11 December 2009
Emeritus Professor José Emilio Pacheco (Department of Spanish and Portuguese) has been awarded the prestigious Premio Cervantes Prize for 2009. It is the highest literary honor in the Spanish-speaking world. The 70 year old Pacheco, who lives with his wife - noted writer Christina Pacheco and his two daughters in Mexico City - was a Distinguished University Professor for more than 20 years at Maryland, teaching two graduate seminars each spring. He became Emeritus in 2007.
"José Emilio Pacheco before this award already had a body of work that made him one of the most important living poets in the Americas," says Department of Spanish and Portuguese Chair Juan Carlos Quintero-Herencia. "Now with the prestigious Premio Cervantes under his belt, an award given in the past to writers such as Jorge Luis Borges, Alejo Carpentier, María Zambrano, Miguel Delibes, Guillermo Cabrera Infante and Gerardo Diego among others, Pacheco's literary achievements, particularly his poetry, are decisively embedded in the historical accounts of our contemporaneity. The Department of Spanish and Portuguese is extremely proud to have had such an accomplished colleague among us."
The prize - honoring an individuals entire life work - was created in Spain in 1975 and brings with it a cash award of more than $188,000. Pacheco told the BBC while attending the international book fair in Guadalajara, Mexico that, "It's like being hit by a punch that doesn't hurt you immediately, it's absolutely unreal." He went on to say, "I'm very grateful and very happy, but I always think of other writers who deserve it much more than I do."
José Antonio Pascual Rodriquez, a member of the Cervantes Prize Jury, told the BBC, "We've defined him as representing the whole of our language. He's an exceptional poet of daily life, with a depth, a freedom of thought, an ability to create his own world, an ironic distance from reality when it's necessary and a linguistic use that is impeccable."
Prof. Saul Sosnowski is currently an associate provost for international affairs at Maryland and was responsible for bringing Pacheco to College Park in 1985 while chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. "Pacheco's name came up instantly when I sought to attract to campus a stellar Latin American writer, a respected critic and a major voice in Latin American literary and intellectual circles. One of my easiest tasks was to document why he deserved to be appointed Distinguished University Professor. The Cervantes Prize is a well deserved recognition for one of Latin America's leading voices."
Professor Sandra Cypess, a long-time member and also a former chair of the department says Pacheco "was known as a master teacher, congenial colleague, and wonderful raconteur - he knew so much about so many topics. Whenever I teach his poems and stories, I learn new things."
The "Premio José Emilio Pacheco" award at the University of Maryland was started in 2006 to honor Pacheco's 50 years of being a published author. It is given annually to the best undergraduate essay in Spanish for the 300 language classes.
José Emilio Pacheco
José Emilio Pacheco is known throughout the Hispanic world as the most eminent poet of his generation, as well as a provocative and talented fiction writer, essayist, critic, translator, poet, editor and intellectual. Many of his works have been illustrated by world renowned artists including Vicente Rojo, Alberto Blanco and Francisco Toledo, and his works have been translated into many languages.
Pacheco writes inspiring poems that celebrate common, everyday occurrences. His poems, narratives and essays comment on the great upheavals and disasters humanity has suffered from the Holocaust to the 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre. For example, his I Watch the Earth is an emotional homage to Mexico City after the devastating earthquake in 1985.
Some of his most important collections of poetry include El reposo del fuego (The Rest of Fire) (1966), Islas a la deriva (Islands Adrift) (1976), Los trabajos del mar (the Sea Works)(1983), and Album de zoologia (Zoo Album)(1993). His novels include Morirás lejos (You Will Die Far Away)(1967/1977) and Las batallas en el desierto (Battles in the Desert)(1981).