Despite having not worked on his literary career for more than two decades, Raduan Nassar has just unanimously won the 2016 Camões Prize, the most important prize for literature in the Portuguese language. Interviewed right after the announcement, Nassar expressed surprise: “my work is a book and a half!”
According to the jury, however, “the extraordinary quality of his language” and the “poetic power of his prose” made him deserve the prize:
“Through fiction, the author reveals, in the universe of his work, the complexity of human relationships in ways that are hardly accessible to other methods of discourse. This revelation is often rough and uncomfortable, and it is not uncommon for him to address taboo issues. This possibility is made possible by the rigorous use of a language whose plasticity is imprinted in different discursive registers found in a body of work that emphasizes the density instead of length”
Nassar, also one of the 13 finalists in this year’s Man Booker International Prize, has two novels recently translated into English, both in 2016: Ancient Tillage (first published 1975 in Brazilian Portuguese as Lavoura Arcaica) translated by Karen Sotelino, and A Cup of Rage (first published 1978 in Brazilian Portuguese as Um copo de cólera), translated by Stefan Tobler. His third book, short story collection Menina a Caminho (1994) has not been translated yet.
The Camões Prize (currently €100,000) is awarded annually by the Portuguese Fundação Biblioteca Nacional (National Library Foundation) and the Brazilian Departamento Nacional do Livro (National Book Department). This award is considered the premier literary prize for an author in the Portuguese language for the entirety of their work. Ferreira Gullar, Dalton Trevisan, João Ubaldo Ribeiro, and Lygia Fagundes Telles are among past Brazilian winners of the Camões Prize.