Thursday, April 07, 2016

Argentine writer Eduardo Sacheri wins Alfaguara Prize 2016


Writer Eduardo Sacheri, who rose to prominence when his work La pregunta de sus ojos was made it into a Oscar-winning film by Juan José Campanella (The Secret in Their Eyes), added another feather to his cap as he claimed the 19th edition of the Alfaguara Prize for his novel La noche de la usina

Sacheri’s novel was chosen from among 707 entries. The Alfaguara Prize, one of the most important distinctions in the Spanish-language literature award, is endowed with a US$175,000 cash prize and ensures the winning novel’s publication in Spain, Latin America and the US.

Cited by the jury for its agile, emotive tone, La noche de la usina, set in a small town in the Buenos Aires Province during the 2001 socioeconomic crisis, is a novel about “dignified, good losers,” in Sacheri’s own words. The losers in question are a bunch of victims of a financial scam who decide to take revenge collectively. The novel’s vindictive nature straddles the line between thriller and western. “These are ordinary guys fighting it out for their lives, for a dream which, seen from the outside, may seem rather ridiculous for their reaction,” Sacheri said.

Sacheri is the fourth Argentine writer to take the Alfaguara Prize, which was announced through a video conference between Madrid, Mexico and Buenos Aires, where the writer was waiting for the jury’s verdict.

“I like to write about credible characters, and I must confess that I am fond of good people. I think that the characters in this novel are dignified, good losers; good losers, now and then, try to overcome their problems. This is at the core of this novel: a bunch of guys roughing it out and trying to make it through bad times, dreaming of better times to come,” Sacheri said after the announcement of his win.

“(The action) takes place in 2001 and 2004, and although some people want to see political references (in the novel), this is not my intention, because I feel that it’s the people rather than the governments who carry a story forward. I don’t believe in Promethean governments but rather in the people who work,” Sacheri said.

Asked about which aspects of his life made their way into the novel, Sacheri said that, “The narrative core of this novel is long after the 2001 crisis.” However, he admitted that there’s always an emotional motive in his writing.

“In 2001, I was just on my way to becoming a published writer, I was a fulltime history teacher, I faced huge problems, my children were small, and I was concerned about how I would be able to provide for my family. I remember holding my one-year-old daughter in my arms, thinking how to get escape financial insecurity,” he said.

“I think some of my own doubts and longings are reflected in the characters, but this is not a political novel, I do not seek to shape a metaphor or make references that may be likened to my own personal situation,” he continued.

La noche de la usina is set in an imaginary town called O’Connor, and the protagonists are the owner of a bankrupt gas station; his son, a college student; a railroad station manager; two workers from a factory that went out of business; and the manager of the Road Board, which has also shut down.

“My 2008 novel Aráoz y la verdad is set in an imaginary town in the district of Villegas. I described several characters and their stories, and they became very endearing to me. I told myself that I would one day return to that town, and I did with La noche de la usina. (The western Greater BA district of) Castelar, where I grew up, was more akin to a small town than Buenos Aires, the capital. (Castelar) is very close to me from an emotional and intellectual standpoint.

“It is often the case, when I talk with readers from small towns or cities, that they identify deeply with narrow perspectives, the ones I like best. In fact, I still live 10 blocks off from where I was born. That’s where I live and that’s where I will die, I imagine,” Sacheri said.

What best describes Sacheri, perhaps, is the Tweet he posted yesterday: “As humans, we must almost always face defeat, but what defines us is the way we confront it.”

And how do Sacheri’s characters react to defeat? “They stand together, they make a lot of mistakes related to their own foibles. But they do stand together and try to help each other, they are honest people. Deep inside, this is what they have in common, and I think this is what dignity is about: fighting it out with valid weapons,” Sacheri said.

“When confronted with extreme situations your deepest traits emerge. Horrible things may come up, but also (such things as) intelligence, hatred, thirst for revenge and solidarity, all mixed up. Passion is what defines us, but also brains, and we use our brains to keep passion in check. I do not celebrate passion, I count on it, but the question is what we do with it, we may become monsters, we are capable of inflicting ferocious damage on those around us.”

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