The Universidad de Talca in central Chile chose writer and activist Pedro Lemebel as the recipient of the 2013 Ibero-American José Donoso award last month. He is the third Chilean to claim the prize, following Isabel Allende (2003) and Diamela Eltit (2010).
Born in Santiago in 1952, Lemebel uses his work as an essayist, chronicler, and novelist to critique Chile’s past and poke fun at Chile’s modern pop culture. Openly gay, the writer has also championed for the rights of the LGBTQ community.
The judges for this year’s José Donoso award, named in honor of the famous Chilean writer, cited Lemebel’s ability to present the many intricacies and nuances often overlooked in Chilean society as one of the reasons his work stood out.
“[Lemebel ] has presented a heterogeneous and complex representation of Chilean society, which includes images of gender and social class that will impact the rest of society,” the prize jury said.
The international group of judges, which included Rafael Gumucio, Dr. Juan G. Gelpí (Puerto Rico), Dr. Francine Masiello (United States), Carolina Sancholuz (Argentina), Maria Angeles Perez (Spain) and F. Javier Pinedo (Chile), also recognized the Chilean writer’s brave determination to take on this form of writing.
According to the judges, Lemebel’s writing “is a daring work supported by a thoroughly contemporary voice that leaves room for very different registers and mediums.”
The Chilean author is perhaps best known for his chronicles La esquina es mi corazón ( The corner is my heart), Loco afán (Crazy Desire), De Perlas y cicatrices (Of Pearls and Scars), and Adiós Mariquita Linda (Goodbye Pretty Mariquita), as well as his novel Tengo miedo, torero (I am afraid, bullfighter).
Lemebel’s most recent work is Háblame de Amor (Talk to me about love). Released last year in time for the International Book Festival in Santiago in November, the piece is a compilation of chronicles written by Lemebel through a wide range of diverse moments and events in his life.
As this year’s prize winner, the Universidad de Talca presented Lemebel with a medal, a certificate, and US$50,0000.