Their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain presented the 2018 Miguel de Cervantes Award for Literature in the Spanish Language to the Uruguayan poet and essayist, Ida Vitale. The award ceremony, held in the Main Hall of the University of Alcala, was attended by the Vice-President of the Government, Carmen Calvo; the Minister for Culture and Sport, José Guirao; and numerous figures from politics and culture.
The Ministry of Culture and Sport bestows the Miguel de Cervantes Award to those writers who contribute through works of outstanding quality to enriching the Hispanic literary legacy. It was first awarded in 1976 to Jorge Guillén and since than 42 authors have won the prize. In 1979, the prize was awarded, ex aequo, to Jorge Luis Borges and Gerardo Diego. Since then, the rules of the prize do not allow it to be shared, declared void or awarded posthumously.
By presenting this prize, which comes with 125,000 euros, public recognition and admiration is paid each year to a writer who, through their work as a whole, has contributed to enriching the Hispanic literary legacy.
The Cervantes Prize can be presented to any author whose literary work is written totally or principally in Castilian Spanish. Nominees for the prize may be presented by the Spanish Language Academies, previous prize laureates, institutions that, by nature, purpose or content, are associated with literature in the Spanish language and members of the panel.
Born in Montevideo (Uruguay) in 1923, Ida Vitale is one of the great Latin American poets and the last survivor of the exceptional Generation ’45, which included such outstanding intellects as Emir Rodríguez Monegal, Ángel Rama (her first husband), Mario Benedetti, Carlos Maggi, Manuel Claps and María Inés Silva, among others.
A poet, essayist, literary critic and translator, she has received numerous awards that include the International Octavio Paz Award for Poetry and Essays (shared with Ramón Xirau) in 2009; the Carlos Monsivais Award for Cultural Merit from Mexico City and the International Alfonso Reyes Award, both in 2014; the Reina Sofía Award for Ibero-American Poetry in 2015; the Federico García Lorca Award in 2016; the Max Jacobs Award (Paris) in 2017; and the Guadalajara Book Fair Award in 2018.
Author of such works as La luz de esta memoria and Procura de lo imposible, the work by Ida Vitale shows a precise, malleable language full of irony and subtlety that is intelligent and reflects a strong influence by Juan Ramón Jiménez, who the writer herself considers her poetry teacher.
Over the course of her lifetime, Ida Vitale has collaborated with numerous periodicals, such as the El País newspaper, the Marcha weekly, the Clinamen magazine (of which she was co-editor), the Jaque weekly (of which she was later cultural editor), the Plural and Vuelta magazines, and the El Sol y Diorama en la Cultura newspaper (cultural supplement in the Excelsior).
She has lived in various countries during her lifetime. Expelled by the dictatorship, she emigrated to Mexico (where she engaged in strong literary activity and was a literature teacher at the prestigious El Colegio de México). She also lived in Paris (France) for a time under a scholarship and, although she regularly returns to Uruguay and Mexico, she has lived in the United States since 1990.