'Lo que no fue dicho,' by José Zuleta Ortiz, wins National Novel Award in Colombia 2022
Colombian writer José Zuleta Ortiz wins the coveted award with a novel about who our parents are and what we carry of them on our shoulders
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The brief news of the death of the narrator's mother is the trigger for Lo que no fue dicho (Seix Barral, 2021), the novel with which Bogota-born writer José Zuleta Ortiz won the 2022 National Literature Prize for published novels, an award promoted by the Colombian Ministry of Culture and a purse worth $12,000 (60 million pesos). As part of the award, the book will be promoted in national and international fairs.
The jury, composed of writers Fanny Buitrago, Martha Canfield and critic Luis Fernando Afanador, declared that this is a "personal and existential novel that spans our times and presents a journey of initiation in life, of self-discovery and of literature."
The novel begins with the death of the protagonist's mother, the author's alter ego. She is a mother who has been absent since childhood, "a distant and strange figure who, nevertheless, had appeared, almost out of nowhere, ill with cancer, to ask her son (a writer) to tell her story," describes the newspaper Criterio. Along the way, however, plans changed: now it was the mother who wanted to hear what her son's life had been like.
The jury also noted that it is a narrative that "gives way to experiences such as love linked to reading or the memory of a half-blind woman and the reunion with the father, which becomes an affectionate and at the same time disconcerting examination."
It is not a formative novel, the publisher points out, but it is, it is not a memoir, but it is, it is not a poem, but it has a lot of that... it is not a univocal plot, but it takes the reader by the hand as the hands of a blind man imagine a face.
The drift in which its author turns an experience into a voice is reason enough not to let go.
In the novel, the author introduces the Lazarillo, the Buscón, in the multiple trades of Bukowski, in the unmistakable influence of Salinger, Capote, Mailer, the floating presence of Pessoa, of León de Greiff, and of his father, Estanislao Zuleta and his mother, María del Rosario Ortiz.
This is the novel of a son as a witness of heartbreaks that does not judge, and that becomes part of the dialogue with those others — or with that other – which is the voice of a child who is becoming a man, realizing that growing up means losing the value of things.
José Zuleta Ortiz was born in Bogotá in 1960 and has lived in Cali since 1969. He is the founder and co-director of Clave Poetry Magazine and directed the Cali International Poetry Festival for 10 years (2005-2015) . He has won several national awards for poetry and short stories, including the National Literature Award from the Ministry of Culture in 2009, with the book of short stories, Ladrón de olvidos. He has published five books of short stories, four books of poetry and a book of portraits. Some of his works have been translated into French, English, Portuguese, Italian and Dutch.