The Jerusalem Prize

2013 - Antonio Muñoz Molina

Born: 10 January 1956, Spain

Author's quote: "There can be no better prize for a writer than one awarded
by an international book fair."

Prize share: 1/1


Books Written By Antonio Muñoz Molina


About Antonio Muñoz Molina

Antonio Muñoz Molina (born 10 January 1956) is a Spanish writer and, since 8 June 1995, a full member of the Royal Spanish Academy. He currently resides in New York City, United States. In 2004-2005 he served as the director of the Instituto Cervantes of New York.

Antonio Muñoz Molina's reading out of "La noche de los tiempos." Muñoz Molina was born in the town of Úbeda in Jaén province.

He studied art history at the University of Granada and journalism in Madrid. He began writing in the 1980s; his first published book, El Robinsón urbano, a collection of his journalistic work, was published in 1984.

His columns have regularly appeared in El País and Die Welt.

His first novel, Beatus ille, appeared in 1986. It features the imaginary city of Mágina—a re-creation of his Andalusian birthplace—which would reappear in some his later works.

In 1987 Muñoz Molina was awarded Spain's National Narrative Prize for El invierno en Lisboa (translated as Winter in Lisbon), a homage to the genres of film noir and jazz music. His El jinete polaco received the Planeta Prize in 1991 and, again, the National Narrative Prize in 1992.

His other novels include Beltenebros (1989), a story of love and political intrigue in post-Civil War Madrid, Los misterios de Madrid (1992), and El dueño del secreto (1994).

Margaret Sayers Peden's English translation of Muñoz Molina's novel Sepharad won the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize in 2004. He also won the Jerusalem Prize in 2013.


Reviews

In the Time of Night - Antonio Muñoz Molina

By Comment Man

In the Time of Night is a brilliant novel firmly in the modern school. Molina has a gift "for imagining what other people are living or have lived through." (That is a line from the novel lifted from the character Van Doren which I take as Molina's assessment of his own ability.) He uses a extremely sophisticated narrative scheme, which follows the thoughts the main character, the architect Ignacio Abel as he rides a passenger railroad from New York City to a college in the woods. The narrative unfolds through a series of Abel's memories. However, in the almost dream like structure of the narrative, Molina shifts the narrative focus from Abel to other characters such as his wife Adela, his lover Judith Biely, his son, his father-in-law, etc.; these technically difficult point-of-view narrative shifts have the great advantage of creating exceptionally convincing psychological character studies.

The book works at one level as a reverse Portrait of a Lady, with the focus on the European lover, in this case a Spaniard, rather than the young American woman. Molina indicates he is aware of this homage by his somewhat ironic references to Henry James and Isabel Archer. At another, it is a panoramic recreation of Spain on the cusp of revolution, with people from different segments of society--the traditional Catholic, the bourgeois, the proletariat and the artistic--imaginatively and sympathetically recreated. In a sense, the character Ignacio Abel represents a modern Spain almost stillborn in the wake of Franco's revolt.

Molina has asked several interesting and crucial questions. He has imaginatively recreated what it meant to live in Spain before the Civil War and what it meant to live through the terror that gripped Madrid after Franco's Army began advancing through southern Spain. He has tied the narrative tightly to actual events in Spain. I found it helpful to read the concise history The Spanish Civil War, 1936-39 while reading this novel. I also googled individuals mentioned in the book online, listened to flamenco songs of the era and viewed clips of Spanish movies of the time on You Tube. All this made me appreciate the skillful way Molina uses history to create a vivid narrative.

This moving and profound novel does not give the easy pleasures of popular fiction. I do not regret the almost two weeks of nightly reading it took me to finish it. In the Night of Time is a memorable and wise work of art and I finished the book with a feeling of deep satisfaction. This may be the finest work of historical fiction I have ever read.

 

Sepharad - Antonio Muñoz Molina

By Paul Harris

This is certainly an arresting and intriguing book, though its billing as 'a novel' is misleading. Rather, it is a loosely-themed collection of sketches, essays and stories. The author writes very beautifully, though I must confess that his habit of obscuring the identity and gender of the narrator was a little disconcerting. Perhaps that is intentional, as one theme running through the 17 chapters is that of uncertainty and dispossesion. This is essentially a book about the lives of the disappeared.

Some of the tales refer to well known historic figures such as Kafka or Primo Levi, while others concern less well known people such as Jean Amery or Grete Buber-Neumann, wife of the 1930s German Communist leader Hans Neumann. Other pieces centre on the author's own life from his past or his present. The sensation is one of transience and impermanence. The lives of those others are in transit, from or to incarceration or persecution, typically alone in the world and often filled with tragic outcomes for either themselves or their loved ones. The fear of a totalitarian society is conveyed, as you may enter a cafe to sit and drink coffee and read the newspaper - only to leave on the run newly aware of the latest decree marking you as a pariah...

Molina's writing is tender and very moving. The chapters of Sheherazade, America, You are.., and Narva, were my favourites coming as they do in sequence near the end of the book. Suddenly, for me the book made complete sense. Only 4 stars as I found the first third of it slightly befogging..