Journalism and literature always go hand in hand, since they both work with the most delicate and extraordinary raw material that exists: words. And the editors of both professions, in whom sometimes conflicting passions throb, always say the same thing: the start is the most important thing in the text, in reality and in fiction. And so Joan Didion (1934-2021) decided to start ‘The Year of Magical Thought’ (2005): “Life changes quickly. Life changes in an instant. You sit down to dinner and the life you used to know is over.
I face this chronicle aware that it is the most difficult, however exciting, of all I have had the luck, the privilege of writing until
now. Didion’s life was changed by a sad, terrible and painful event, the unexpected death of her husband, as it happened to me many years before, when I did not know that mothers died. A few days ago, life turned me upside down again in that instant that changes everything, but this time it was for a reason of happiness, of extreme and also unusual happiness. When they told me that I had won the Nadal 2022 prize, I took refuge, out of modesty, in that third person that writers resort to so often.
The feeling of unreality, that the news was starring another person, one that I would later have to interview, invaded me, and I think that even today I have not managed to get rid of it. El Nadal is the literary house par excellence, home of Carmen Laforet, Miguel Delibes, Ana María Matute, Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio, Carmen Martín Gaite … My name could not appear next to them, illustrious members of the library that continues to feed my dreams on a daily basis, about everything every night. It was impossible, and still true, the obvious proof that sometimes the fictions we make up for ourselves come true.
On the train that took me to Barcelona on a day as magical as Reyes, the day on which the award was given since its foundation in 1944, my head was still installed in denial, despite wearing the memorized speech and the tuxedo ironed on suitcase. I saw myself as Andrea, that strange and fascinating girl who stars in ‘Nada’, the novel with which Laforet won the first Nadal, when he arrived in Barcelona in search of a new life.
Along the way, as time went by, the part of me that allows itself to be happy from time to time began to emerge to the surface of an environment still dominated by masks and contained gestures of affection. And I began to repeat myself, to myself, although I wanted to shout it from the rooftops: “Joy is our daily duty.” A phrase by Kafka that Belén Bermejo used frequently, my editor, friend of the soul, my angel, always in the memory, on every page of my imagination. And then, what García Lorca said, or something similar: «You have to be happy. We have a duty to be cheerful. So it has always been, and now more than ever.
I got off the train at Sants station and finally let myself be dominated by those good nerves, like the cheesy butterflies that nest in the stomach when the love is true, that make your heart race until it runs out of control with pure emotion. I took a taxi and went to the Palace hotel, where a few hours later the award ceremony was scheduled. The traditional pageantry, with a literary dinner and the presence of politicians and authorities, as well as writers, editors, agents and journalists, had to be replaced, one more year, by a more concise and aseptic act due to the pandemic and its still serious ravages . But the setting and the context were the same. And I, it was clear to me, although I continue to avoid the first person, I was the protagonist.
I literally opened my eyes when I got out of the taxi at the door of the majestic hotel, decorated for the occasion, and I saw the poster announcing the award, Josep Pla’s brother. The liturgy of the award forced me not to be seen too much until my name was made public, after the appearance of the jury, so my room became a makeshift refuge. I ate lightly, and when I finished, I felt the compelling need to … dance. Yes, yes, to dance. Me, the same shy, reserved, introverted person who blushes with a whisper, I needed to dance. And I did it. I danced until I lost my breath to the rhythm of Raphael and his ‘Gran noche’, although I would not have disgusted any song by Raffaella Carrà either.
Released the tension, and already dressed for the occasion, always true to myself, like Noray, the main character of ‘The forms of wanting’, the novel of my life, although not verbatim, I went down to the hotel hall. In the elevator, looking at myself in the mirror, I recognized myself. It was the reflection of literature, the only one that never lies. I remember, like Joe Brainard, every step I took from then on. I remember greeting, excited, Emili Rosales and Anna Soldevila, Destino editors. I remember leaning, in that beautiful oriental gesture that we have been forced to incorporate into our customs, Care Santos and Alicia Giménez Bartlett, members of the jury present. I remember bumping the trembling fist of Toni Cruanyes, Josep Pla winner. I remember leaning out, from a prudent distance, into the room where the colleagues in the press were waiting expectantly for the verdict. I remember sitting in a chair with the ‘Nadal Prize Winner’ poster on it.
I remember the lump in my throat when the act began. I remember thinking of my mother when the jury spokeswoman said my name. I remember going up to the podium, with my cell phone in my pocket as a cheat sheet in case I went blank and was unable to deliver the speech. I remember receiving the award from Emili Rosales. I remember not knowing where to put the mask, so ineffective in the spotlight. I remember smiling when I caught the knowing glances of my friends who were at the press conference. I remember hearing my own voice, fragile, behind the stage. I remember the photographers and all the questions that came after. I remember that the phone kept vibrating. I remember the hundreds of congratulatory messages. I remember that I was happy, immensely happy, like Ana María Matute when she won the Cervantes prize.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism