Chilean poet Nicanor Parra has won the 2011 Cervantes award, the most important prize in Spanish-speaking literature. The 97 year old was recognised for “a whole life dedicated to poetry” and creating the so-called “anti-poetry,” which combines colloquial language with old-fashion verse.
The award also comes with a cash prize of 125,000 euros. It was given out by the minister of culture, Ángeles González-Sinde and the president of the jury, Margarita Salas, the first woman to ever attain that position since the creation of the prize 36 years ago.
When the award was made public, the recipient had not been aware because, according to González-Sinde, they “have not been able to find him, he was not answering his phone.” The minister considered it to be a great achievement that this award was given to a poet, since she believes “the skill of writing poetry is more challenging than other styles.”
She expressed her confidence that Parra will be able to receive the award personally at a ceremony on the 23rd of April, saying that she had been in Oporto 15 days prior with 102-year-old Portuguese cinema director Manuel de Oliveira “talking about his next projects.”
Parra was supported by most members of the jury, who respected the non-official rule in which winners alternate between Spaniards and Latin American writers.
Previous winners of the Cervantes award include last year’s Ana María Matute from Spain, Argentines Borges, Sabato, Bioy Casares and Juan Gelman, as well as Peruvian Mario Varga Llosa and Spaniard Camilo José Cela.