Vladimir Nabokov used to say that Russian is spoken with a “broad and constant smile”, because Russian vowels were like an orange and English vowels were like a lemon. Following the analogy, to Valerie Miles, editorial director of the British magazine Grant, Spanish vowels remind him more of the seeds of a grenade or the projectiles of a submachine gun: “Something short and very fast.” After Japanese, Spanish is the fastest language on the planet, the one that pronounces the most syllables per second and also has one of the largest and most exuberant vocabularies, thanks mainly to Latin America. Grant has wanted to certify that wealth and exuberance in its new list of 25 young storytellers under 35 years of age in the language of Cervantes, opening the door to multiple variants of Spanish and decreeing the end of the pre-eminence of neutral Spanish. The list was presented this morning at the headquarters of the Instituto Cervantes in Madrid.
“One of the substantial differences between this selection is that many of these young writers pay special attention to the sound qualities of written language. They have a keen ear to pick up the subtlest intonation and idiomatic turns of different geographical areas. And not only for dialogue, but they incorporate it into the voice of the narrator ”, Miles points out to mark territory with respect to the generation of the previous list, published in 2010, and the first one dedicated to young narrators in Spanish by the edition Barcelona from the prestigious British magazine. As in the previous one, in this new list there are authors with awards and several years of careers such as the Ecuadorian Mónica Ojeda, the Cuban Carlos Manuel Álvarez, the Costa Rican Carlos Fonseca or the Spanish Cristina Morales, and other very young voices with just one recent work. published, as Andrea Abreu (Tenerife, 1995).
The profile of 10 years ago in Grant It was that of the urban writer, cosmopolitan and, in the case of Latin Americans, with an almost obligatory stop in Europe. There were Santiago Roncagliolo, Andrés Neuman, Alejandro Zambra or Patricio Pron. A pattern with a line of continuity with the biographies of the totem poles of the boom that is breaking. “That canon is breaking with this generation. Perhaps due to the greater democratization of editorial access. But now they write from very different places and they do not feel this need for an urban and neutral language. They have lost the complex that dictated that writing well in Spanish was writing like that, ”adds Miles.
“The Internet also helped us to break that hegemony, of having to go to the big cities to read other things,” says Chilean Diego Zúñiga, one of the 25 writers on the list who places his novels in Iquique, his hometown, at north of Chile. His tale A story of the sea is a small tribute to the city forgotten by Chilean literature where lives a world winner of underwater hunting, Chungungo Martínez. “I am no longer afraid to use words that others may not understand. The same word Chungungo for example, it is a word that not every reader has to know, but it has a sound that interests me if it appears in the text, ”says Zúñiga.
“That is literature: the word that, as in a spell, transforms matter because it passes through it. Not betting on that dimension of writing would be wasting its potential ”, says the Ecuadorian writer Mónica Ojeda
The collection of stories from each of the selected ones included in the 23rd edition of the magazine is proof of the geographic and linguistic paradigm shift. Colombian José Ardila writes from a town in the rural depths of Antioquia. Miluska Benavides, from the Peruvian mining coast. Or Martín Felipe Castagne from an Argentine mountain. Musicality and the search for sound is also present in Andrea Abreu’s “el pizzicanto canario” (as defined by the magazine’s editor), or in the declamatory tone of Cristina Morales’s ode to karatecas women. Consulted by this newspaper, the 2019 National Narrative Prize makes its position in favor of the break with neutral Spanish very clear: “I thank God and the Virgin if indeed my colleagues and I have exceeded that canonical requirement. Hopefully this is the case and the texts of 2021 are wildly local, oral and walk the glorious path of illegibility ”.
Mónica Ojeda, who presents in the new edition a story based on an Inca ceremony, says that the word is “sensory, musical, rhythmic, atmospheric … When you write you are composing a specific cadence that you feel with your whole body. That is literature: the word that, as in a spell, transforms matter because it passes through it. Not betting on that dimension of writing would be wasting its potential ”.
10 years ago on the ‘Granta’ list there were 17 writers for 5 women. This time the gender balance is 14 by 11
The new list of Grant It also points out that many authors like Ojeda are leading these changes in Spanish literature. The introduction to the Spanish edition states: “It is largely women who are taking formal concerns down new paths.” “We have received more nominations from women than men in countries like Spain and Argentina, and the same number in Chile.” 10 years ago on the list Grant there were 17 writers for 5 women, with Spain and Argentina taking positions. This time the gender balance is 14 by 11, with Spain (six authors) and Mexico (four) as the countries with the most authors and Cuba (three) growing in representation.
Aniela Rodríguez believes that many are trying to experiment with language, as Fernanda Melchor does, or with genres, as Samanta Schweblin or María Fernanda Ampuero do. Rodríguez (Chihuahua, 1992) is one of the youngest authors on the list and whose story about a fisherman carrying a dead child is a new version of orality in Juan Rulfo (“You walked and walked, Carmelo, repeating the same fucking words that they didn’t make sense, ”the story goes). “The times when we writers were associated with a single genre, or with issues such as the family, the domestic or intimacy,” says Rodríguez.
Although Roberto Bolaño continues to be one of the key references of many of these writers and writers, one of the authors most cited by the nominees of Grant is the American poet Sylvia Plath. “Despite not being a reference figure for me, it catches my attention and I find it very exciting that the figure that appears as a reference is a woman, a poet in a list of storytellers, who comes from English,” he tells El PAÍS Andrea Chapela, another of the narrators on the list. “It says a lot about things like putting the affections more at the center of the work, the care of the language and a more embodied writing,” he adds.
But Plath’s presence may also be a reflection of current concerns about making gender violence visible in fiction in Spanish. Aura García-Junco was surprised to learn about Sylvia Plath, “but it makes all the sense in the world because she was very much in the shadow of her partner, which we have revalued, and she also has this situation of violence throughout her entire life. construction site”. García-Junco, one of the three Mexicans on the list. His novel Stone sea, from which Grant publishes an extract in this special edition, it speaks precisely of femicides in Mexico, in a world between fantastic and dystopian, and in which disappeared women can end up turned into statues on Madero Avenue in Mexico City. “I wanted to reflect how the disappeared people in Mexico become part of the landscape, despite being absent,” says the author. “They leave sequels that transcend their own existence, in the social fabric, they are a reminder that no one is safe.”
For the 25 authors on this list, being chosen from among the best is a gateway to the Anglo-Saxon publishing world of the United States and the United Kingdom. Founded 132 years ago, the magazine Grant reached the definitive status of myth when it began to launch its writers’ lists in the second half of the 20th century (in 1983 the magazine bet that that future would bear the names of a group of thirty-somethings called Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Julian Barnes or Kazuo Ishiguro). Each short story and extract in this new edition was translated by some of the most recognized interpreters of the language – Esther Allen, Sarah Booker, Sophie Hughes, Daniel Hahn, among others. In addition to Valerie Miles, the jury included the co-founder of Grant in Spanish, Aurelio Major; the director of the Booker Foundation, Gaby Wood, and the writers Horacio Castellanos Moya, Rodrigo Fresán and Chloe Aridjis.
This is the complete list of the 25 writers chosen by Grant in its 155th edition:
– Irene Reyes-Noguerol, Spain, 1997
– Andrea Abreu, Spain, 1995
– Munir Hachemi, Spain, 1989
– David Aliaga, Spain, 1989
– Cristina Morales, Spain, 1985
– Alejandro Morellón, Spain, 1985
– Aniela Rodríguez, Mexico, 1992
– Andrea Chapela, Mexico, 1990
– Aura García-Junco, Mexico, 1989
– Mateo García Elizondo, Mexico, 1987
– Camila Fabbri, Argentina, 1989
– Michel Nieva, Argentina, 1988
– Martín Felipe Castagnet, Argentina, 1986
– Carlos Manuel Álvarez, Cuba, 1989
– Dainerys Machado Vento, Cuba, 1986
– Eudris Planche Savón, Cuba, 1985
– Paulina Flores, Chile, 1988
– Diego Zúñiga, Chile, 1987
– Estanislao Medina Huesca, Equatorial Guinea, 1990
– Monica Ojeda, Ecuador, 1988
– Carlos Fonseca, Costa Rica, 1987
– José Adiak Montoya, Nicaragua, 1987
– Miluska Benavides, Peru, 1986
– José Ardila, Colombia, 1985
– Gonzalo Baz, Uruguay, 1985