The Ateneo de Sevilla Novel Prize has presented this Tuesday Last nights of the San Francisco building by the Galician Blanca Riestra (A Coruña, 40 years old) and Horizonte Aqui by the journalist Alejandro Narden (Plasencia, 33 years old),
Respectively winners of the Ateneo awards of Seville and Ateneo Joven this year. Both novels are set in Morocco and focus on the relationship of Westerners with the Alawite kingdom, but through different times and approaches.
The editor of Algaida Miguel Ángel Matellanes, the label in charge of publishing the winning texts, regretted during the telematic press conference that the usual dinner and ceremony could not be held in the Andalusian capital with Riestra and Narden, who also participated in the pandemic. the presentation.
The novel category-winning work, Last Nights of the San Francisco Building, is set in Tangier in 1957, when the status of an international zone was at an end but there was still a small community of bohemian Europeans and North Americans like William Burroughs and Jane Bowles. , who found the pleasures and freedoms that were not allowed in their respective homelands.
Riestra describes the book as a product of his fondness for Paul and Jane Bowles , a marriage of American writers whose relationship lasted for more than three decades in parallel to their homosexual affairs.
The author, who has also written Anatol y dos más and La noche sucks , describes that the city was not long ago “a living museum of the glory years of the protectorate” and that both Spain and Morocco long possessed the notion of ” freedom on the other side of the strait ”.
However, the country has seen great changes and conflicts in recent decades and this is reflected in Horizonte Aqui , the winner of Ateneo Joven in this edition. Narden, alias Alejandro Martín, lived in Rabat where he taught at an institute and little by little he was compiling stories that inspired his novel.
The cross stories in the Alawite kingdom of a Spaniard in search of an ex-girlfriend in the no man’s land between Western Sahara and Mauritania , and a 40-year-old Franco-Moroccan marriage reassessing their relationship are shown with almost journalistic veracity.
“The stories of the migrants are real,” confessed Narden, who believes that the book “is and is not biographical.” The writer has pointed out that for a long time Morocco was instilled with a veil of “close exoticism” arising from a colonial and paternalistic vision.
On the question of where the line was between telling and owning a foreign story, he argued that even if an author only responds to his own truth, there are also “stories that you have to know how to reject because they will never be yours.”