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Two Writers Won the Cuban Prize Alejo Carpentier  this Year for the Second Time.
Two writers won the Alejo Carpentier Prize this year for the second time. One was Alberto Garrandes and the other Margarita Mateo, who walked away with the prize in the novel category with Desde los blancos manicomios, six years after her essay Paradiso: la aventura mítica, earned her the first such recognition as an author.

A long-standing member of the Cuban Academy of the Spanish Language, critic and a professor by profession, Maggie Mateo is the author of several books on Caribbean literature and of the popular Ella escribia poscritica, one of the most creative Cuban essays.

Your first steps as a novelist with an Alejo Carpentier Prize?

Yes, this is my first novel, and I think it has enjoyed the luck required at contests to be a winner. In contests, there are always many risky elements at stake."

You have confessed that your attempts to approach fiction began with Ella escribía poscrítica, published in 1995. Why did it take you so long to"assume" you were also a narrator?

Fiction appeared little by little as I wrote that book of essays. I had a good time doing it. It was like playing a game, which I ended by taking very seriously. I not only found it hard to assume I was a storyteller, but also a writer. For a long time, aside from teaching -which has been my main work as a professional-, I regarded myself as a researcher that wrote her reflections with a greater or lesser degree of sensitivity."

The book tells a story that takes place at a psychiatric hospital, where the protagonist, Gelsomina, is an intern. I took the name from some verses by Raúl Hernández, a poet that committed suicide, as a tribute to him.

Is this a story told from darkness?

"It's a kind of journey from madness to lucidity. Little by little, the delirium, neurosis and obsessions of the various characters interweave, forming a plot in which some of the reasons making Gelsomina lose her senses are revealed. You're right when you say it's a story told from darkness, but it evolves toward light."

What are your expectations as to the reception readers will give Desde los blancos manicomios, a novel that, in your own words, "goes beyond certain conventions"?

"I'm really not sure how people will receive this novel. The truth is that it's not a traditional novel, and that can work in favor or against how people receive it. Like always happens in these cases, both the critics and the public will have the final say."


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