The Argentine-Canadian author Alberto Manguel (Buenos Aires, 1948) is the winner of the 2017 Premio Formentor de las Letras [Formentor letter prize] in recognition of his work in total as “one of the most lucid inquiries in the organic history of world literature,” according to the jury. “The minute recreation of the art of reading, the expertise with which the readers learn to understand the immensity of the world belong to the encyclopedic knowledge which Alberto Manguel has used to portray the life of books.” (jury: Inger Enkvist, Lila Azam Zanganeh, Daniel Fernández, Francisco Jarauta and Basilio Baltasar)
Manguel, they say, has always been especially attentive to the importance of reading for the young generations, a fact to point out in a time such as ours in which the entertainment industry and new technologies dissipate the readers’ attention and absorb the time formerly used for emotive and aesthetic education. In recognizing the importance of Manguel’s literary work, the jury “confirms the inevitable obligation to protect the people of letters who sustain the great universal library.”
The prize will be awarded in September during the “Formentor literary conversations”.
Manguel has published in Spanish as well as in English; he is a writer, translator and publisher, member of the Argentine Academy of Letters, and since June 2016 he directs the Mariano Moreno national library in Buenos Aires (coming from Princeton University).
In his biography stands out his special personal and intellectual relationship with Jorge Luis Borges, whom he got to know during a summer job at the Pigmalion bookstore in Buenos Aires and for whom he read several times a week at his home between 1964 and 1968.
Manguel started to work at the recently founded publishing house Galerna, whose owner Guillermo Schavelzon, 35 years later and headquartered in Barcelona, would become his literary agent.
He worked as a reader for different publishing houses such as Denoël, Gallimard and Les Lettres Nouvelles in Paris, and for Calder & Boyars in London, and he received his first literary award while in Paris, in 1971: that of the Argentine newspaper La Nación for a story collection that the shared with Bernardo Schiavetta.
After he had lived in Tahiti and the UK, in 1982 Manguel moved to Toronto, Canada, where he lived until the year 2000, when he moved to a Medieval farm in France.
His first novel, News from a Foreign Country Came, won the 1992 McKitterick prize.
In 2011 came out in Spanish Conversaciones con un amigo [Conversations with a friend] in which Manguel, in a series of chats with the French editor Claude Rouquet, remembers a lot of his life’s events and the genesis of his most important books, and he also opinionates on a wide range of topics.
For his part, Manguel has remarked that it is an “enormous responsibility” having been chosen for the award, that he accepts with “honour” as a prize for his defense of reading and with respect caused by the winners of the prize’s former editions.
The Wikipedia has articles on the Prix Formentor and on the author Alberto Manguel. In contrast to most of the other Spanish literary prizes, the Formentor is a serious one that rewards quality and doesn’t involve commercial interests of a publisher…
SOURCE: EFE, El Mundo, May 30, 2017