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Prince of Asturias Award for Literature 2005
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Prince of Asturias Foundation,
Mr. President and Gentlemen Members of the Jury for this Award,
Prince of Asturias Award Laureates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I come from Brazil and I revere the majesty of the Portuguese language. It is the language I greet God and mankind in. My daily litany is a celebration of the legends of my Galician home, of my country of origin and of the whole earth, which I aspire to know. I am obliged by my human condition to constantly return to those places I originate from, though I may have never visited them.
My repertoire consists of memories of the world. In the company of everyone, without exception, I recall the emotions that dazzle me and enable me to recognise the brink of the human precipice.
Like everybody, I am many-faceted in my humanity. I never resigned myself to being a just one being. I carry with me such a genealogy that I scarcely know the people and ethnias it was forged of. I accept my modest position and am grateful to the geniuses who gave me reasons to go on. I hold a place in my heart for those who instilled in me the disbelief that is essential if one is to have faith. The bards of Ancient Greece, the philosophers of the Incan Empire, the shamans, Homer, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Camões, Machado de Assis, the beings of illusion and orality. I pay tribute to them, and they owe their immortality to me. All the dead are indebted to my ilk, which exalts human inventiveness and believes that art is voracious when it portrays our corporeality, which is capable of crushing and dreaming at the same time.
What I make of myself can no longer be remedied. I have no right to renounce a knowledge that arouses my compassion and teaches me to soothe others in the balm of hope.
The procession of life, which is carnivorous and transitory, did not frighten away the fantasy nourished by the volutes of the cathedrals, by the musical delirium of death and the transfiguration of Isolde by the love potions, by the desperation of the Americas, by the "madness" of Don Quixote.
The imagination of people, as it respires ceaselessly, is a moving narrative sequence. It is the navigational chart for great sailing voyages under the open sky. It makes us accessories to all cultures, to every century, to feelings hidden deep inside and others worn on the sleeve. We are prompted by it to restore archaeological ruins in a desperate attempt to stage the lost paradise.
As wandering Goliards, we wield language and lust, we experience the flavour of the languages of Babel, a poetic binding agent between the sacred and the profane. We are ever confident that the chimera is within everybody´s reach. And though modernity mocks gullibility, dreaming radiates the pleasures of the flesh and of the spirit.
The sun of the Americas, however, is beneficent, a metaphor that precedes the discourse of cross-breeding, and protects it. In this American fief, we are made of human leftovers. In the course of funereal y epiphanic chants, the spark of poetry was bestowed upon the language, the all-transforming vision that describes the palimpsest of our faces and documents the past and days to come.
Somewhere in the Ibero-American identity, there is sheltered the memory of native tribes of monotheistic and pantheistic castes. Its Faustian, scattered culture of Greek, Roman, Iberian, Arabic, indigenous and African origin leads to a unique way of relating to the world, of launching into exalted allegories, of submerging in the utopias that once betrayed so many generations, of questioning thoughts and actions, enigmas and the polyhedron of light, the lacerating notions of unbridled passion.
Confined to the world´s seduction as I also am, I only overcome my limitations when I question the ancestry of my psyche, which weeps at the memory of Priam, Ling of Troy, kneeling before Achilles begging him to return the mortal remains of Hector, his beloved son. This simple fact ensures that, thanks to the liberalness of knowledge, I modernize, I dare to offer exegesis, I scour hybrid paths that take me back to time immemorial.
And so, as the fruit of this civilizing chaos, I flaunt the tragic mask of Agamemnon and the civic courage of Antigone. As emblematic beings, they haunt the modern conscience. And under the dominion of these memories, I free the chains of blood and intolerance, I defend cultural anthropophagy that masticates the produce of man and the spices of the heart. Like salt and moods, liquors and the fit of passion, tubers and exacerbated ideas. The humus, in short, of art?s invention and of daily life.
Brazil, where you travelled to find me, envelopes itself in marks that imbue it with a symbolic dimension. Heirs to the outlandish adventures of the nations that arrived there, poets of their own sagas are born, their own heroes, narrators. As a backdrop to the pleasures of the flesh, flags, habits, histories, the Portuguese language and the impassioned dementias of the human condition were implanted in its legendary soil. The situation now, swinging between carnival atmosphere and melancholy, melodrama and ridicule, optimism and cynicism, civil unrest and entente cordiale stunts our civilizing instincts with a poetry that glosses over everyday routine, however unfair and poverty-stricken this routine may be.
It is true that we live far from the cosmopolitan epicentre, but we are also participants in contemporary fate and adventures. Just as severely as elsewhere, we are witness to the legitimisation of evil as a safeguard of the soul, to the increase of barbarity, to the waning of humanistic principles under such threats. In our anxiety, however, to make the present more fruitful and supportive of others, we express our dissatisfaction with a social order that, on the pretext of defending false premises, kills the innocent on the altar of sacrifice and sanctions abundance for some in exchange for the sacrifice of the many. We try to combat the prophets who brandish immortality, senselessness and intolerance, who despise anyone or anything that is different, who purge all opposition, who isolate those whom they on the verge of impoverishing, who reject ethnic, linguistic, aesthetic and theological differences. It is as if, after having been given carte blanche to set up their tailor-made society, they then refuse to respect the statute of life.
In our times, scepticism and indifference are thriving and rife, as if part of its moral essence was to descredit any act that strives to overcome the distance that separates us from our neighbour.
The material of art, however, resists the crises that devastate civilizations and it rejects pre-agreed rules to exist. When all is said and done, art is born of our humanism and spawned of bewilderment. It is perennial, even though it sows anguish and discord.
Ibero-America also feels the pull of perplexity, of the magnitude of reality, of the re-dimensioning of the imagination. It is hungry for the illusionary art of narrating. Faced by the vastness of the continent, everything in this Ibero-American discourse updates reality, searches to put thoughts into words, lets the heart speak. The epic poem seeks out the archaeological subject matter of its narration.
These founding scaffolds of its literature express the tradition of now and the future. They drive a rebellious writing that goes beyond mere mimicry. And despite the whims of modernity, they encompass the narrative truth that fuses with the mystery of invention.
However, as a Brazilian writer, I can smell the breeze of the leafy glade and the sea, the codes of my identity. Nothing within me erases the path of return to my Brazilian home. I learnt, when still a child, one rainy November day in the port of Vigo, to love Spain, the homeland of my genesis. My Galician flock, native of Cotobade, set out from here and settled in Brazil, a country that gave me my parents, Lino and Carmen, family, friends, fleeting moments of love, the Portuguese tongue, our writers, and people I do not know who embrace me with open hearts.
I am grateful for the generosity with which Spain treats my heart. I thank the Jury who conferred this accolade on me. I truly thank this magnificent Prince of Asturias Award that I receive today alongside these outstanding people who as one, like me, are grateful for this honour. Gathered before us here, they are the pride of mankind. I am moved by them, by all those present, and -although the Princess is not with us- especially by the Prince and Princess of Asturias, who, at this splendid moment in their lives, accompany us here.
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