The nine finalists of the San Clemente literary prize: a tribute to memory

Nine novels compete to win the three prizes awarded by the jury of the San Clemente Rosalía-Abanca Prize.

The nine finalists of the San Clemente literary prize: a tribute to memory

Nine novels compete to win the three prizes awarded by the jury of the San Clemente Rosalía-Abanca Prize. A jury that is not made up of professors, editors, or critics: it is the young people from five Galician Baccalaureate institutes who decide which is the best novel in Galician, Spanish and a foreign language. In addition, as many other students from the rest of the world also participate as part of the tribunal, so the award acquires international overtones. Although all the collaborations are not yet closed, they will be centers in Germany, Portugal, France or the United States.

Great writers have posed for the contest as winners. From Antonio Tabuchi for 'Sostiene Pereira' to Mario Vargas Llosa for 'Lituma en los Andes', including Julian Barnes, Murakami, Manuel Rivas, Almudena Grandes, Kundera and Paul Auster.

The value of the award lies precisely in the fact that the authors of the land share awards with the most acclaimed novelists from all over the world. In October, finally, the winners of this XXVI edition will be announced.

This year they are competing to win the award for best novel in Galician, 'Illa decepción' by Berta Dávila; 'Virtudes and mysteries', by Xesús Fraga; and 'Flores de ferro', by María Rei Vilas. Three works on memory, from different points of view. Whether historical, family or personal memory, novels are a journey into the past, a reconstruction of the lives of their protagonists. Berta Dávila goes through the houses in which she lived, she “fictions her past” (as the Rosalía de Castro Rosa López teacher explained) until the pandemic broke out and she had to seclude herself in her home. María Rei Vilas goes back to the Civil War in her first film through the eyes of several leading women, who spend their lives between the time of the Republic, the Civil War and its subsequent Francoist repressions until the end of the last century. The winner of the National Prize for Literature, Xesús Fraga, reconstructs the history of her family, mainly her grandmother Virtudes, who brought her daughters and grandchildren forward against sea and mountains: her husband emigrated to Venezuela and never knew none of him. So she packed her bags and went to live in London. “I am the first university student in the family, and that is thanks to her and my mother,” Fraga told ABC at the time.

Juan Tallón, Sara Jaramillo and Karina Sainz, who writes in the pages of this newspaper, are the finalist authors for the novel in Spanish. 'Rewind', 'Where the whales sing' and 'The third country' are the titles of their works, respectively. In this case, they are "three very different novels," says Marta Gente, another of the teachers who screened the finalists. 'Rewind' is a puzzle in which "everything fits together very masterfully" that reflects the guilt and burden that some students in Lyon may feel for having survived the explosion of their building. It was a perfect Friday, but their lives were cut short forever.

Colombian author Sara Jaramillo continues the national tradition of magical realism. The protagonist, a 12-year-old girl who overcomes her father's abandonment, lives with her eccentric family: her mother talks to stones, her brother thinks she's a bird. In her house she receives the visit of several characters, each one more peculiar than the previous one, from whom she learns things to grow and mature.

The ABC journalist presents a frontier book, "with echoes of Juan Rulfo." Angustias Romero flees from the plague with her husband and her two children, who die during her escape. She, also abandoned by her husband, will fight to bury the little seven-month-olds in El Tercer País, the cemetery of the poor.

The memory novel returns in the foreign language novel category: 'The country of the others' is the first installment of the trilogy that Leïla Slimani is developing. The Franco-Moroccan author recovers the story of her grandmother, a French woman who falls in love with a Moroccan during World War II and goes to Morocco with all the cultural shock that this entails.

'The Nickel Boys', by New Yorker Colson Whitehead, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2020. The Nickel school is a center that boasts of transforming young people into full-fledged people, but hides endless torture, pain and mistreatment of the kids in reform school who sometimes don't even make it out alive. The America of the 1960s, with its institutional racism, is reflected in the novel with large doses of reality.

Finally, the Icelandic Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir is the ninth finalist of the contest. With her work 'The Writer' she novelizes a love letter for books and literature: a young woman wants to be a poet, but life is full of difficulties. Among them, the most notable, being a woman.

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