October 15 saw the prize gala of the 2013 Premio Planeta, the 2nd highest paid literary prize after the Nobel. This year there entered 478 manuscripts from all over the world.
Clara Sánchez (Guadalajara, 1955) won the prize’s 62nd edition with the novel El cielo ha vuelto [Heaven has returned]. According to the critic Carles Geli (original article in El País), as in her other works, Sánchez’ personalities are psychologically complex creatures. The protagonist here is a top model who during a flight learns from a seer that somebody wants to kill her. Knowing this makes her take a new view on her life, question certain aspects, and grow. It’s the story of a young women “who has it all but in whom doubt and distrust settle in.” A distrust that according to Sánchez “has become general in the whole of society; therefore she wanted to explore if it led us to cruelty or lucidity.”
As has been the case with a lot of other winners of the Planeta, Sánchez is an established writer with a literary career of nearly 25 years. Her most successful works have been Últimas noticias del paraíso (“Latest news from paradise”, 2000) for which she received the Alfaguara novel prize, and Lo que esconde tu nombre (“What your name hides”, 2010) for which she received the Nadal prize (awarded by the same publishing group Planeta) and which became a bestseller (especially in Italy), with more than 500.000 copies sold.
Also selling well has been Entra en mi vida (“Enter my life”, 2012) that is based on the sad stories of robbed children from Spanish hospitals [1950s – 1980s, criminal investigations going on]. Sánchez explores the feminine psychology and uses day to day events to describe a world of its own. For this, the critic Geli compares her to writers Sánchez admires, such as Mercè Rodoreda, Natalia Ginzburg and Alice Munro.
The big surprise of this year’s Planeta came with the runner up, normally considered the higher quality novel [while the main prize goes to a big name that will sell well]. It went to the (script) writer Ángeles González-Sinde (Madrid, 1965), better known as Spanish Minister of Culture between 2009 and 2011. Her first adult novel, El buen hijo (The good son), is described as an agile modern comedy in which we are told the story of a timid 36 year old man who lives and works under his widow mother’s shadow; a suffocating atmosphere that is upset by the arrival of a Romanian maid. González-Sinde won a literary prize before in 2006, the Edebé prize for the children’s novel Rosanda y el arte de birli birloque [“Rosalind and the art of ‘birli birloque'”].
Clara Sánchez’ Lo que esconde tu nombre has been published in English under the name of The Scent of Lemon Leaves. The Library of Congress’ online catalog lists only this one as available in English.
Most of the information of this post comes from the above mentioned article by Carles Geli. On the same day as the Planeta prize, there was awarded The Man Booker Prize 2013 to Eleanor Catton for The Luminaries.