02 April 2008

Jorge Edwards wins

Chilean author Jorge Edwards has won the Planeta-Casa de América de Narrativa prize for his novel La casa de Dostoievsky (written under the pseudonym Juan el Indiano). His novel honors an era of idealist poets in 1950's Santiago:
"Esta novela es sobre la poesía, los poetas y las ganas de ser poeta. Porque en el tiempo mío, los que no eran poetas--y yo finalmente no fui poeta--queríamos ser poetas. Y los que no querían ser poetas eran personajes que no mirábamos; que pertenecían a algunos fondos grises del paisaje santiagueño".
Aside from being a novelist, Jorge Edwards was Chile's ambassador to Cuba during Allende's presidency, which resulted in his being kicked out by Fidel in 1971. His subsequent memoir, Persona non grata, was controversial as the first leftist critique of the Cuban Revolution:
In 1970 Jorge Edwards was sent by socialist Chilean President Salvador Allende as his country’s first envoy to break the diplomatic blockade that had sealed Cuba for over a decade. His arrival coincided with the turning point of the revolution, when Castro began to repress the very intellectuals he once courted. In Kafkaesque detail, Edwards records the four explosive months he spent in Havana trying to open a Chilean embassy and his disenchantment with the revolution. His stay culminated in the arrest of his friend Heberto Padilla—the first imprisonment of a well-known writer by the regime—for giving Edwards a “negative view of the revolution.” In a menacing midnight political debate with Edwards immediately after Padilla’s arrest, Castro argued that in this phase of the revolution, bourgeois writers would no longer have “anything to do in Cuba.” Castro accused Edwards of “conduct hostile to the revolution” and declared him “persona non grata.” The winner of the Cervantes prize—the Spanish language equivalent to the Nobel Prize for literature—Jorge Edwards' memoir splendidly recounts this time and the wrath of Castro.
He recently shared his thoughts on Cuba's current transition phase.

Edwards was also a friend and personal secretary to Pablo Neruda and wrote Adios, Poeta, an anecdote-filled biography of Neruda's life and work.

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