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Carmen Martín Gaite and José Ángel Valente

Prince of Asturias Award for Literature 1988

Because his poetry, continually evolving from its initial existential beat to subsequent phenomenological inquiry, is a deep interrogation into the meaning of the world.

Carmen Martín Gaite

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A writer with a long and personal career in contemporary Spanish narrative, also a writer of poetry, drama and essays, Carmen Martín Gaite (Salamanca, Spain, 1925 - Madrid, Spain, 2000). She spent the first years of her youth in her home town, studying at high school and graduating in Romance Philology with the extraordinary graduation prize. Among her classmates were the writers Agustín García Calvo and Ignacio Aldecoa, who introduced her into Madrid literary circles when, in 1950, she decided to move to the Spanish capital.

In Madrid she came into contact with the group of young writers formed by Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio - whom she would marry in 1953 -, Ignacio Aldecoa, Jesús Fernández Santos, Josefina Rodríguez, Alfonso Sastre, Medardo Fraile and others. Her friendship with this group, known as the 1950 Generation, was the decisive factor for her to abandon her plans to teach at university, which she had when she left Salamanca, and dedicate herself entirely to literature.

She thus began a literary career in the early Fifties, at the same time contributing to newspapers and journals of the time such as Clavileño, Alcalá, La estafeta literaria, ABC, Blanco y Negro or Revista Española, founded in 1953 by Antonio Rodríguez Moñino and run by her friends Alfonso Sastre, Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio and Ignacio Aldecoa.

In 1955 she published her novel El balneario, with which she won the Café Gijón Prize for short novels, and in 1958 she received the Nadal Prize for her first long novel, Entre visillos. These two awards were to be a powerful boost for her career as a writer.

The work of Martín Gaite has taken shape, over time, as a bridge between the realism of the twentieth century and the intimate style. Her work pays special attention to the problems of Spanish women in all periods. The themes which are recurrent in all her novels, revolve around the conflicts between reality and dream, how things are interpreted in daily life and what is desired in secret, in solitude, of one´s hopes. In her early works there was a tendency towards realistic criticism, aimed at monotony, conventions, social injustice and the insensitivity of many sectors of society, reflecting especially on provincial life and the situation of her own sex, a focus which she would later abandon to concentrate on a more ambitious type of narrative: the passage of time, fantasy, random chance, the sempiternal search for the interlocutor.

In 1972 after a long phase away from university, she gained her doctorate from Madrid with the thesis Lenguaje y estilos amorosos en los textos del siglo XVIII español, under the guidance of Alonso Zamora Vicente, and which was to win the Extraordinary Doctorate Prize. Despite this, she continued to work in teaching only sporadically in foreign universities.

In 1978 she won the National Literature Prize for her novel El cuarto de atrás. Before that, she had published the book of short stories Las ataduras (Barcelona, 1960) and the novels Ritmo lento (Barcelona, 1963), Retahílas (barcelona, 1973) and Fragmentos de interior (Barcelona, 1976). The publication of all her short stories in the collection Cuentos completos (Madrid, 1979) and the fantasy tales El castillo de las tres murallas (Barcelona, 1981) was still to come.

Martín Gaite is also a writer of poetry (A rachas, 1977), drama (A palo seco, 1987), film and television scripts, and essays: Usos amorosos de la posguerra española (Anagrama Essay Prize, 1987), La búsqueda del interlocutor y otras búsquedas (Madrid, 1974), and El cuento de nunca acabar (Madrid, 1983).

She has translated Ignacio Silone, Italo Svevo, Eça de Queiroz, Flaubert, Perrault, Virginia Woolf, Emily Brönte and William Carlos Williams into Spanish and has also prepared critical editions of various authors.

José Ángel Valente

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José Ángel Valente (Orense, Spain, 1929 - Geneva, Switzerland, 2000), poet, essay writer and university teacher, began to study Law at the University of Santiago de Compostela, subsequently transferring to Madrid, where he graduated in Romance Philology in 1954, with an extraordinary prize.

He travelled abroad in 1955 and taught Spanish Language and Literature for various years at the University of Oxford, where he obtained the degree of Master of Arts. From 1958 on he lived in Geneva, where he worked as a teacher and international civil servant in the UNO. Between 1982 and 1985 he lived in Paris, where he ran UNESCO´s Spanish translation service. In 1986 he settled in Almería. He involved in teaching, giving classes, as a visiting lecturer, in universities such as that of Irvine, in California, USA.

Although his first poems were published when he was still a student, Valente became known in the literary world when he won he the Adonis Prize for Poetry, in 1954, with his book "A modo de esperanza". Belonging, in age and output, to what is known as the Fifties, or mid-century, generation, he began as an ironic, observant poet, until, after "El inocente" in 1970, his poetry acquired an epigrammatic and conceptual tone. Theoretical transpositions, cultivated and at times cryptical vocabulary, irony and sarcasm characterise this new phase. Nonetheless, Valente has never accepted the limitations implied by being grouped into a given literary tendency represented by a limited number of writers. In his own words, "the notion of contemporaneity has to be shattered. At some point, the writer has the option of absolute solitude, of having no contemporaries." Nonetheless, Valente has never accepted the limitations implied by being grouped into a given "realist" literary tendency of his predecessors, while not abandoning their ethical commitment, and also accentuating the battle for a specifically literary language.

Together with the aforementioned books, the following are outstanding among his works. Poemas de Lázaro (1960), with which he won the Critics´ prize, La memoria y los signos (1967), Breve son (1968), Presentación y memorial para un monumento (1970), Interior con figuras (1976), Material memoria (1979), Tres lecciones de tinieblas (1980), with which he won the Critics´ Prize again, Sete cántigas de alén (1981), Punto cero (1981), Mandorla (1982), El fulgor (1983) and Al Diós del lugar (1989).

Apart from his poetical works, which in their first stage were along the lines of the "teacher poets" such as Salinas or Gerardo Diego, and in the second phase, what is called "poetry of silence," José Ángel Valente has written narrative texts and prose poems such as Número trece (1971) and El fin de la edad de plata (1973). He has also published literary essays: Las palabras de la tribu (1971), Ensayo sobre Miguel de Molinos (1974) and La piedra y el centro (1983).

He was court- martialled in 1972, as it was considered that concepts in the short story El uniforme del general (The general´s uniform), in the book Número trece, were offensive to the army. As he then lived in Geneva, he was declared in contempt of court.

He contributed to magazines such as Índice, Ínsula, Revistan de Occidente or Poesía, and in the daily press, above all in El País and in the culture supplement of Diario 16.

In 1984 he received the "Pablo Iglesias" Foundation Prize. His poetical work has been widely translated into French, but also into other European languages, such as English, Italian or German.

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