ALCALA DE HENARES, Spain – Uruguayan poet Ida Vitale was awarded on Tuesday the prestigious 2019 Cervantes Prize for her lifetime achievements as a writer in the Spanish language.
Vitale, 95, collected her award at a ceremony hosted by King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain at the University of Alcala de Henares, some 35 kilometers (20 miles) east of the capital Madrid.
“My Cervantine devotion lacks any mystery,” the poet said when she collected her award, which comes with one the largest literary rewards of 125,000 euros ($140,000).
“My readings of Quixote, with exception to those that were imposed by the college program, were free and late,” Vitale added.
The nonagenarian reminisced on how she discovered Cervantes while living in her native Montevideo.
She first came across the characters of the 15th-century novel and one of the founding examples of modern literature as a child at school.
Viatale said that when as an innocent reader who “yearned for literary friendships” she was faced with the Spanish pair (Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza) she approached the novel with “a total devotion.”
She accepted the different language the duo conversed in immediately, Vitale continued.
“I integrated within a world that, although alone I felt accompanied, capable of managing it as if it were my very own,” the poet said.
Quixote, a nobleman of questionable sanity, Vitale said represented reality over and above many other literary characters.
“Because behind (Quixote) are the actions of human creatures that can be evil and mocking but always understandable, earthly and devoid of inexplicable divine help.”
The Uruguayan quoted Quixote as saying that “there is no poet who is not arrogant,” but, Vitale added, “this is not my case, I can assure you.”
The king went over Vitale’s (born Nov. 2, 1923) biography and achievements during the ceremony.
He highlighted her early career in Uruguay as examples of how the writer started to create her voice that was later recognized widely across the Spanish speaking world.
“We salute our jovial and exemplary lively poet,” the king said playing on the word lively (in Spanish “vital”) and the author’s surname.
He added that her poetry was like a green branch that sprouts from the tree of Hispanic civilization.
“All Spanish speakers are responsible for the culture that is expressed through this language, a culture that is an expression of unity through universality,” Felipe said.
“577 million people from different countries and climates, separate and yet united by vast oceans or mountain ranges annuls the differences,” he continued.
The king added that this universality united all Spanish speakers within a “large family.”
The Cervantes Prize is awarded by the Spanish Ministry of Culture and was established in 1975.
Prized authors are remunerated for their body of work in the Spanish language.