Rafael Cadenas, Premio FIL de Literatura 2009

The Venezuelan poet Rafael Cadenas (Barquisimeto, 1930) has just been awarded the 2009 FIL Literary Award at the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL) in Mexico. A few of my translations of poems by Cadenas, along with essays about his work, interviews with him and other miscellaneous material which I’ve published at Venepoetics over the last seven years, can be read in the links below.

Cadenas is a poet, essayist and translator. He has translated Walt Whitman and Robert Creeley, among others, into Spanish. In 1986 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship which he used to conduct research on Whitman and Emerson in Cambridge, MA. For many years he was a professor at the Escuela de Letras at the Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas, where he lives today.

In 2001, literary critic Rafael Arráiz Lucca said of Cadenas: “One of the most important poetic oeuvres in Venezuelan history belongs to Rafael Cadenas. [...] Whoever ventures into the labyrinth of these pages will be able to examine some of the recurring threads in the thought of the poet from Barquisimeto: his condemnation of nationalism, the ego as the center of human dilemmas, the obsessive search for humility as an organizational and catalytic vortex, the defense of the individual above any collective intent to impose limitations, the fascination with Christian mystics and, last but not least, the assimilation of Asian philosophy within the West itself.” (You can read my full translation of his essay, “Rafael Cadenas and the Other Voice,” below.)

I have also included the official English-language press release from the FIL (with a few of my own corrections of minor grammatical errors). The photograph of Cadenas is taken from a news item in today’s El Universal.

Manuscritos de autores
Un momento separado
Nunca he sabido de palabras
Las triunfales inconsecuencias
Los cuadernos del destierro
Charles River
Nuevo mundo
Conjunto residencial


With Harry Almela, 2008
With Diego Arroyo Gil, 2007
With Marjorie Delgado Aguirre, 2005

Essays About Cadenas:

Cantórbery Cuevas, “Metafísica de los sueños” (Tal Cual, 2008)
Rafael Arráiz Lucca, “Rafael Cadenas y la otra voz” (El Nacional, 2001)


Political Statements by Cadenas (2008)
Rafael Cadenas, “Sobre la barbarie” [essay] (El Universal, 2001)


Official Press Release from FIL Guadalajara:

Rafael Cadenas, FIL Literary Award 2009

Guadalajara. August 29, 2009

Rafael Cadenas, FIL Literary Award 2009

The Venezuelan author will receive the award for an ouevre that has not hesitated in breaking with the “forms, genres and discourse” of modern poetry.

Venezuelan poet Rafael Cadenas (Barquisimeto, 1930) is this year’s FIL Literary Award in Romance Languages recipient for a lifetime dedicated to literature. The Jury, integrated by María Luisa Blanco (Spain), Ana María González Luna (Mexico), Gustavo Guerrero (Venezuela), Darío Jaramillo (Colombia), Lucía Melgar Palacios (Mexico), Vicente Quirarte (Mexico) and Raymond L. Williams (USA), said in their statement that Cadenas’s work is “a demanding critical exercise that seeks the most authentic, bare and limpid expression, far from any rhetoric or stylistic or aesthetic intent. (…) Lucid and vigilant, Cadenas has not hesitated in breaking with the usual forms, genres and discourses of modern poetry.”

Cadenas currently lives in Caracas, a city he returned to in 1958 after his exile in Trinidad, in 1952, caused by his communist activism. He is part of the Venezuelan generation of 1960. He was part of Tabla Redonda, alongside Arnaldo Acosta Bello, Jesús Guédez, Ángel Eduardo Acevedo, Darlo Lancini, José Barroeta and Jesús Sanoja Hernández. Critic Juan Gustavo Cobo Borda has called him “a secret language renovator”, a poet that slakes from aphorisms the silence and immediacy of life. Cadenas has defined himself as someone who “writes from normality with a sense of awe.”

According to the Jury Statement, “Cadenas embodies, for the younger generations, the horizon of an act of writing that moves away from traditional lyricism and carries the duty of being the voice for all who can no longer find its own spaces.” Among his works are Cantos iniciales (1946), Una isla (1958), Los cuadernos del destierro (1960), Derrota (1963), Falsas maniobras (1960), Anotaciones (1973), Intemperie (1977), Memorial (1977), Amante (1983), Dichos (1992), Gestiones (1992). In 2000, the Fondo de Cultura Económica published his Complete Works. He is a translator of poetry in English, he was a university professor and has an extensive collection of essays that are considered an essential reference of contemporary literature in Spanish, among which are his books En torno al lenguaje and Apuntes sobre San Juan de la Cruz y la mística. He received the National Prize for Literature in Venezuela, the Pérez Bonalde International Poetry Award, the Guggenheim Fellowship, and honoris causa doctorate from the Universidad Central de Venezuela and the Universidad de Los Andes.

Since 1991, the Civil Association of the Juan Rulfo Latin American and Caribbean Literature Prize has recognized important representatives of Latin American literature. Today, the 150,000-dollar FIL Literary Award in Romance Languages is considered one of the most important awards around the world. Under the name “Juan Rulfo” the award was bestowed to Nicanor Parra (1991), Juan José Arreola (1992), Eliseo Diego (1993), Julio Ramón Ribeyro (1994), Nélida Piñón (1995), Augusto Monterroso (1996), Juan Marsé (1997), Olga Orozco (1998), Sergio Pitol (1999), Juan Gelman (2000), Juan García Ponce (2001), Cintio Vitier (2002), Rubem Fonseca (2003), Juan Goytisolo (2004) and Tomás Segovia (2005). As FIL Literary Award, it was granted to Carlos Monsiváis (2006) and Fernando del Paso (2007). António Lobo Antunes was the first to receive it as FIL Literary Award in Romance Languages in 2008.

No comments: