Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gijón Literary Prizes

Exclusive reports from Crime Fiction's international big-bash by our roving reporter.

7th day - La Semana Negra recognition

Every year La Semana Negra awards writers for their literary work. The jurors of the prizes are always fellow writers, and although the prize is not monetary, as Spanish writer and one of the winners of the Hammett award said, “It gives you prestige because it is not driven by anything else than the quality of the work. It's very transparent.”

Here is the list of categories and the 2007 winners:

The Hammett Prize to the best detective fiction novel written in Spanish given by the Asociación de Escritores Policíacos:
This award was a tie, so it’s shared between the Spanish Juan Ramón Biedma for his novel El Imán y la Brújula and the Argentinean Leonardo Oyola for Chamamé.

The Espartaco (Spartan) Prize given to the best historical novel written in Spanish was given to the Mexican writer Antonio Sarabia for his novel Troya al Atardecer.

The Memorial Silverio Cañada Prize given to the best first published detective fiction novel written in Spanish was given to the Argentinean writer Carlos Salem for his book Camino de Ida.

The Rodolfo Walsh Prize, for the best nonfiction detective book written in Spanish, was given to the Mexican writer Sanjuana Martínez for Prueba de Fe.

The Celsius 232 Prize for the best science fiction or fantasy novel was given to the Spanish writer Javier Negrete for his book Alejandro Magno y las águilas de Roma. There was a special mention by the jury to the Spanish writer José Carlos Somoza for his book La Llave del Abismo.

Also, for a short story contest, the Ateneo Obrero de Gijón Prize was given to Nacho Padilla for “Viaje al centro de una chistera” (Trip to the center of a top-hat).

The prizes were given at 10:30am on July 19th at a press conference in Gijón’s Hotel Don Manuel. The room was jam-packed with nominated writers, press, and all the staff of La Semana Negra. There was a special energy in the room, and although local television channels were present covering the prizes, everything seemed so intimate. No one except the jurors, not even Paco Taibo, II, knew who the winners were, so everyone was anxious and expectant, especially the nominees.

The winner of each category was read off by one of the jurors. They opened a white envelope and off a handwritten letter read a special message from all the jurors and then announced the winner. Every time one was read, the room was invaded by a wave of claps, yells, and hugs for the winners.

Leonardo Oyola, a winner of the Hammett Prize shed a few tears. Carlos Salem was also very moved and happy; it’s his first published novel ("Camino de ida"), and as he said when he received the prize, “Your own fellow writers are the ones who recognize your work, and that makes this prize so important.”

All the writers recognize the importance of giving each other recognition, but in the case of Sanjuana Martínez and his investigation book on the victims of Mexican Catholic pederast priests, she affirmed that the award is also “recognition of the courage of the victims, to all those who have suffered and are still suffering.”

Following is a short introduction to the winner’s books. I hope these books get translated into English soon, but if not, definitely keep a close watch for them, because Semana Negra winners have a tendency to win more literary prizes.

The Hammett Prize: Juan Ramón Biedma's El Imán y la Brújula is a political novel of Spain during 1926, an espionage plot, where extreme situations are abundant and with the end of the war of Morocco as a background.

Leonardo Oyola's Chamamé (a traditional danceable rhythm of the northeastern Argentina) is about the persecution of two asphalt pirate gangs after the theft of loot. A vibrant story about a settling of scores.

The Espartaco (Spartan) Prize: Antonio Sarabia's Troya al Atardecer is a war novel that tells the story of twin brothers who fight on opposing sides.

The Prize Memorial Silverio Cañada: In Carlos Salem's Camino de Ida, Octavio Rincón’s authoritarian woman dies during their vacation, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to him. Perplexed at the fact that his most profound wish in life has been realized and confused between this wish and his fear of becoming a suspect of her death, he embarks on a wild journey.

The Rodolfo Walsh Prize: Sanjuana Martínez's Prueba de Fe is a denunciation book against at least two prominent Catholic cardinals, Norberto Rivera Carrera and Juan Sandoval Iñiguez.

The Celsius 232 Prize: Javier Negrete's Alejandro Magno y las águilas de Roma. Alejandro didn’t die in Babilonia. The hypothesis presented in the book is that he was poisoned by his ambitious wife Roxana in connivance with Perdicas, one of the generals, but a mysterious doctor Nestor arrives just in time to neutralize the intoxication.

José Carlos Somoza's La Llave del Abismo is a futuristic thriller that evokes a shadow universe. It is also a journey through the ins and outs of faith, a reflection over what it means to kill in the name of religious beliefs, and a revelation of what is hidden behind them.

Saludos desde Gijón!
Thania Muñoz

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