U L T U R E
November 1, 2013
Díaz: member of Hans Christian Andersen jury
Susana Méndez Muñoz
FOR the first time, a Cuban
intellectual is to be a member of the Hans Christian
Anderson Prize jury, the equivalent of a Nobel Prize
for children’s literature. The honor has been given
to journalist and writer Enrique Pérez Díaz, also
editor of the Gente Nueva publishing house.
Enrique Pérez Díaz has
published Inventarse un
amigo, Sombras del circo,
El niño que conversaba con
la mar, La gran fiesta de
los bichos, El payaso que
no hacía reír, ¿Se jubilan
las hadas?, and Escuelita
de los horrores.
Pérez Díaz, who takes his seat on
the jury in 2014, began to inquire into the Hans
Christian Andersen Prize in the 1990’s and was
awarded a grant at the Munich Internationale
Jugendbibliothek for a study project.
Since then, he has constantly
studied, investigated and promoted this prestigious
award, the work of its prized writers and good
children’s literature in general.
Pérez Díaz has published more than
30 children’s and juvenile books, and his articles
and essays on the genre have appeared in countless
national and foreign publications. He has also
received many prizes and recognitions for his work.
He agreed to converse with Cubarte
on the subject, an important part of his life.
How is the jury selection process for the
Andersen Prize organized?
The national sections of the
International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY)
put forward the jury nominations, and then you
present a resume and argue why you consider you
should be a member of this jury. This is very
strange, and I really didn’t know what to put, so I
recounted on two pages how I had learned of Andersen
through my mother and also explained my discovery of
the prize, in addition to all my personal anecdotes
associated with the subject and my research.
What were these anecdotes?
For example, when Astrid Lingren
wrote a message for the magazine Revolución y
Cultura dedicated to Cuban children; when María
Gripe gave me a story called "El corazón que nadie
quería" (The Heart that Nobody Wanted) for my first
anthology Cuentos sin edad (Ageless Stories);
when I met Ana María Machado, Lygia Bojunga Nunes,
Mitsumasa Anno and Anthony Brown, the outstanding
British writer, in a Congress in Cartagena in 2000,
and other eminent writers I also met in the Basle
Congress. I also told them about my relationship
with María Teresa Andruetto, and other Andersen
Prize winners who are great friends of Cuba and
Have these relations propitiated the
publication of some of these writers by Gente Nueva?
To a certain extent, yes; for
example, María Teresa Andruetto, who won the
Anderson prize in 2012, and Bianca Pitzorno, who was
nominated in that edition and is nominated again
this year, we have published both of them; Lygia
Bojunga Nunes prepared a book with all her works for
children for us to publish here in Cuba with no
costs involved at all, among others, all of which
gives you a measure of the of the rating Gente Nueva
is attaining in relation to publishing rights.
What do you think of this
appointment in personal and institutional terms?
I think it is a tremendous
recognition for the Cuban IBBY Committee and for our
country. For me it is a huge responsibility; I am
not the first Latin American, Argentine, Peruvian
and Brazilian writers have all served on the jury
and now Fanuel Hanan Díaz from Venezuela is a member.
In any event, Latin American
representation is in the minority…
Yes, but the contest has gradually
opened up a perspective of looking at other
literatures. When the IBBY began, it had a very
Anglo-Saxon tendency, because that was the
literature most disseminated in the 1950’s when the
organization was created. In recent IBBY congresses
there has been more participation from Third World
writers, from less favored countries in promotional
terms, and I don’t believe it is a coincidence that
the prize has quite an open jury with writers from
Japan, Indonesia, Tehran, Turkey. It is a very
comprehensive jury, I think the composition is quite
different, there are people with an academic focus,
promoters, booksellers, illustrators, free lance
designers, I think it will be very interesting. And
well, each one will bank on the author that most
pleases them, which comes closest to them, as is the
case with all juries in the world.
How many authors and illustrators
are presenting works?
A total of 60, 31 illustrators and
29 authors from 34 countries, which is a good amount,
as many works must be evaluated.
Only three Latin Americans are among
Yes, nominations have been quite
unequal; from Latin America the only winners have
been Lygia Bojunga Nunesin 1982, Ana María Machado
in 2000, both from Brazil; and in 2012, Argentine
María Teresa Andruetto, although many have been
What has children’s literature given
As a vehicle of communication,
saying things I want to say and in the way I want to
say them; literature for adults moves within other
conventions, and children’s literature liberates you
If you write a book for adults, like
any of my children’s books, it would generate stupor,
people would begin to classify what I write, but in
children’s books anything can happen, it is a very
expressive liberty and at the same time, you can say
between the lines many things that literature for
adults doesn’t dare to say as yet.
In children’s literature, above all
Cuban and that of many other countries, many truths
have been told and this is very interesting because
these truths seek the growth of readers, whatever
their age, because at any age, one can learn, grow
and come to be a better person in the future. These
are definitely the convictions of IBBY; in other
words, to promote through children’s books, ideals
of tolerance, peace, solidarity, cooperation,
understanding of differences, and my work has gone
in this direction. I really believe that this will
be a highly advantageous experience and I will try
to take the maximum benefit possible for children’s
literature. (Condensed from Cubarte)