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Perhaps only the voice of the poets can express, from the bottom of our hearts, our desires and our feelings for the Middle East and for a world which, on the threshold of a new millennium, looks to the future with fear and hope.
Yet another year we return to this beloved land to participate in this solemn ceremony, always so revealing end emotive.
"Deus quere, o homen sonha, a obra nasce", God wills, man dreams, the work is born. Perhaps these words of Fernando Pessäa, as concise as a heraldic motto, could be a beautiful symbol for what has been the life of these prizes, which are now fifteen years old.
What at first consisted of an exciting dream, now, thanks to the efforts of many and because God willed it, is a beautiful reality, a work accomplished, open, with the strength of hope, to new horizons and to the future.
To return every year to the Principality of Asturias and to present the prizes which bear my name is especially pleasing to me, for all these reasons.
I am grateful to the jurors for setting their sights so high, for their harmony with the values we wish to raise up, the independence of the criteria and, in short, for getting it right. They have presented us with what survives: undying works and examples.
I also express, yet again, my gratitude to our Patrons, as well as to the authorities and to the growing number of people who contribute to making these prizes a great work of Spaniards, united, before the world.
This beloved land of Asturias and the example of some of its finest sons come together again this year in one name: that of the poet, critic and teacher, Carlos Bousoño, who has been awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Letters.
In him, Asturian by birth, there are combined values which are rarely seen together. He is, on the one hand, a poet who for half a century has been enriching the Spanish lyric tradition with exemplary poems, and he is, furthermore, a scientist, a theorist of literature, a thinker who has tried to go further than no other of his times in shedding light upon the secret mechanisms which make the miracle of art possible.
The poetic work of Carlos Bousoño stands for a deep exploration of the problems of mankind, from a clearly existentialist standpoint. The pure psalms and the celestial odes of his first books, written even at the height of his adolescence, full of religious fervour, were followed by a dark night which he tried to get out of by allowing himself to be invaded by reality. The poet reminds us that the beats of the human heart are numbered, but he also tells us that humility and the recognition of simple things -a flower, a jug, an open hand- save our lives.
In the bottomless flow of our universal novel, Don Quixote points out that "historians should be precise, truthful and not in the least impassioned, and neither interest nor fear, rancour nor liking, should turn them aside from the way of truth, whose mother is History, the imitation of time, the storehouse of acts, the witness of the past, example and warning to the present, a sign of things to come". This is a magnificent definition to refer to the two great historians who have been awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences, Miquel Batllori and Joaquím Veríssimo SerrÆo.
The fine spirit and hard-working character of the Catalan people have reached in our days a peak in Father Miquel Batllori, a wise and flexible person. Many are the spiritual and historiographic themes he has tackled, but it is significant that his interest has been drawn, specifically and in a special way, towards those areas where Catalan culture opens out into something universal and, in opening out becomes fertile, it enriches us all, and teaches us.
Humanism and the zeal for renaissance shine in the output which Batllori has offered us. The editions prepared by him of authors such as Arnau de Vilanova, Ramón Lull or Baltasar Gracián, show us the point Catalan culture merges with the Mediterranean spirit and the Spanish way of being. The travels back and forth of these three authors, studied by Batllori, along the shores and the islands of the sea we have in common, their zeal for untamable science, for mystical spirituality, for sharpness, discretion and talent, may be excellent coordinates with which to justly evaluate the historiographic and literary work of the author who now rounds off his set of awards with the Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences.
Professor Joaquím Veríssimo SerrÆo is a grand, multi-faceted historian. He is a scholar of the Middle Ages and a rigorous researcher into modern times. He has done great work in clarifying the history of Portugal and its overseas influence, which has earned him for many years the post of directing the destiny of the Portuguese Academy of History. Apart from the long list of his own works, he has guided and welcomed the best national and foreign historians who had something to say regarding Portugal.
Yet Professor Veríssimo also directed his gaze especially towards Spain. Nobody has done as much as he to bring Spanish and Portuguese historians closer. As chairman of the Portuguese National Academy of History, he has thrown all his prestige behind the deepening of relations between it and our own Royal Academy of History. Just like our own Miguel de Unamuno, Veríssimo SerrÆo thinks that "it is a work of love and of culture to make Portugal and Spain know each other. Because to know each other is to love one another".
Philosophers, as has so often been said, and rightly, produce thought, the most subtle and necessary form of energy that exists. And, among us, the undoubtable figure of reference for various generations of Spaniards is that of the philosopher and teacher of ethics, José Luis López Aranguren, Prince of Asturias Award-Winner for Communications and Humanities.
In the life and work of Professor Aranguren his intellectual contribution shines, just as his highly personal talent stands out. That talent, that active intelligence, acting on things and situations, has forced him during his long career to occupy the ranks normally reserved for youth. His intellectual talent and the way he gives it life constitute a highly personal synthesis of independence and nonconformity. Thanks to his work, energy and lively style, Spanish letters have a necessary spiritual link, a great wealth of contents and an example for all of what is good citizenship.
The EFE Agency, which has also been awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Communications and Humanities, is one of the great international news agencies and the number one of Hispanic origin and language thanks to its volume of information, its technological development and the number of its subscribers.
For the half century of its existence, EFE has seen fulfilled the old longing to see the day-to-day history of the world told in Spanish. To this end it has its own editorial offices in the major capitals and in each and every country of Europe and America.
Its presence on the five continents guarantees its independent news coverage and constitutes at the same time an incomparable instrument for the defence of the unity of the Spanish language on both sides of the Atlantic. Not a few times has it competed successfully against the international news giants. Its reporters have gained well-earned prestige for reporting truthfully, objectively, rigorously and ethically and for having freedom and independence as the supreme values of their mission. In Latin-America, especially, they have stood out, for spreading the moral and material wealth of their peoples and for having been, when circumstances so required, supportive to their struggles for the rule of law and democracy.
The Prince of Asturias Award for Sports has been granted to the Algerian Hassiba Boulmerka. Sport has an even higher meaning when its noble exercise is highlighted by the human values of those who play it. The recognition for this singular woman athlete fits very well with the central meaning of this prize, that of conceiving sport as the struggle of the sportswoman or man to morally better his or herself.
Nothing can turn the human being back when it is determined to follow a road, to perform, with a firm vocation, a task. "What is happiness, if not the simple agreement between a being and the existence which it leads?" asks Albert Camus, a writer who knew well the land of Hassiba Boulmerka. How admirable are the dignity and willpower of this athlete, nowadays a universal symbol for women.
For we who love respectful, peaceful co- existence, which is impossible without the permanent, active and free presence of women, the attitude of this sportswoman, who has conquered so much glory on the running track, is also an exemplary point of reference for the dignity, the courage and the poise with which she defends her convictions. A set of principles nourished by the idea that truth lies not in separation, but in union, and by the idea, as Voltaire thought, that "discord is the worst of the ills that beset the human race, and that ill has only one remedy, tolerance."
The Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts has been awarded to Fernando Fernán Gómez, a man who has been so many men, and always masterful, through the power of transmutation of his art. He has helped us, in front of or behind the camera, to understand better the turbulent or peaceful, but always thrilling, years of this last half century of Spanish life. Our aesthetic experience is of the same stuff as the range of characters he has played in the cinema and the theatre. His genius and his voice have given shape to many of our past and present realities, and even to quite a few of our dreams.
Fernando Fernán Gómez is also a great and almost secret writer, a humorist of the breed of Cervantes, author of poems, of innumerable articles, of exemplary works of theatre, of wise memoirs, of a melancholy novel, adapted to film, "El camino a ninguna parte" (The Road to Nowhere), which is not only the best of tributes to the dearly-loved figure of the small-time theatre comedian, but which is also a desolate parable for the whole of human existence.
Fernando Fernán Gómez is, without room for argument, one of the grand masters of our cultural life. He is a man with a vigourous ethical commitment and, after all, it is only from an ethical commitment that one may be a master.
In referring to the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research, bestowed upon Professor Manuel Losada Villasante and to the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad of Costa Rica, I cannot avoid the painful recollection of Professor Francisco Grande Covián. From its very institution, he contributed, and very decisively, as a juror, with his scientific solvency and his independence, to the prestige of this prize. We shall never forget his good-natured humanity, his service to Spanish science and his contribution to our Foundation.
Manuel Losada Villasante is a great figure of international science. Driven by intellectual curiosity towards the fascination of discovering the basic mechanisms of life, he conceives of science as a question and a challenge, defining the human adventure, as the motor of social evolution, as the sum of essential knowledge to resolve many of the problems in the world today, combining theoretical reason with practice.
Professor Losada, from a multiple vision of science, which combines intellectual adventure and contemplation, experiment and teaching, theory and praxis, clarified the mechanisms of photosynthesis by which plants obtain their energy form the sum and upon which the marvellous structure of life on Earth has been raised. His work leaves a permanent imprint on the road of human perfection.
The Instituto de Biodiversidad of Costa Rica performs a unique role in the world and is a marvellous example of the use of science for the common good. Established in 1990, it is, five years later, the paradigm of what human activity should be with regard to the defence and protection of nature. Its actions are based on the premise that it is society as a whole that must change its relationship with the natural world and that only in so far as society gets to know and respect nature, will a true evaluation and rational use of natural resources be achievable.
Thus, this Institute performs a huge task of cataloguing and analyzing the flora and fauna of its country, as well as major research work into the contribution these organisms can make, studying at the same time ways of fighting the environmental degradation of the planet.
All of this represents a set of objectives and a task which deserves all our support and our humble admiration.
President Mario Soares, Prince of Asturias Award-Winner for International Cooperation, with his life, has brought into flower again the ancient Roman virtue of the man of goodwill and the man of State. There have been few, who, like him, have been able to personify the formula of true greatness which Ricardo Reis expressed in one of his odes:
Para ser grande, sé entero. Nada
tuyo exageres o excluyas.
Sé todo en cada cosa. Pon cuanto eres
en lo mínimo que hagas.
Así en cada lago la luna entera
brilla, porque alta vive
(In order to be great, be whole. Exclude
or exaggerate nothing of yours.
Be everything in each thing. Put all of yourself
into the slightest thing that you do.
So in every lake the full moon
shines, because it lives on high)
Temperance in the face of extreme or precipitate attitudes, his admirable democratic character, his work in international relations and his intellectual interests make him an example to refer to in a country which we dearly regard as our sister- land.
His militant Europeanism is a fixed ideological pillar, as constant as is, also, his belief in a European Union, free yet mutually committed, and convinced, at the same time , that from our own identity, forged over the centuries, the profound Hispano-Portuguese cooperation may be projected in fruitful actions towards Latin America, where our cultures are extended and intermingled in a likeable reality.
"Hispano soy, y nada portugués me es ajeno", (Hispanic I am, and nothing Portuguese is foreign to me) wrote a Spanish poet in words I wish to claim for my own. The whole history of Portugal is clearly full of Spanish resonances, just as that of Spain is an echo, ever repeating the name of Portugal.
This very city of Oviedo, in which the age-old stones of its monuments call Spaniards to the memory of their historic past, is an unavoidable point of reference when it comes to understanding the shared beginnings of our respective nationalities.
From here, from this Asturias to which Camoes sang in "Os Lusiadas", would come King Alfonso I to undertake, together with the peoples of Spain and Portugal, in the lands of Spain and Portugal, the great enterprise of the Reconquest.
And it is precisely from this university city of Oviedo that one of the sharpest minds of his century, the ironic and tender Clarín, ahead of his time, called in one of his journalistic writings for "a common understanding of the spirit of Spain and Portugal, by means of intellectual communion," which he considered more fruitful, more urgent and more solid than any other.
Let us vow to make the ideas of these great intellectuals and the efforts and convictions of Your Excellency to reach a closer relation between our two countries a happy reality.
There are some verses of the Holy Koran which say that those who do good will be rewarded in posterity with undying remembrance. The Sermon on the Mount in our Holy Book declares: "Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God."
Your Majesty has done much good and has made peace in one of the most conflictive areas of the world, which in these moments lives with the hope of peace. And in large part, this is due to your role as an exceptional mediator and pacifier. My father, HM the King, declared so last year before the Jordanian parliament.
This is also recognised by the Prime Minister of Israel, Isaac Rabin, who shared the Award for International Cooperation last year with President Arafat. In proposing Your Majesty as candidate for this Award for Concord, Mr. Rabin wrote these words, "The King of Jordan has advanced, with initiative and courage, and even at great personal risk, a commitment to achieving peace in the region, in spite of many difficulties and obstacles."
In truth, Sir, your zeal for balance and your pacifying courage could be classed as titanic.
Because making peace does not only imply struggling to reach agreements which are beneficial for the well-being and development of one´s own people, a praiseworthy act if ever there was one, but also for the region as a whole. That objective, that of obtaining a tolerant, supportive and productive peace has characterised Your Majesty´s personal career (and your family´s), leading the Jordanian people and inspiring by your example and your character all those events which are occurring in the Middle-East and the whole Arab world which represent important steps forward for peace and harmony in the world.
All these struggles are now bearing fruit and soon the children of the Middle East will grow up without hearing the anger of the guns. The swords will be beaten into ploughshares, as the prophet Isaiah foresaw, and the energies that until now had been used in war will be employed to eradicate inequality, hunger, injustice, poverty and pain from the Holy Land.
Perhaps only the voice of the poets can express, from the bottom of our hearts, our desires and our feelings for the Middle East and for a world which, on the threshold of a new millennium, looks to the future with fear and hope. With words filled with tenderness, free and shining words from these verses of the Peruvian Manuel Scorza, I speak from the heart to the hearts of all:
"Mientras alguien padezca,
la rosa no podrá ser bella;
mientras alguien mire el pan con envidia,
el trigo no podrá dormir;
mientras los mendigos lloren de frío en la noche
mi corazón no sonreirá."
(As long as someone is suffering,
the rose cannot be fair;
as long as someone watches the bread with envy,
the wheat cannot sleep;
as long as beggars weep with cold in the night
my heart will not smile.)
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