Mariana Yampolsky y la buganvillia . México: Plaza & Janés, 2001. ISBN 968-11-0466-8
  • La piel del cielo (The Skin of Heaven), Madrid: Alfaguara, 2001. ISBN 84-204-4241-0
  • Tlapalería . México, DF: Ed. Era, 2003 (Biblioteca Era: Narrativa). ISBN 968-411-564-4
  • Obras reunidas . México, DF: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2005. ISBN 968-16-7812-5 (obra completa)
  • El tren pasa primero . Madrid: Alfaguara, 2006. ISBN 84-204-6983-1
  • Amanecer en el Zócalo. Lot 50 días que confrontaron a México . 2007 (chronicle)
  • Leonora . México: Seix Barral, 2011 ISBN 607-07-0632-3
    • Woman of the wind. Novel . Translated from the Spanish by Maria Hoffmann-Dartevelle. Insel, Berlin 2012 ( Leonora Carrington )

further reading


  • Ballmaier, Priska M .: On the possibility, to put it another way: Versions of female life plans in the work of Mexican women authors . Hamburg: Verlag Dr. Kovač, 2001. (Feminat series; 10). ISBN 3-8300-0371-4
  • Jörgensen, Beth Ellen: The Writing of Elena Poniatowska: Engaging Dialogues . Austin, Tex .: Univ. of Texas Press, 1994. (The Texas Pan American Series) ISBN 0-292-74033-6
  • Medeiros-Lichem, María Teresa: Reading the Feminine Voice in Latin American Women's Fiction: from Teresa de la Parra to Elena Poniatowska and Luisa Valenzuela . New York, NY; Vienna [u. a.]: Lang, 2002. (Latin America; 2). ISBN 0-8204-5665-9
  • Plavčak, Barbara: Approaching Reality in Testimonial Literature: On Elena Poniatowska's “Hasta no verte Jesús mío” and “La noche de Tlatelolco” , unpublished. Mag.arb., Univ. Graz 1997.
  • Pino-Ojeda, Walescka: Sobre castas y puentes: Conversaciones con Elena Poniatowska, Rosario Ferré y Diamela Eltit. Providencia, Santiago: Ed. Cuarto Propio, 2000 (Ensayo series). ISBN 956-260-208-7


  • Bruce-Novoa, Juan: "Elena Poniatowska: The Feminist Origins of Commitment". In: Women's Studies International Forum 6.5 (1983), pp. 509-516
  • Chevigny, BG: "The Transformation of Privilege in the Work of Elena Poniatowska". In: Latin American Literary Review 13,26 (1985) pp 49-62
  • García Pinto, Magdalena: "Elena Poniatowska". In: dies .: Women Writers of Latin America. Intimate Histories . Austin (Texas) 1991, pp. 163-181.
  • Hancock, J .: "Elena Poniatowska's 'Hasta no verte, Jesús mío': The Remaking of the Image of Woman". In: Hispania 66.3 (1983), pp. 353-359
  • Miller, Beth: "Interview with Elena Poniatowska". In: Latin American Literary Review 4, 7 (1975), pp. 73-78
  • Pfeiffer, Erna: "Body text - body texts: Life with disabilities in works by contemporary Latin American authors: Alicia Kozameh, Elena Poniatowska, María Luisa Puga", in: Prettenthaler-Ziegerhofer, Anita (ed.): People with disabilities: Do you live like others? Graz: Grazer Universitätsverlag, 2006, pp. 247–256.

See also

Web links


  1. Descendant of Kazimierz Poniatowski (1721–1800), older brother of the last Polish king Stanisław August Poniatowski .