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Princess of Asturias Awards


Anne Carson, 2020 Princess of Asturias Award for Literature


Canadian writer Anne Carson has been bestowed with the 2020 Princess of Asturias Award for Literature, as announced today in Oviedo by the Jury responsible for conferring said Award.

The Jury for the Award –convened by the Princess of Asturias Foundation– was chaired by Santiago Muñoz Machado and composed of Xuan Bello Fernández, Anna Caballé Masforroll, Gonzalo Celorio Blasco, José Luis García Delgado, Jordi Gracia García, Lola Larumbe Doral, Antonio Lucas Herrero, Carmen Millán Grajales, Rosa Navarro Durán, Laura Revuelta Sanjurjo, Carmen Riera Guilera, Iker Seisdedos García, Jaime Siles Ruiz, Diana Sorensen, Sergio Vila-Sanjuán Robert and Fernando Rodríguez Lafuente (as acting secretary).

This candidature was put forward by José Antonio Pascual Rodríguez, member of the Spanish Royal Academy (RAE)

Due to the health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting was held online via video conference.

Anne Carson (Toronto, Canada, 21st June 1950) is a professor of Classical and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan, as well as a renowned poet, essayist and translator. A bilingual edition of Sappho’s poems which she found in a bookstore changed her life forever: “The vision of the two juxtaposed pages, one of them an impenetrable text, but of great visual beauty, captivated me and I bought the book.” She left her studies at St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, on two occasions, mostly due to curricular constraints (especially a required course on John Milton). After working for a time in graphic arts, she completed her studies at the University of St Andrews (Scotland), where in 1986 she obtained her PhD with a thesis on Sappho.

A specialist in classical culture and languages and in comparative literature, anthropology, history and advertising, in the opinion of critics Carson is one of the most exquisite and erudite writers of contemporary literature, as well as the author of a hypnotic body of work, in which she fuses styles, references and forms, creating a hybrid of Greco-Latin, medieval and contemporary poetics. For her, translation and creation are synonymous terms. She has stated “If I knew what poetry was, I wouldn’t have to write. It’s something I seek to tempt in the dark” and also that “you do what you have to in order to write about what you want to write”. She has thus created an exquisite world, a collage between poetry, dissertation, essay and drama, with contributions sometimes even from opera. In her first book, Eros the Bittersweet, Carson already meditated on the nature of romantic love and erotic desire using prose fragments that intersect with the verses. Her most admired poets include Homer, Thomas Hardy and the English poetess Stevie Smith, whom she describes as “sublime”, and she considers Virginia Woolf the most important figure in the history of literature. At the age of 42, she published Short Talks (1992), a work that was followed by the works Plainwater (1995); The Glass Essay (1995); her well-known work Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse (1998); Economy of the Unlost: Reading Simonides of Ceos with Paul Celan (1999); Men in the Off Hours (2000), a collection of epitaphs, love poems, verse essays and drafts of scripts; The Beauty of the Husband (2001); If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho (2002); Decreation: Poetry, Essays, Opera (2005); Nox (2010); Antigonick (2012); Red Doc> [sic] (2013) and Float (2016).

Recipient of the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry (USA, 1996), the Pushcart Prize for Poetry (USA, 1997), the T. S. Eliot Prize (UK, 2001), the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation (USA, 2010) and the Griffin Poetry Prize (Canada, 2014), Anne Carson was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Toronto and has been awarded both Guggenheim (1998) and MacArthur (2000) Fellowships.

This year, a total of 28 candidates from 17 different countries were nominated for the award. As stated in the Regulations, the Princess of Asturias Awards are aimed at rewarding “the scientific, technical, cultural, social and humanitarian work carried out at an international level by individuals, institutions or groups of individuals or institutions”. In keeping with these principles, the Princess of Asturias Award for Literature shall be aimed at recognizing “the work of fostering and advancing literary creation in all its genres.”

This is the sixth of eight Princess of Asturias Awards, which are being bestowed this year for the fortieth time. The Princess of Asturias Awards for Concord went to Spanish health workers on the front line against COVID-19, the Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts went to composers Ennio Morricone and John Williams and the Princess of Asturias Award for Communication, Humanities was granted to the Guadalajara International Book Fair and the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts, the Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences went to Turkish economist Dani Rodrik and the Princess of Asturias Award for Sports was granted to rally driver Carlos Sainz. The remaining awards will be announced in the coming days in the following order: Technical and Scientific Research and International Cooperation.

Each of the Princess of Asturias Awards comprises a Joan Miró sculpture representing and symbolizing the Awards, a cash prize of 50,000 euros, a diploma and an insignia.

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