LITERARY PRIZES

Social networking novel scoops award

Valencian writer and journalist Carmen Amoraga wins Nadal prize

Carmen Amoraga, pictured this week in Barcelona.
Carmen Amoraga, pictured this week in Barcelona.consuelo bautista

Social networking sites offer endless possibilities. They can even rebuild lives when life itself knocks you down. This is what happens to the main character in La vida era eso (or, So that was life), a novel by the Valencian journalist and writer Carmen Amoraga.

On Monday, the book won the 70th Nadal Prize, which has traditionally been handed out on the evening of January 6 since 1944.

The story follows a woman in her forties who loses her husband after a long battle with disease. She is left alone with two small children, as well as the people that her husband was in touch with through the social networks that he was so fond of.

After initial feelings of rejection, the widow starts to get in touch with them all, helping her overcome her terrible loss and ultimately rebuilding her own life.

The jury said that the book has managed to address the new forms of communication and relationships through social networks and, at the same time, “deal humorously with such a tough topic as the loss of a loved one.”

The jury said the book managed to address new types of relationships formed on social networks

Amoraga, a newspaper columnist and contributor to radio and TV talk shows, won the prestigious award having already been a finalist in 2007 with Algo tan parecido al amor (or, Something a lot like love), and the 2010 Planeta Award runner-up with El tiempo mientras tanto (or, Time in the meantime).

The evening’s other award, the Josep Pla prize, went to Els ambaixadors (The ambassadors, in Catalan), a historical speculation by the archivist and archeologist Albert Villaró. This piece of alternate history muses on what would have happened if Francisco Franco had died in a plane accident, rather than generals Sanjurjo and Mola. The plot draws on current affairs, with the government of Catalonia proclaiming independence for the region and a main character who works as a Catalan government spy.

Villaró, director of the culture and tourism department of the government of Andorra, specializes in crime novels, and in 2006 he won the Carlemany Prize with Blau de Prússia, a story set in the Pyrenees.

The other star of the evening was the veteran Spanish writer Ana María Matute, who handed out the Nadal in the name of all past winners (she herself won it in 1959).

“Thank you very much for encouraging us to write. I never imagined that I would one day receive a prize from Ana María Matute,” said an emotional Amoraga, who dedicated the award to her “high school literature teacher and all the teachers who are going through such difficult times now.”

The Nadal and the Pla awards, which are sponsored by the publisher Destino, may not hand out the largest cash prizes — 18,000 euros to the Spanish-language winner and 6,000 euros to the Catalan-language winner — but they are nevertheless among the most prestigious literary awards in their respective tongues.

Past Nadal winners include major names of 20th-century Spanish letters, such as Carmen Laforet, Miguel Delibes and Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio.

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