The “narrative magic” of Cristina Fernández Cubas deserves the National Spanish Literature Award

“Reality is full of mysteries, and my stories explore them.” It is often repeated by Cristina Fernández Cubas (Arenys de Mar, Barcelona, ​​1945), awarded this Thursday with the National Prize for Spanish Letters, endowed with 50,000 euros and awarded by the Ministry of Culture. The jury recognizes the great lady of the story in Spanish with this high distinction. The ruling highlighted “the magic of its narrative” and praised “the fascinating mastery of the use of concision to tell stories that are nourished by fantastic literature, and that reaches the reader in an intense way until it changes the way of understanding things.” ».

“She is an unavoidable author who invites us to think about the limits between reality and fiction, an exquisite creator who always wanted to tell stories,” added the jury about this creator of a singular and mysterious narrative universe in which she blurs the lines between mystery, fantasy and reality. For her mastery of short stories, she had received the National Fiction Prize in 2015 for ‘Nona’s Room’.

“I am more of a Poe than a Chekhov,” explains an “impressed and grateful” Fernández Cubas from her home in Barcelona, ​​with “an immense joy that I have not yet digested.” “The story is the genre that attracts me the most as a writer and reader and the mystery suits it very well,” says this fabulous storyteller. “I try to investigate what I don’t know and play with time and space,” she says. «Each story has its own mystery and mysteries seduce me. “I love them,” she proclaims. She specifies that many of her stories “are assigned to the fantasy genre, and they are not.” «The fantastic thing is the look. I try to see not only the obvious; “I look for the invisible and my way of narrating is defined by that fantastic look,” she explains.

Disturbing world

“Reality is deceptive, it is full of mysteries, and that is why I like to move in that disturbing world of chiaroscuro,” she adds, recalling that her literary path was marked by the oral narratives she heard as a child. “They all contained that mystery that I later found in Poe’s stories or in Bécquer’s legends,” she points out. She decided early on that his stories “should give space to what is not seen, which does not mean that it does not exist,” she insists. She knows that in a story it is “a clockwork mechanism in which you cannot miss a single paragraph; They are all like tiles of a mosaic.” Also a novelist and occasional playwright, she assures that her novels “are very much like a story, due to their atmosphere and the conciseness of the language.”

He has never regretted dedicating himself to literature “which has enriched my life, and I’m not talking about money.” “It has given me the pleasure of discovering other worlds, as well as recognition that I never dreamed of and that is much better than fame.” “I started knowing that the story was a minority story and that I would communicate with just a handful of readers, and to my surprise I have reached many,” she boasts. “I don’t intend to change the world, but if I have provided a few moments of pleasure or freed some readers from worries, that’s all.”

“Every book is a proposal for adventure, for travel, and I invite readers to get hooked and live these adventures,” says Fernández Cubas, who is working on a new collection of stories. “It’s still cooking, although at the moment the oven is turned off,” ironically says this Catalan who has Spanish as her mother tongue and who studied Law in Barcelona – “it brought order to my chaotic life” – and Journalism, a profession she briefly pursued.

Among his collections of stories are ‘My Sister Elba’ (1980), ‘The Attics of Brumal’ (1983), ‘The Angle of Horror’ (1990), ‘With Agatha in Istanbul’ (1994) and ‘The Devil’s Poor Relatives’. ‘ (2006), with which he won the Setenil Prize. The compilation of most of these stories, which was published in 2008 under the title ‘All the stories’, received the Ciutat de Barcelona Prize for Literature in the Spanish Language, the Salambó Prize for Narrative in Spanish and the Cálamo Book of the Year Prize. ‘Nona’s Room’ also won the National Narrative Award, the Critics’ Award, the Dulce Chacón.

He has written novels such as ‘The Year of Grace’ (1985), which inspired an opera by the composer Albert Sardá; ‘El columpio’ (1995) or ‘The door ajar’ (2013), which she published under the pseudonym Fernanda Kubbs. In addition, she is the author of the play ‘Blood Sisters’ (1998); from the book of narrated memories ‘Things that no longer exist’ (2001) and the essay ‘Emilia Pardo Bazán’ (2001).

In 1984, this National Literature Award was awarded for the first time. It is the second in the institutional ranking after Cervantes and distinguishes the set of literary work of an author in any of the Spanish languages ​​whose work is considered an integral part of the set of current Spanish literature. The poet Josep Vicenç Foix was its first winner. In its first decade, José Hierro (1990), Francisco Ayala (1988) and Carmen Martín Gaite (1994) received this distinction, and in more recent editions Rosa Montero (2017), Francisca Aguirre (2018), Bernardo Atxaga ( 2019), Luis Mateo Díez (2020), José María Merino (2021) and Luis Landero in 2022.

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