Juan Gabriel Vásquez is the new winner of the 4th Mario Vargas Llosa Biennale for Fiction, a $100,000 prize given to the best novel in the past two years (2019 and 2020), and has been awarded only three times since 2014. The novel awarded this year was View back to back About film director Sergio Cabrera, whose childhood and adolescence were marked by his father’s radicalism in Maoism and a Colombian guerrilla.
“This novel is written from the same obsession that drove my previous books,” Vasquez said upon winning the award. “This obsession with telling space is where intimate life collides with the forces of history and politics.”
The Argentine historian said: “With tremendous novelistic power and extraordinary prose, this work works with material from reality, stitching the present with the vicissitudes of the jerky twentieth century.” Laila the warrior, director of the jury in which the Mexican also voted Rosa BeltranAnd the American Raquel Chang Rodriguez, the Peruvian Efrain Crystal, and the Spaniard Fernando Rodriguez Lafuente. The jury also celebrated Velazquez’s investigative work with Sergio Cabrera and his family, which took nearly seven years before the novel was published. The jury added that the book resembles “a mural of the most relevant political and ideological confrontations of the past century, an emotional and disturbing, at times tragic, story of fathers and children, legacies and guilt, identity and convictions.”
Back Watch Back is a historical novel that reconstructs the childhood and adolescence of Colombian filmmaker Sergio Cabrera, disturbed by the ideals of his grandfather (a republican colonel who had to leave Spain in the midst of civil war) but especially of his father, a devout Maoist who left Sergio and his sister in China under Mao Zedong to work In the Red Guards and later joined the Colombian guerrillas. “It was hard for me to write it, but it was hard for them to remember it above all,” Vasquez said of seven years of conversations with Sergio Cabrera and his sister, recalling the way their parents act, their ideologies and their emotional outbursts. The wounds left by this past. in both.
Although the book does not make up any facts, Vasquez insisted that it is a novel rather than an autobiography because it is only part of Cabrera’s true story to focus on the impact of bigotry on personal life. Presenting his novel at the Biennale, he said, “I found that the novel does not mean only telling from nothing, but the interpretation of the reality that others present to us.”
Speaking about his novel’s relationship to the current peace process in Colombia, Vásquez said he began writing it when the Havana Peace Accords began, and now the book can contribute a different, more personal view of the efforts at the various institutions. To understand what happened during 50 years of war. “There is a part of that past that if we did not have the novel, the fiction, it would remain in the dark: how a man feels in wars,” he said at the Biennale. A few months ago, in an interview with El PAÍS, he made this point: “The novelist, as Joseph Conrad said, is a historian of emotions. Without emotions there is no complete story, because facts do not tell us everything. Facts do not tell us everything about the Napoleonic wars. We have to we go to war and peace Tolstoy for the full picture.
In contrast to the 2019 Biennale, when the event was heavily criticized for its lack of women, this time the gender distribution was more equal and discussions revolved around other political concerns: Attacks by Daniel Ortega’s government against Nicaraguan author Sergio Ramirez, and the censorship of his novel Tongoleli didn’t know how to dance; and the Peruvian writers protest after Pedro Castillo’s government arbitrarily removes six authors from the official list Travel to FIL in Guadalajara in November, where the Andean country will be the guest of honor.
The general theme of this Biennale was “Literature: The Last Refuge of Freedom,” so various governments’ assaults or arbitrariness against novelists are mentioned in the discussion tables. “In truly free countries literature does not seem to have a political function, but is understood as entertainment,” Vargas Llosa said at the opening ceremony. But he added: “It is enough that liberties be reduced in a country, and that this margin be reduced to criticize governments, and criticize various institutions, for literature to become charged with a certain critical vitality. Books began to be read differently than in free societies.”
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