Antonio Skármeta awarded prestigious Planeta-Casa de America

The presentation of the national award should have occurred a year ago but was delayed by the earthquake.

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One of Chile’s best-known writers, Antonio Skármeta, has taken the prestigous Planeta-Casa de America award, according to a decision announced by a jury that met in Santiago.

“It is about the power of imagination to achieve the changes we enjoy today, despite the globalization and cold world we live in,” said Skármeta in a press conference after receiving the award.

This prize was created by Planeta and Casa de America publishers in order to promote Spanish narrative in all the Spanish speaking countries of Latin America. The award of US $200,000 was granted to 15 winners chosen from a record number of 639 nominations, including 33 from Latin America.

Skármeta’s winning novel The Days of the Rainbow (Los días del arco iris) recreates the time of Chile’s 1988 referendum on whether former President Augusto Pinochet should continue in power, a historical moment that ended 17 years of military rule.

“My novel has to do with another time when Chile was not democratic; we went through hard times to achieve this freedom we enjoy now. In this world where people do not believe in the power of fantasy and imagination, there are still moments when these beliefs could produce change in society,” he said.

The award comes one year later than planned. The ceremony should originally have taken place on March 4, 2010, during the Fifth Spanish Language Congress, but the event was suspended due to the earthquake that struck Chile on February 27 of last year.

Skármeta joins a distinguished group of writers that have won the Planeta-Casa prize, including Pablo De Santis, who won for his novel The Enigma of Paris in 2007, Jorge Edwards, 2008 winner with The House of Dostoevsky, and Angela Becerra, who won the Award in 2009 with Ella, Who Had Everything.

This year’s award winners will recieve around US $200,000 and the jury consisted of Angela Becerra (Colombia), Guillermo Martinez (Argentina) and Alvaro Pombo (Spain).