Calamo Awards 2021: the triumph of some booksellers
Cálamo XXI Awards or the success of Paco Goyanes and Ana Cañellas, capable of getting their readers to praise good literature. The award winners were Elaine Vilar, Simón Partal and Eduardo Halfon.
The awards, which we have already reported on, were presented at a press conference at noon on Friday the 4th at the Cálamo bookstore in Zaragoza. Paco Goyanes, proud of the fact that his list of award winners boasts on its back covers of having the award given every year by the bookstore he runs with Ana Cañellas, warns: «The three winning books are not easy, they challenge us». Happy to be able to celebrate them this year with certain normality recovered after the restrictions of the pandemic, he insists that «the three readings have helped us to reflect on what has happened to us».
The presentation of the Calamo awards, designed by Isidro Ferrer, took place at the Caja Rural de Aragón at seven in the evening, in the same room where Delibes, Virginia Woolf, or J. Sender, on his return from exile, gave lectures. Accompanying the authors were Barrett’s publishers Manuel and Zacarías, Luis Solano from Libros del Asteroide, and Miguel Aguilar representing Penguin Random House, since Partal’s publisher, Jonás Trueba, was unable to attend; also his distributor Verónica García de Machado, as well as all the sponsors.
The poet Alejandro Simón Partal, winner of Otra mirada with La parcela, defined his novel, which narrates the relationship between a Spanish professor and a Syrian refugee, as «a simple story of radical love, of abandoning oneself, of adventures. We have to accept lovelessness as part of love, just as we accept death as part of life. In love, you suffer like a madman because all love stories are unequal. I wanted it to be a review of love: when we love, we hurt each other. The boundaries are within oneself». According to the author, all fiction is autobiographical, «I’m not saying that I have lived the relationship that the protagonist has, but I have inhabited that character». About his writing, he insists that he has sought only the essential, that he has to use few words, as in poetry, which has to be concrete, precise, and honest. It has been his first foray into a narrative, which he does consider a literary genre because it requires writing, day by day, a job: «sitting down to write has healed me; poetry is a look, and that look has allowed me to write this prose». He also denounced the decadence of the figure of the teacher in the current system and vindicates the contact with the student and the relevance of Montaigne’s essays: «books have to be ethical, to enlarge us».
The writer awarded for his career with the Extraordinary 2021, Eduardo Halfon and his Canción, emphasized the political tinge of the three award-winning books. His novel, narrated in turns like a song, stanza by stanza, taking us back and forth in the story of the kidnapping of his grandfather in the midst of the Guatemalan civil war and his entire family, is one more piece in the great biographical composition of his entire oeuvre. In this case, he has focused on the figure of the kidnapper. Halfon has made of his memory and his work of engineering composition exquisite and brief literature, his life in installments. As he himself said: «My narrative is me». He also had words of praise for the booksellers of Cálamo: «It is necessary to have fiercely literary booksellers in these soulless times».
The exultant winner of the Book of the Year, the Cuban Elaine Vilar Madruga, chosen by the readers with La tiranía de las moscas (The Tyranny of the Flies) took up Halfon’s point and emphasized that the poetic carnival that is her book about the family of a dictator has been possible because our generation is very political, and that in her work any Spanish or Latin American reader can find references. «The good reader looks for hidden clues, I write for them», and he affirmed that love is always talked about, even if we disguise it as something else. «I was interested in showing how a family becomes distorted, and that a tyrant, in his house, stops being who he is to be someone’s father, someone’s husband, and how that space becomes a pressure cooker.»
The booksellers of Cálamo wanted the event to be opened by Paco Cerdà, winner of the Cálamo 2020 award to make up for the fact that, due to his confinement, he could not enjoy the celebrations he deserved in his day. The author, grateful, said that Paco Goyanes and Ana Cañellas should have a public salary for demonstrating that not everything in literature goes through Barcelona and Madrid, drawing applause from the audience. And we join in that applause. It has the great merit that these booksellers continue to put real literature on their tables, to the point that their readers agree in rewarding those that the critics also recognize.
Chronicle and photos by Gemma Martínez