May 15, 2022 6:34 pm

The journalist Cristian Alarcón won the Alfaguara Prize for a novel of hope

MADRID.– The novel the third paradise, from Chilean Christian Alarcon, master of chronicles and non-fiction, received this noon the Alfaguara award, the prestigious award for which 899 Latin American works competed. “It is a novel of hope, where beauty, the pleasure of the senses, the possibility of finding a personal refuge are postulated”, expressed the ruling that he read Fernando Aramburu in Madrid. “The novel arose from despair and loneliness,” Alarcón thanked from his home in Buenos Aires for the award for this novel that he wrote during the pandemic and during confinement.

Aramburu read the minutes to those present: “The jury highlights the narrative rigor of a beautiful novel with a dual structure set in various places in Chile and Argentina. The protagonist reconstructs the history of his ancestors while delving into his passion for cultivating a garden in search of a personal paradise. The novel opens a door to the hope of finding a refuge from collective tragedies in the small. As the author says: «Beauty begins in the wonder of flowers, as beautiful as finalists in which we will always see the destiny that cannot be resolved»”. The jury, made up of Spaniards Aramburu (Homeland Y swifts), Olga Merino and Ray Loriga (winner of this same award in 2017 for Surrender), Argentina Paula Vazquez, the Mexican Marisol Schulz Manaut, director of the Guadalajara International Book Fair, and the Colombian editor Pilar Reyes (with voice, but without vote), director of the Literary Division of Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, chose this novel as the winner of this XXV edition that every year adds more applicants. Unanimously, the award was given to Alarcón.

Set in Chile and Argentina, the story of Alarcón’s ancestors is recreated. In it it is possible “to find in the small a refuge from collective tragedies”, Aramburu specified. Writer and journalist, the Chilean author residing in Argentina published When I die I want them to play cumbia for me (Aguilar), If you love me, love me (Aguilar) and A sea of ​​Peronist castles (Tide). “Non-fiction requires too much to put the body,” explained Alarcón from his home in the San Cristóbal neighborhood of Buenos Aires. The author also referred to the botanical experience that is reflected in his novel and highlighted one of his masters of literature and journalism: Ryszard Kapuscinski. “I started playing with fiction and reality. The structure of this novel is like that of the atom: it comes and goes in time”. In the novel there are, in addition to fiction, elements of the essay and also poetry.

The jury for the Alfaguara award also highlighted several virtues of the third paradise: “a concise, refined prose, which also adapts very well to the story being told.” The text is anchored in recognizable historical events: the earthquake in Chile in 1960, the coup against Salvador Allende, etc. “The novel allows me to rethink my future,” Alarcón said, referring to his muses, in particular his mother and grandmother, and also dedicated it to his male grandparents. The complexity of this novel was “telling the story from a feminist perspective with the effects and damage that patriarchy has produced in our current consciousness.”

Alarcón founded the magazine Anfibia and the site Red Harvest. Since then he has led a process of permanent mutation of the Latin American chronicle. He was a visiting professor at the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Austin, Texas, and at the University of Lille, France. Received the Samuel Chavkin Prize. In 2014 he received the Konex Award in the Chronicles and Testimonies category. In 2019 he received the Profile Award for freedom of expression. He is a full professor at the Faculty of Journalism and Social Communication at the University of La Plata and directs the Master’s Degree in Narrative Journalism at the School of Humanities at the National University of San Martín. His books have been translated into English, French, German and Polish.

In the previous edition, the Colombian author Pilar Quintana won the award with her novel the abysses. Several other Argentines have won before: Patricio Pron (Tomorrow we will have other names), Eduardo Sacheri (The night of the factory, fiction that was adapted to the cinema with the name The odyssey of the giles), Leopoldo Brizuela (the same night), Andrés Neuman (the traveler of the century), Graciela Montes and Ema Wolf (The turn of the scribe) and Tomas Eloy Martinez (queen’s flight). Of the total of 899 proposals submitted, 131 came from Argentina.

The Alfaguara prize had its first edition in 1965 and was awarded annually until 1972. In 1998 it was relaunched by Juan Cruz Ruiz, with Carlos Fuentes as president of the jury and almost 600 novels presented. Given the health crisis, the ceremony for this edition was virtual. The jury and the authorities were in the Casino de Madrid.

This award, one of the most important awarded to an unpublished work in Spanish, is endowed with 175,000 dollars, simultaneous publication throughout the Spanish-speaking territory and a sculpture by Martín Chirino.

Aramburu invoked some verses by Violeta Parra to culminate with the reading of his ruling, some verses that the brand-new author collects in his novel: “When my sorrows increase, the flowers in my garden must be my nurses.”

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