The National Prize for Spanish Letters, the award granted by the Ministry of Culture and Sports in recognition of a career as a whole, has gone to Cristina Fernández Cubas, a narrator from Barcelona with a 40-year career. The award jury has highlighted the author “for the magic of her narrative that has led her to be considered one of the best Spanish storytellers. For her fascinating mastery of use of concision to tell stories, which are nourished by fantastic literature, and which reach the reader in an intense way until they change the way of understanding things.” Likewise, the jury highlighted that “Fernández Cubas is an unavoidable author who invites us to think on the limits between reality and fiction, an exquisite creator who always wanted to tell stories.
all the stories (Tusquets, 2008), the compilation that brought together the first five books of stories by Fernández Cubas, was the first milestone that drew mass attention to the author’s work. There they appeared 21 accounts written as thumbnails and united by a sense of instability, by ambiguously portraying the morality and verisimilitude of their characters. In the texts of Fernández Cubas, what seemed true ended up being swampy and the characters with whom it was easy to empathize ended up being the most disturbing.
“And it was like this from my first book,” Fernández Cubas recalls to EL MUNDO minutes after learning of the ruling. “A few years ago we reissued it and I recognized myself perfectly in it… It was called My sister Elba and it appeared in 1980 in a collection of small silver books that Tusquets published. At that time Tusquets was not the big publishing house that it is today, it was a small label and my expectations were also small. He wrote short stories, which was not a genre that had many readers. I thought I would connect with 100 people, with 200…But my editor, Beatriz de Moura, believed in me and I found a way. “Over the years, everything has become more complicated, although I try not to let it show too much.”
Is there a common thread among the 10 narrative titles that Fernández Cubas has published? “Of course. There are many things that have never changed. The concern for language, the obsessive search for precision, for finding the word that most accurately names things. The concerns are also the same. My stories talk about everyday situations in which something suddenly appears and breaks with what seemed stable. And there are also spaces, which are made of chiaroscuros, of confusing situations between memory and dream.”
Attics, abandoned houses, childhood memories… The classic settings of fantasy literature. “I don’t consider myself a fantasy writer but it is true that the unnameable, the fantastic, appears and flirts with what I write. And the reason is that I believe in what I see and what I don’t see, because what I don’t see doesn’t have to exist just because I don’t see it,” said the author in an interview published by EL MUNDO in 2016.