Maite Salord, winner of the Proa award

Maite Salord (Ciutadella, 1965) had not published a novel for seven years. A few years in which politics invited to reduce the pace of writing, since she chaired the Consell Insular de Menorca from 2015 to 2017 and until last June was vice president. Now he comes back, and through the big door, winning the III Premi Proa de Novel·la with The country of l’altra riba, endowed with 40,000 euros and which will hit bookstores next week.

The novel traces a story that explores the past of the Menorcan emigration in Algiers “among figures who seek to save themselves from the disasters of the 20th century”, as Xavier Pla explained yesterday as spokesman for the jury, also made up of Marina Porras, Vicenç Villatoro, Clara Queraltó and Josep Lluch.

Pla also said that the play portrays very well characters who “seek a more dignified future and who hope to find another shore to go to in order to save themselves.” The novel includes “the Nazi deportation, the battle of Algiers, the war in Iraq and even the tourist depredation of the Mediterranean landscape”, in two planes, one located in the middle of the 20th century in Algeria and the other that starts from the demonstrations against the Iraq war in 2003 in Barcelona.

And it is that in the nineteenth century, impoverishment pushed thousands of Menorcans to emigrate to Algeria. An estimated 10,000 – around a quarter of the island’s population – went mainly to the Fort de l’Eau neighborhood in Algiers. “Almost in every Menorcan family there is someone who remembers someone who emigrated, even I knew a man they called in Bep d’Alger Salord recalled yesterday.

In the 19th century, impoverishment pushed thousands of Menorcans to emigrate to Algeria

However, this emigration is a part of the landscape, because among the characters there are Jews who have fled the Nazis, a French settler who runs a restaurant, where a Muslim Algerian work, and a woman, Isabel Vidal Sintes, who is second Last name the same as “the Menorcan from Algeria” (in Pla’s words), Albert Camus. The French Nobel does not come out, but it flies over the work already from an appointment: “The writer cannot put himself at the service of those who make history: he is at the service of those who suffer from it.”

Salord began to write it already in 2014, when he had just published L’alè de les cendres, but it was a slow and complex process, dedication to politics influenced the pace of writing, almost totally interrupted a few years, although later he was able to take advantage especially of the confinements due to the pandemic, which allowed him to dedicate more time, “also because of the need to disconnect from the intense politics of those moments ”. And in fact, literature is also one of the reasons why he has abandoned politics. Even so, Salord assures that “politics and literature are not so different. In the first one I entered by commitment, and this is still in my literature ”.

Salord wanted to highlight the multiculturalism of Algiers in the 1950s, in which Jews, Christians and Muslims could coexist despite having very different ideologies, partly united by the uprooting they suffer. At the same time, although the battle of Algiers “may be the most colorful part, there is a lot of reflection on the preservation of the island of Menorca from tourist development”, with a critical look on the excesses, very focused on the movements of the the seventies and eighties and that have allowed the island to be preserved to some extent.

The winner of the award, which was given at a dinner at the Tàpies Foundation, is not a young revelation, but an author with a career that seeks to consolidate.

In any case, in the words of Xavier Pla: “Where politics does not reach, is ineffective or fails miserably, the repairing force of good stories emerges.”

We would like to give thanks to the writer of this short article for this outstanding content

Maite Salord, winner of the Proa award

Hank Gilbert