Juan F. Ferré wins the Herralde Novel Prize 2012

In international comparison Spain has few readers but a lot of literary prizes – often used as a piece of relatively cheap advertising. Here is part of an article on the latest one:

That politics and economics, especially during the past years, have been an authentic carnival is something thought by nearly everybody, “but we never say it loud”, sustains the writer Juan Francisco Ferré (Málaga, 1962). He shouts it out in a novel, Karnaval, which he bases on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal; that represents a political pamphlet in which Ferré throws an acid glance on capitalism’s excesses, and that made him winner of the XXX Herralde Novel Prize, endowed with 18.000,- EUR and awarded by the publishing house Anagrama. …

“I wanted to reclaim the genre of the novel as a defense weapon, but also give a comical reading to very serious issues,” argues Ferré … The novel originates on May 14, 2011, when Strauss-Kahn was accused of sexaul assault of a black hotel worker in NYC. “It is not a chronicle but the attempt to show what a novel can do we these topics; I wanted to analyse a power figure, a topic art has always been interested in; but I think recently in literature it hasn’t been possible to see what a powerful person is and what he or she embodies.”

Rather than shocking, the former FMI managing director’s episode had a stimulating effect on Ferré that led him to think and write. It struck him that Strauss-Kahn was looking for a “free ride” while he had all the money in the world to pay for it. “But I don’t make a villain of him: the concepts for good, ugly, or bad are not easily applicable categories to life,” resumes Ferré.

Still Strauss-Kahn remains “a puppet, an avatar,” a personality “not as salvage as those in other of my novels; there is more irony and refinement here;” the caustic level comes from the fact that the author from Málaga remakes Strauss-Kahn, “DK” or “the great god K” in the novel, into a type of dissident (“Occupy Wall Street”) who wants to sabotage the system. … it is a kind of simulation of the French Revolution in 2011.” That is not the only ‘acid’ joke in a work of 500 pages. Ferré also invents a fictitious documentary in which he forces real personalities to opinionate on the abuse of power, such as the writers Houellebecq and Roth, or so different thinkers such as Slavoj Zizek and Beatriz Preciado.

The Herralde jury was formed by Salvador Clotas, Marcos Giralt Torrente, Vicente Molina Foix, and the publisher himself, Jorge Herralde. Runner-up for the award was Sara Mesa (Madrid, 1976) with Cuatro por cuatro [Four by four]. And there was a special mentioning of Miguel Ángel Hernández (Murcia, 1977), Intento de escapada [Getaway attempt]. There participated 467 original works.

(Unofficial translation of parts of a larger article by Carles Geli, published on the daily El País website on November 5, 2012.)

More on Juan F. Ferré in English here; his Spanish blog is here.

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