The novel ‘Las maravillas’, by the writer Elena Medel, has been awarded the Francisco Umbral Prize for Book of the Year 2020, according to the jury’s decision, which has highlighted the literary freshness of the work and the “excellent poetic quality” of his prose.
It is the first novel by Medel (Córdoba, 1985), published by Anagrama, which has made her the first woman to win the award organized by the Francisco Umbral Foundation. An award that celebrates its tenth edition this year and is endowed with 12,000 euros.
The jury has decided to award the prize to this work “for the literary freshness of a narrative that highlights the intergenerational relationship with a special accent on women, not always visible in other great literary works, and for the excellent poetic quality of a brilliant and suggestive prose “, as pointed out by its president, Manuel Llorente.
Speaking to Efe, Elena Medel has expressed her joy at the awarding of this award that bears the name of Francisco Umbral, a prose writer whom she admires very much, since he was “capable of giving a different meaning to words” and for being the first woman to win the award
She has described her novel, starring working-class women who live on the outskirts of Madrid and in which she covers the last 50 years of Spanish history from the end of the Franco regime until 2018, as a “political” work.
“It is a radically political novel, a qualifier that I take with pride,” he says, while explaining that he wanted to appeal “to universal themes” through the eyes of women.
“They have taught us that novels with male protagonists speak of universal themes and that those that are carried out by women speak of women’s themes,” he highlights.
But it is also a work that talks about money and, more specifically, about the lack of money and how its lack ends up defining people’s lives, he stressed.
Although it is a novel “very Spanish and it might seem paradoxical” that it has been sold to so many countries (it is now in its eleventh edition and has been translated into nine languages), it is a universal story, Medel maintains.
Thus, based on the experience of two women who travel the same life journey in different times, the author reflects on the precariousness of class, feminism, care, responsibilities and expectations.
Medel had already won the Loewe Prize for Young Creation or the Fundación Princesa de Girona 2016
Medel, who lives in Madrid, is the author of the poetry books ‘My first bikini’, ‘Tara’ and ‘Chatterton’, gathered in ‘A black day in a lie house’ (Visor, 2015), and of the essays ‘The magician world’ (Ariel, 2015) and ‘Everything there is to know about poetry’ (Ariel, 2018). In addition, he runs the poetry publishing house La Bella Varsovia.
Among other awards, he has won the XXVI Loewe Prize for Young Creation and the 2016 Princess of Girona Foundation Prize in the Arts and Letters category.
The decision of the Francisco Umbral Award took place at the headquarters of the Ortega y Gasset Foundation – Gregorio Marañón where the jury chaired by Manuel Llorente, editor-in-chief of the Culture section of El Mundo, met.
Also on the jury were Carlos Aganzo, poet, director of Institutional Relations of El Norte de Castilla and deputy director of the Vocento Foundation; Juan Cruz, deputy director of El País; César Antonio Molina, writer and former Minister of Culture; Fernando R. Lafuente, editorial secretary of the Revista de Occidente; Fanny Rubio, writer and professor of Literature at the Complutense University of Madrid and Santos Sanz Villanueva, critic and professor of Literature at the same university.
The award is endowed with 12,000 euros (the amount that the Majadahonda City Council contributes as a patron to the Francisco Umbral Foundation), and a statue designed by Alberto Corazón.
Previous winning works have been: ‘Las cuatro esquinas’, by Manuel Longares (2011); ‘The head on fire’, by Luis Mateo Díez (2012); ‘On the shore’, by Rafael Chirbes (2013); ‘Habanero Requiem for Fidel’, by JJ Armas Marcelo (2014); ‘Unlearning’, by José Manuel Caballero Bonald (2015); ‘Homeland’, by Fernando Aramburu (2016); ‘Transición’, by Santos Juliá (2017); ‘Sur’, by Antonio Soler (2018) and ‘Hard times’, by Mario Vargas Llosa (2019).