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Ana Blandiana

Princess of Asturias Award for Literature 2024

Otilia Valeria Coman, whose pen name is Ana Blandiana (Timișoara, Romania, 25th March 1942), poet, essayist and politician, published her first book of poems, Persoana întâia plural [First Person Plural], in 1964 and achieved public acclaim with Călcâiul vulnerabil [Achilles’ Heel, 1966] and A treia taină [The Third Secret, 1969]. She worked for the magazines Viata Studenteasca and Amfiteatru –where she published some poems that have become icons of the struggle against the communist dictatorship– and as a librarian at the Bucharest Institute of Fine Arts. Daughter of an “enemy of the people”, she was prohibited from studying at university after the appearance of her first poem in a magazine in 1959. She began writing protest poetry in the late eighties. After the 1989 revolution, she embarked on a political career with a campaign that promoted the elimination of the communist legacy and the creation of an open society. Honorary president of PEN Romania, she is a member of the European Academy of Poetry, the Mallarmé Poetry Academy, the World Poetry Academy (UNESCO) and the Romanian Writers’ Union. Since 1994, she has been a founding member and president of the Civic Alliance Foundation, an apolitical movement whose purpose is to alleviate the consequences of more than fifty years of communism in the country.

A cult author throughout Europe, it has been said that Blandiana’s work reflects profound knowledge of the Romanian spirit during a historic period of oppression, while establishing hope and defeat as the guidelines of her literary undertaking. Known for her anti-communist poetry, Blandiana stood out for her sublime form of rebellion that led her to live as an exile within her own country for many years. In addition to those mentioned above, her works include 50 de poeme [50 Poems, 1970], Octombrie, noiembrie, decembrie [October, November, December, 1972], Întâmplări din grădina mea [Occurrences in My Garden, 1980], Ora de nisip [The Hour of Sand, 1984], Întâmplări de pe strada mea [Occurrences on My Street, 1988], Arhitectura valurilor [The Architecture of Waves, 1990], 100 de poeme [100 Poems, 1991], În dimineața de după moarte [On the Morning After Dying, 1996], La cules îngeri [Angel Gathering, 1997], Cartea albă a lui Arpagic [Arpagic’s White Book, 1998], Soarele de apoi [The Sun of Hereafter, 2000], Poeme (1964-2004) [Poems (1964-2004), 2005], A fi sau a privi [To Be or to Seek, 2005], Patria mea A4 [My Native Land A4, 2010] and Variațiuni pe o temă dată [Variations on a Given Theme, 2018].

She is also the author of essays, editions of fantasy stories and two novels. Translated into more than twenty languages, the following works of hers have been published in English: The Hour of Sand (1990), My Native Land A4 (2015), The Sun of Hereafter • Ebb of the Senses (2018) and Five Books (2022). Her poetry has been said to be a constant, contained search, the permanence of the fleeting that leaves testimony of her belief in herself and in her people. Her prose has been compared to that of Poe, Hoffman, Kafka, Borges, Cortázar and Eliade. Critics have also highlighted that Blandiana symbolizes the conscience and testimony of her time, the emblematic opposition to the regime and the fight against censorship. They likewise underscore that her voice offers a reflection on artistic creation and the human condition, on innocence, decline, death and survival, on love and responsibility in the face of the terror of history and the need to leave testimony of what has been experienced.

Holder of the 1969 Poetry Prize awarded by the Romanian Writers’ Union, she has also received, among other distinctions, the Poetry Prize of the Romanian Academy, the Gottfried von Herder International Prize from the University of Vienna (1982), the National Poetry Prize (1997), the Opera Omnia Prize (2001), the Vilenica International Prize (2002) and the European Poet of Freedom Prize in 2016, in addition to the French Legion of Honour. She holds honorary degrees from the University of Salamanca (1986 Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation) and the University of Sofia, among others.

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