Griselda Gambaro was born in Buenos Aires in 1928 into a family of second-generation Italian immigrants. Coming from a background of limited economic means, Gambaro did not receive a formal education but educated herself through reading literature which was available from her local public library. She began writing at the age of 24 but it was in her mid-thirties that she suddenly started to enjoy great recognition and success as a writer.
In the early 1960s, Gambaro became involved with the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella, an avant-garde foundation formed in Buenos Aires in 1958 that combined sociological studies with the fine arts until it was forced to close in 1971 due to the repressive political climate. The Instituto achieved a name for itself as a hotbed of groundbreaking experimental art, music and theatre, and it was at the Instituto’s theatre that Gambaro put on a series of four plays responsible for her international success: Las paredes (The Walls) (1964), El desatino (The Blunder) (1965), Los siameses (The Siamese Twins) (1967) and El campo (The Camp) (1971).
Gambaro was forced into exile in 1977 when the novel she had just published, Ganarse la muerte (Conquering Death), was banned. In exile in Barcelona, she wrote and published Dios no nos quiere contentos (God Doesn’t Want Us Happy), which she considers her finest long fiction.
Gambaro’s theatre is concerned with the abuse of authority in human relationships. Rather than depicting realistic situations her writing evokes the grotesque where characters find themselves in absurd and exaggerated roles of subjugated and subjugator.
Gambaro’s work breaks with realist drama. Her characters often find themselves in an absurd, yet nightmarish predicament and through her inventive black comedy, Gambaro’s audience consistently becomes an unwitting participant in the bullying, cruelty, torture and violence which takes place on stage. Her work recalls European traditions, such as the absurd and Theatre of Cruelty but her writing firmly asserts a specifically Argentine identity which derives from the rich theatrical tradition of el grotesco criollo and an Argentine political reality.
Rea Boorman, Joan. 1978. ‘Contemporary Latin American Woman Dramatists’, Rice University Studies, 64.1, 69-80
Zandstra, Dianne Marie. 2007. Embodying Resistance: Griselda Gambaro and the Grotesque. Massachusetts, Rosemont Publishing
Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 5 October 2010.