Chloe Aridjis and Daniel Saldaña Paris have won the £20,000 Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award for their unpublished novels.
Announced at an evening reception at the British Library last night (25th November), the two winners were selected from an eight-strong shortlist of yet-to-be-published books set across North and South America.
Both writers have received £20,000 and a year’s writing residency at the British Library to develop their books and, for the first time, a dedicated platform at Hay Festival events in the UK and Latin America.
Aridjis, a Mexican writer based in London, won for her forthcoming English language novel Reports from the Land of the Bats, which will explore the complex encounters between artistic, anthropological and local interests and is set in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Aridjis plans to map out her own Chiapanecan topography using material from the British Library’s Latin American collection. She will also draw from a variety of sources including botanical manuals, political tracts, the dream chronicles of the Tzotzil Indians and early travelogues and accounts from the Conquest.
Judge Erica Wagner said: “It was thrilling to choose Chloe as a 2020 winner of the Writer's Award. Her fifth novel, Reports from the Land of the Bats, engages deeply not only with her own personal story but also with the stories threaded through Mexico's histories: indigenous, colonial, political. Aridjis's fascinating application showed her to be a writer truly coming into her own, and we were delighted to recognize her with this award.”
Paris is an essayist, poet, and novelist born in Mexico City whose work has been translated into several languages. He received the award for his proposed novel Principio de mediocridad. The book is a story composed of four first person narrations, each an intense relationship with the history and geography of the city of Cuernavaca, Mexico. Paris will use the British Library’s Latin American collection to research the cultural history of landscapes and artistic movements in Latin America.
Judge Catherine Eccles said: “Daniel Saldaña Paris’ multi-voiced, multi-layered proposed novel set in the Mexican city of Cuenavaca has the ambition and originality we look for in our support of writers researching in the British Library collections. This first Spanish-language winner is the exciting beginning of a collaboration that forges links across nations and languages in a time when this is more urgent than ever.”
Also shortlisted were Nikesh Shukla for Guest Is God, Jon Lee Anderson for his forthcoming biography of Fidel Castro, Gloria Susana Esquivel for her non-fiction project The ones that were there: artists, writers, politicians, intellectuals and activists, Yara Rodrigues Fowler for Love in the time of -, Carlos Granés for American Delirium: Artistic Vanguard and Political Radicalism in Latin America, and Year of the Crisis by Nicholas Pierpan.