History of Guatemala: Prince of Asturias Award for Literature to Augusto Monterroso

Much has been said about the work and legacy of Augusto Monterroso, whose centenary of birth is commemorated this year. His story The Dinosaur is a challenge, a satire and also an enigmatic metaphor. “When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.” But his creation goes further. His stories and essays, in books such as The Black Sheep, The Letter E, The Cow or Perpetual Movement have been translated into more than 12 languages. For this he was recognized with the 2000 Prince of Asturias Award for Literature, announced in June and delivered on October 27 of that year. At the ceremony, Monterroso expressed his gratitude and said, among other things:

“In the press these days it has been said that in me not only a Central American writer was awarded, but also a literary genre, the short story, a genre that has been relegated by the big publishers, by some critics, and even by the same readers. Well, there is nothing strange that this happens.

“Without steepening, I easily measure
One meter sixty. Since I was little I was little. Neither my father nor my
mother were tall. When at
fifteen years I realized that
I was going to be short, I started to do
how many exercises they recommended me, the ones that didn’t make me taller or taller
strong, but they whetted my appetite ”, Augusto Monterroso said in his biography. Scene during the award reception
Prince of Asturias of Letters.
The then prince applauds him
Felipe from Spain. Free Press Photo.

The laws of the market are inexorable, and we are not the storytellers or the poets – brothers in this negative destiny – who are going to change them. But as Ecclesiastes said referring to the Earth, generation goes and generation comes: but the story always remains.

In any case, it is true that practically all my work has consisted of approaching two specialties today far from the spotlight and the hustle and bustle, although not modest in terms of their prosapia: the short story and the personal essay, varying from time to time. its forms and meaning are such that some commentators speak, referring to it, of transposition of genres, if not invasion of one another. Something has also been said about the brevity in this work, and, as if the above were not enough, about the humor and irony in it, making me wonder: will all this really fit in the small space it occupies? Well, the field of literature is so wide that even the smallest things fit in it.

Sculpture by Joan Miró that Monterroso received.
Free Press Photo: EFE / JLCereijido

I have never tried to set myself up as a defender of the common tale, or of the very short story, much less a detractor of novels, short or long, that have delighted and taught me so much from Cervantes to Flaubert and Tolstoi and Joyce; indeed, on various occasions I have confessed that I learned to be brief by reading Proust. The story defends itself. I would also like to consider this Award a recognition of Central American literature, of which, as a Guatemalan, I am a part. ”Monterroso left Guatemala into exile in 1954 and did not return until 1996, when he was awarded the Miguel Ángel Asturias National Prize for Literature. Simple in spirit and soft-spoken, but with great expressive force in his texts, he left a legacy that is not yet fully understood in his country. He died in 2003.

October 27, 2000


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