SANTIAGO — The renowned poet Raúl Zurita received the Queen Sofía Prize for Ibero-American Poetry. He is the third Chilean to be awarded the prize, which is considered to be the most important of the genre in Spanish. The poet said he did not expect the news and that “it was a beautiful surprise.”
Raúl Zurita, age 70, a well-known Chilean poet, was awarded the 29th Queen Sofía Prize for Ibero-American Poetry, on Sept. 8. The prize was given by Spain’s Patrimonio Nacional (“National Heritage”) state agency and the University of Salamanca, and is considered to be one of the most prestigious of this genre in Spanish and Portuguese.
The award recognizes the work of living poets that contribute to the cultural heritage shared by the Ibero-American community. The winner is awarded a sum of €42,100 (~US$ 50,000). The results were announced after Patrimonio Nacional’s jury deliberated. This makes Chile the second country (after Spain) with the highest number of poets that have won the prize.
Zurita is the third Chilean to be awarded the prize. The first was Gonzalo Rojas, in 1992, and the second was Nicanor Parra (known as the anti-poet) in 2001.
Raúl Zurita: “I have given my everything to poetry”
During the announcement of the winner, a member of the jury said that the prize had been awarded “in recognition of his work and his poetic example of overcoming pain, with verses committed to life, freedom and nature.”
Marianne Leighton, literature academic, agrees with the example Zurita sets for overcoming pain. She told Chile Today that “his boldness touches me deeply. And the fact that, despite the awareness of defeat, he obsessively and stubbornly believes in words as a possibility of making a more decent world.”
24 Horas interviewed the poet after he received the news. He admitted that it came as a shock, “a beautiful surprise,” that he was not expecting. “I have given my everything to poetry. Everything, everything, everything. Without ever leaving an open door in case things didn’t work out.”
María Llanos, president of Patrimonio Nacional, congratulated the poet and mentioned a verse of his that reads “ni pena ni miedo” (“nor sadness nor fear”). She referred to the global crisis saying: “May his words give us strength now.”
This is not the first time Zurita has won recognition. In 1988, he won the Chilean Pablo Neruda Prize; in 2000, he was awarded the National Prize for Literature; in 2006, in Cuba, he received the Jose Lezama Lima Poetry Prize; and, in 2016, he was awarded the Ibero-American Poetry Pablo Neruda Prize.
Hace años escribió en el cielo de Nueva York y en Atacama un verso: NI PENA NI MIEDO. Que sus palabras ahora nos den fuerza!
Enhorabuena Raúl Zurita, premio Reina Sofía de Poesía Iberoamericana . Lectura y compromiso imprescindibles https://t.co/DpSKJn2ucX
— Llanos Castellanos 🇪🇸 (@mllcastellanos) September 8, 2020
Zurita’s Life And Literary Journey
After Zurita was awarded the prize on Sept. 8, the Chilean Communist Party (PC) released a statement recognizing his work. “Our colleague has been able to interpret the social and cultural history, not only of our country, but through his pen he has put such sensitive themes for humanity at the center of the literary imaginary.”
The PC recognized Zurita’s work and success because he is a militant of the party. His work is known to focus on history and pain through a political point of view, as he was tortured inside a ship that was used as a detention center during Pinochet’s dictatorship.
One of his most recognized works is the book “Zurita,” which has almost 800 pages and took him 10 years to write. In it, he addresses the anguish of the hours prior to the military coup of Sept. 11, 1973. As he told Spanish news outlet El Pais, without that event he “would not have written a line.”
Leighton told Chile Today that another poem that describes the pain of Chilean history is “Inri.” It refers to the bodies of the dictatorship’s victims that were thrown from helicopters into the sea. “Zurita once said that there are no words in the face of death, of pain. However, this poem shows me that although what he said is true, he also managed to construct a poetic form that expresses pain, that collects it, and welcomes it.”
Among other famous works the poet has published are “Purgatorio’ (“Purgatory”), “Canto a su amor desaparecido” (“A song to his lost love”), “Anteparaíso” (“Anti-paradise”), and “La vida nueva” (“The new life”).