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Book Fair honors French poet with prestigious award

In a break with the tradition of honoring writers penning works in the Spanish language, French poet, narrator, essayist, critic and translator Yves Bonnefoy has won the 2013 FIL Award in Romance Languages.

The jury, formed by eleven recognized literary critics and writers, referred to the first writer in the French language to receive the award as “a witness of the human experiences of the 20th century.”

Said juror Hugo Gutierrez Vega: “The deliberation didn’t take long. Bonnefoy is one of the essential poets of our contemporary world, one who has had a close relationship with the surrealists and the symbolists. It was a decision made in a pure literary sense.”

The 150,000-dollar award will be handed over during the opening ceremony of the 27th edition of the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL) on November 30.

The choice of 90-year-old Bonnefoy looks a safe one after the controversy surrounding last year’s winner, Alfredo Bryce Echenique, a Peruvian author who had been accused of plagiarism in his home country. Widespread displeasure at the selection forced Bryce to cancel plans to travel to Guadalajara to pick up his prize.

In a phone call from Paris with journalists gathered in Guadalajara, Bonnefoy said although he has never visited Mexico, he is familiar with this country through writers such as Octavio Paz, Elsa Cross and Homero Aridjis.

The nonagenarian appeared enthusiastic about facing the hustle and bustle of the Guadalajara Book Fair and seemed concerned about the violence and injustice endured by many citizens here.

“Poetry should have an important role in democratic societies, because it favors a mutual exchange among people,” he said.

Bonnefoy is considered one of the most important poets of the second half of the 20th century. The son of a railroad worker and a nurse, he was born in Tours in 1923 and in his early years became interested in philosophy and mathematics. Influenced by the surrealists, he has published collections of poetry, short story books, an extensive dictionary on mythology, “Dictionnaire des mythologies et des religions” (1981), and essential essays on arts. He has also translated works by Shakespeare and Yeats.

The FIL is the most important publishing gathering in Ibero-America and this year runs from November 30 to December 8. Created 27 years ago by the University of Guadalajara, it is aimed at both professionals and the general public, a characteristic that sets it apart from other book fairs around the globe. As well as being a business and literary event, the FIL is also a cultural festival and includes a forum for academic discussion of major issues.
Visitors can also expect to discover literature, music, arts, cinema and theater from this year’s featured guest country, Israel.

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