César Aira, before the delivery of the Formentor: “They will never give me the Nobel, those prizes must be justified”

The Argentine writer César Aira, winner of the Prix Formentor 2021, offers a press conference in Seville, where the award ceremony will take place, with the president of the Formentor Foundation, Basilio Baltasar. (Formentor Foundation)

Seville, (Europa Press) The Argentine writer César Aira, winner of the Prix Formentor 2021, gave a press conference in Seville, where the award ceremony will take place. “I gladly assume the qualification of rare and I would even like to be extremely rare,” he assured the media present, accompanied by the director of the Formentor Foundation, Basilio Baltasar.

“I have been told that I am a weird writer. If a writer is not rare, it is because he is conventional like all the others and the artistic is out of the ordinary, so I gladly assume the qualification of rare and I would even like to be extremely rare ”, Aira (Coronel Pringes, 1949) has affirmed with reason of his stay in the city of Seville, which this year hosts the delivery of the Prix Formentor as well as the Literary Conversations, which will take place on October 10 and 11, at the Hotel Barceló Sevilla Renacimiento.

In this meeting with the media, the author has recognized that his literary career “arose from friendship.” “I became a writer as a boy with my friend Arturo Carrera; we divided the fields: I left the poetry to him, I kept the story ”, he recalled.

Aira has indicated that his life was marked by “defective education”, to which he will also refer to his speech this afternoon. “I had the bad idea of ​​educating myself, I was ill-prepared to face the world. I was fortunate to be able to preserve my ivory tower, my family, my children, except for a brief period that I spent in jail, it was all a fairy tale ”, he said.

Precisely, Asked about his stay in prison, he pointed out that it was because of “a peccadillo of youth, things of politics”. “Those 70s dragged you to do things that you later regretted and I ended up being apolitical. In fact, politics is Chicano, ill will and insults, ”he lamented.

Aira has also addressed its relationship with readers and has ensured that it tries to be “as less demanding as possible” with them. “I write as clearly as possible, I don’t like those things that Vargas Llosa did to go from one time to another with flashes of the past mixed with the present. I like to tell a story from beginning to end, as clearly as possible. That is why once, modestly, I compared myself to Salvador Dali in the sense that, having such a baroque imagination, such an unbridled invention, I need simple prose. The baroque of the invention and the execution could give a mixture that is not very edible ”, he acknowledged.

Regarding his creative process, he has detailed that “everything goes together”. “I am incapable of thinking: if I think of a story, I just need an idea as schematic as possible and, from there, it comes out. If I get stuck and don’t know how to continue, I’ve learned that if I stop writing and think about it, nothing comes to mind and if I keep writing, it comes out. The writing itself is helping me ”, he explained.

In this sense, he has claimed not to have “that sensual taste for words that poets have.” “My thing is rather the images, a visual imagination, I see the stories that occur to me. A crystalline, simple, transparent prose, without baroque displays: at least it is the lesson that I learned ”, he pointed out.

In addition, Aira has defended that “I would continue writing even if there was not a single reader left in the world “ and has analyzed the differences between writing and reading. “The good thing about reading is to provoke a satisfied smile when you find something well done,” he assured.

“The pleasure of reading is porous and superficial, while in writing the pleasure is dense, one writes every word, no one skips, it is not like reading: even if you read with the greatest pleasure, you skip. They are the two great pleasures of my life: reading and writing and I see the difference between the two. The authentic thing of the writer is to write, it is obvious but it is like that ”, he added.

For all this, it has been defined “rather neoclassical, rather than baroque.” “Both writing and reading are solitary activities, reading in a group is something that I never liked. Even the cinema: I am a cinephile, I discovered that what I really like is watching the cinema at home, alone, in front of my computer, as if reading a book. I am not attracted to the social aspect of any art ”, he acknowledged.

César Aira (Europa Press)
César Aira (Europa Press)

Against reading promotion campaigns

Returning to literature, he has pointed out that “it was always a minority activity of few people”. “I am against campaigns to promote reading, let it remain optional: let whoever wants to read read. I have always seemed absurd that the State promotes reading: you need people who work, not who lock themselves at home to read. I am satisfied that there are few people reading ”, has influenced.

Asked about his favorite authors, he has alluded to Borges (“As they said, a light went out but it is still very present”) Manuel Puig, “The last writer I followed book by book.” “I expected all his novels,” he acknowledged, with special mention to The tropical night falls.

Regarding the obtaining of the Prix Formentor, Aira has recognized that “this is going to be the last prize”. “I already promised myself, it is not that I dislike it, quite the contrary, it is a pleasure, an honor, but that’s it, I leave the place for a young man to enjoy it more than I do. Enough of awards, I’ve had enough, this is consecrating“, has added.

Along the same lines, he has predicted that he will “never” receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. “They will never give me the Nobel: those prizes have to be justified and the justification is not literary. An award has never been given for how good the books are, but for the defense that was made of this or that”, He argued.

The Formentor Prize

Endowed with 50 thousand euros, the Formentor Prize is supported by the patronage of the Barceló and Buadas families. It is a recognition of the quality and integrity of the authors whose work consolidates the prestige and influence of great literature. It was first awarded in 1961 and promoted by a renowned group of European publishers such as Carlos Barral, Gallimard, Einaudi or Rowolth.

After these first ten years of the second period of the award (recovered in 2011) it has been awarded to Carlos Fuentes, Juan Goytisolo, Javier Marías, Enrique Vila-Matas, Ricardo Piglia, Roberto Calasso, Alberto Manguel, Mircea Cartarescu, Annie Ernaux and Cees Nooteboom. As of this year 2021, the award regains its itinerancy and title, Prix Formentor.

This year’s awardee, Cesar Aira, has published more than a hundred novels, whether fiction, essay or theater, which have been translated into numerous languages ​​since 1981, when his first novel appeared, Ema, the captive. One of his most notable works is How i became a nun (1993). He has performed translation and other editorial duties. He has obtained the 2014 Roger Caillois Prize and the 2016 Manuel Rojas Ibero-American Narrative Prize, among other distinctions, and was appointed by the French government Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres.

The award ceremony precedes the Literary Conversations that, since 2008, have brought together writers, editors, critics and the public. This year they will take place on October 10 and 11 at the Hotel Barceló Sevilla Renacimiento with the motto ‘Shipwrecked, pilgrims and argonauts’, as detailed by the Formentor Foundation, created in 2020 to organize the Formentor Prize for Literature and Literary Conversations.

Figures will attend the Conversations Pilar del Río, Philippe Claudel, Lidia Jorge, Raquel Taranilla, Moisés Mori and Jean-François Fogel. In turn, the organizers have announced that one of the novelties of this edition is the program dedicated to the centenary of José Saramago. This year, the Honor Committee of the Formentor Foundation opens at the same time.


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César Aira, before the delivery of the Formentor: “They will never give me the Nobel, those prizes must be justified”

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