The juries have announced their verdicts and we can now reveal the latest writers of the American continent and the Caribbean to have been awarded the Casa de las Américas Literary Prize, in its 59th edition. The winners represented the countries of Cuba, Argentina, Barbados and Brazil, which has its own special category.
The awards ceremony took place in the spacious Che Guevara Hall of Havana’s Casa de las Américas, with its formidable Tree of Life, and was introduced by Jorge Fornet, director of the institution’s Literary Research Center, who first gave the floor to Puerto Rican judge Myrna García Calderón to announce the artistic-literary Essay Prize, awarded to the book Óyeme con los ojos: Cine, mujeres, visiones y voces, by Ana Forcinito (Argentina).
The judges emphasized that this is a text in which the author centers her analysis “on a solid theoretical base (feminist, philosophical, cinematographic) to reveal, in a historic context, the works of María Luisa Bemberg, Lucrecia Martel, and Albertina Carri.”
The Prize in the Brazilian Literature category was presented by Cristian Santos Brayner (Brazil) and was awarded to Erico Veríssimo, escritor do mundo, by Carlos Cortez Minchillo as “a profound study focused on the cosmopolitan dimension of the life and work of Érico Veríssimo, skillfully articulating the literary corpus with the professional and political career of the writer.”
Peruvian judge Teresa Zúñiga revealed that the jury in the Theater category had opted for Paraje Luna, by Fernando José Crespi (Argentina), on considering that this was “a piece of accomplished drama, in which the quality and suggestion of its plot have been valued.”
Jacob Ross, from Grenada, read the jury’s decision in the Caribbean Literature in English or Creole category, with the Casa Prize going to Tracing Jaja, by Anthony Kellman (Barbados), “an extraordinary novel about human experience, our ability to find beauty and love in the darkest circumstances.”
The Women’s Studies Prize went to Cuba’s Yanetsy Pino Reina for Hilando y deshilando la resistencia (pactos no catastróficos entre identidad femenina y poesía), an essay in which the jury appreciated “a creative and rigorous reading of Cuban women’s poetry from the end of the 20th century to the beginning of the 21st century, among whose contributions she proposes her own literary criticism research model.”
Following the ceremony, we took advantage of the occasion to speak with the Doctor in Literary Sciences, and discovered that the award-winning book spans all the Cuban women authors of the twentieth century, including those residing outside of the island.
Pino Reina dedicated the Prize “first to my country that makes dreams possible, especially those of women, and to all the women of the world, that after a long struggle finally, at least in Cuba, we can have some peace and personal fulfillment.”
The Short Story genre secured the second win for Cuba, with Todas las patas en el aire, by Rafael de Águila. According to the jury’s notes, as read by Ariel Urquiza, of Argentina, “with a dense and enveloping prose the author develops captivating stories framed in different periods and geographies.”
We were also able to converse with De Águila, who specified that the book features ten stories which combine themes of love, couples and others, and where the history of Cuba is very present.
The writer has won three other awards with short story books: in 1998, the Pinos Nuevos Prize for El ultimo viaje con Adriana; the 2010 Alejo Carpentier Prize for Del otro lado and in 2017 the Julio Cortázar Prize for Viento del Neva.
Questioned as to what attracts him to this genre, the author explained: “My own personality is tied to the short story. The novel is the persistence of time. The story is quick, personal, it starts and ends, and that is how I am.”
Regarding what winning the Prize meant to him, he noted: “On occasion I have said that I don’t believe in prizes. They are not important in the life of a narrator, but in some way they make you visible, it makes you feel more secure and in this case receiving the Casa de las Américas Prize is an honor, an enormous responsibility and an incentive to continue writing.”
Poet and essayist Roberto Fernández Retamar, Casa president, announced the special prizes and this year the José Lezama Lima Poetry Prize went to El zorro y la luna, poemas reunidos (1981-2016), by José Antonio Mazzotti (Peru); the José María Arguedas Narrative Prize was received by Uruguayan Milton Fornaro for La madriguera, and the Ezequiel Martínez Estrada Essay Prize was awarded to Argentine Saúl Sosnowski for his book Cartografía de las letras hispanoamericanas: tejidos de la memoria.
A standing ovation ensued when this final award was announced, as Sosnowski happened to be in the Hall, having served as a member of the artistic-literary Essay jury.
The prestigious essayist and researcher, author of titles such as Julio Cortázar: una búsqueda mítica and Lectura Crítica de la Literatura Latinoamericana, stated that “to receive a prize with the name of Ezequiel Martínez Estrada, one of the most illustrious Argentines, who has educated us not only through an essay like Biografía de la pampa, but through his conduct, his analysis of Cuban literature, I can only describe as intense, that is the word. Very moving.”
The 2018 Casa Prize has concluded and as noted in a press release: “Within a year, when the Prize reaches six decades of existence, it will be worthwhile to take stock of what has been done… rethink it in the face of a different future, but all this without renouncing what has been achieved, this ambitious work that seems unrepeatable in any moment or place.”