Cervantes travels to Celama with Luis Mateo Díez

Luis Mateo Díez, the great storyteller of Spanish literature, the prolific creator of the mythical rural territory of Celama, won the Cervantes Prize this Tuesday, three years after receiving the National Prize for Spanish Letters. At the age of 81, he climbed the penultimate step to reach the highest award in Hispanic literature, a Cervantes that ratifies the teaching of the great Leonese writer. An author who defines himself as “unrealistic” whose work, heir to an oral culture and with mastery of a technique and a poetic language of extraordinary richness, is characterized by its uniqueness and its concern for the moral dimension of the human being. .

Connected to the story-telling tradition of Castilla y León, a long-time writer and holder of Chair I (capital I) of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) since May 21, 2001, Luis Mateo Díez is the owner of one of the most rich personal narratives in Spanish. Author of novels, stories, short stories, articles and other texts somewhere between memory, reflection, fiction and essay, his work that emerged in the heat of the fire is heir to the oral culture in which he was born and which he records. its progressive disappearance.

son of mist

Born on September 21, 1942 in Villablino, in the misty Laciana Valley, where his father was a municipal official, Luis Mateo Díez moved with his family to León in 1954. His contact with the rich heritage of the rural environment determined his early disposition towards the imaginary, whether oral or written.

He studied Law in Oviedo and Madrid and in 1969, by competitive examination, entered the Corps of General Administration Technicians of the Madrid City Council, alternating the civil service with literary creation “in an optimal balance” until his retirement.

With the trilogy made up of ‘The Spirit of the Páramo’, ‘The Ruin of the Sky’ and ‘The Obscuring’, he created his own imaginary territory: the kingdom of Celama, a rural metaphor and “window to the deepest and most mysterious part of the human heart.” . A territory that connects with that empty Spain with an uncertain future “without destiny” and tending “to absolute oblivion”, in the opinion of this gifted creator of nebulae “shadow cities”. Celama is to Luis Mateo, what Macondo is to García Márquez, Yoknapatawpha to Faulkner, Santa María to Onetti, or Region to Juan Benet.

The author of ‘The Fountain of Age’, his most recognized work, repeats that his books “will never be ‘best-sellers'”, that he challenges himself on every page and that he considers himself “privileged to have loyal readers and striving; accomplices who show their faces.

“I am a storyteller and a builder of characters who also establish complicity with the readers, who are with me almost unconditionally and who are increasingly more,” he boasted when receiving the National Literature Award three years ago. “It is very appreciated when novels that are not novels are written for readers who are not readers,” ironically stated the author of ‘The Sidereal Elders’, a story that takes place in the El Cavernal residence.

He does not intend to abandon the “unrealistic realism” that truffles his stories even in his maturity. In 2019 he published ‘Crystal Youth’, a story about the fragility of that time of life, “not in a generational or testimonial sense, but about the myth of that age” that mixes mystery and humor, “which is also a look of lucidity.

This Cervantes, to whom he was a repeated and clear contender, joins the long list of awards that Luis Mateo inaugurated with the Café Gijón for ‘Apócryfo del carnation and the thorn’ (1972). Then came the Ignacio Aldecoa for ‘Cenizas’ (1976), the National Narrative Award twice (1987 and 2000) for ‘The Fountain of Age’ and ‘The Ruin of Heaven’ -also the Critics’ Prize- and the Francisco Threshold for ‘The Head on Fire’ (2012).

Some of his works have been made into films, such as ‘The fountain of age’, filmed by Julio Sánchez Valdés, the story ‘Los grajos del sochantre’ or ‘El filandón’.

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