Cristian Alarcón won the 2022 Alfaguara Novel Prize

Christian Alarcon

A new surprise at the Alfaguara Novel Prize. In this edition, that of the year 2022, the winner is Christian Alarcon, a narrator and chronicler born in Chile but living in Argentina for many years. The jury, chaired by the writer Fernando Aramburu, and composed of the also writers Olga Merino Y Ray Loriga, the writer and bookseller of Lata Peinada, Paula Vazquez, the editor and director of the Guadalajara International Book Fair, Marisol Schulz Manaut, Y Pilar Reyes (with voice but no vote), editorial director of Alfaguara, unanimously elected the third paradiseof Alarcon.

Alarcón was born in La Unión, Chile, in 1970. He has a degree from the Faculty of Journalism and Social Communication of the National University of La Plata. He is co-director of the Master’s Degree in Narrative Journalism at UNSAM (National University of General San Martín), and founder and director of Anfibia, a digital magazine of chronicles and narrative essays edited by UNSAM, and of Cosecha Roja, the Latin American Network of Judicial Journalism. .

Since the early 1990s, he devoted himself to investigative journalism and writing chronicles for newspapers. Clarín, Page 12, Crítica de la Argentina and in TXT magazines, Rolling Stone Y Gatopardo. in his books When I die I want them to play cumbia for me (2003) and If you love me, love me (2010) crosses literature with urban ethnography turning urgent stories into non-fiction novels. In the book A sea of ​​Peronist castles (2013) writes travel chronicles and profiles of dissident, subordinate and marginal characters.

“The novel was fully written in a pandemic,” the author told the conference. He was confined in the south of Chile after being diagnosed with COVID-19 and took advantage of the time to write this book. “I always considered journalism literature but this time I decided to dedicate myself entirely to literature,” he added. In this call, 899 manuscripts have been received, of which 408 have been sent from Spain, 131 from Argentina, 119 from Mexico, 87 from Colombia, 57 from the United States, 43 from Chile, 29 from Peru and 25 from Uruguay. “What drives me the most to do what I do is to learn in those territories that we are ignorant of,” said the author.

Christian Alarcon
Christian Alarcon

Endowed with 175 thousand dollars and a sculpture by Martín Chirino, the Alfaguara Prize was awarded to the Chilean writer who sent the text to the call under the pseudonym of Daniel Vitulich. The jury has highlighted the third paradise “the narrative vigor of a beautiful novel, with a dual structure. Set in various places in Chile and Argentina, the protagonist reconstructs the history of his ancestors, while delving into his passion for cultivating a garden, in search of a personal paradise.

“The novel opens a door to hope —continues the text of the jury— of finding a refuge from collective tragedies in the small. As the author says, ‘beauty begins in the wonder of flowers, as beautiful as they are finite, in which we will always see the mystery that cannot be solved’”. At the conference, Alarcón confessed that “I owe this award to many people: my mother, my male grandparents, despite how hard it is to tell the history of Latin America from a conscious perspective, the damage that patriarchy has caused in our bodies and in our consciousness.

What is it about the third paradise? The 2020 confinement is approaching and the protagonist is tempted to retire to his cabin on the outskirts of Buenos Aires to face whatever may come from there. While you wait, cultivate a garden with all kinds of plants and flowers. His love for nature leads him to investigate the formation of scientific thought, the birth of botany and the great adventure of the European expeditions of the 18th century. At the same time, he recalls the history of his family, which was uprooted from its roots in Daglipulli, Chile, by the dictatorship of Pinochet.

Cristian Alarcón (Photo: Alejandra López)
Cristian Alarcón (Photo: Alejandra López)

Little by little, this unique setting is flooded by the memory of the humble dahlias that his grandmother Alba planted, the exuberant and threatening presence of the Amazon jungle that Humboldt encountered in 1799, and the controlled security of the hybrids that he now buys in nurseries. In this paradise in different degrees of conservation, the natural landscape of the Southern Cone becomes a fundamental character, with its own rhythms, with the traces left by the men who tried to populate it.

History, botany and the family story come together in it and mark the character of the protagonist, his life choices and his way of being in the world. This novel is a luminous story about the daily life of an individual but also about the collective tragedies that they stalk us The small, the simple, that personal paradise that we build as a refuge is also, ultimately, what always saves us.

The previous edition was won by the Colombian Pilar Quintana with the abysses; in 2020 it was the Mexican William Arriaga for his text titled save the fire. In chronological order they are followed: Patricio Pron, Jorge Volpi, Ray Loriga, Eduardo Sacheri, Carla Guelfenbein, Jorge Franco, José Ovejero, Leopoldo Brizuela Y John Gabriel Vasquez. Other authors who have received the award were Elena Poniatowska, Tomás Eloy Martínez, Graciela Montes, Ema Wolf, Eliseo Alberto, Sergio Ramírez Y Andrés Neuman.


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