Professor and academic Darío Villanueva (Villalba, Lugo, 1950) has spent a lifetime in the language trench. His is a trajectory against the grain of orthodoxy and pageantry, typical of a wise man between the silence of libraries and the brilliance of the classics. Professor of Theory of Literature and Comparative Literature, former rector of the University of Santiago de Compostela and former director of the Royal Academy, he yesterday received the Francisco Umbral Award for Book of the Year 2021 for Biting his tongue. Political correctness and post-truth (Espasa), endowed with 12,000 euros and a sculpture by Alberto Corazón. His is a strong and brave book, which faces the canceling tsunami of modern Newspeaks, armed at the service of fear.
The act took place in the Real Casa de Correos de Madrid, in Puerta del Sol, seat of the Presidency of the Community. The poet and journalist Carlos Aganzo, former director of El Norte de Castilla, officiated as master of ceremonies. The director of EL MUNDO, Francisco Rosell, referred to the censorship of “political correctness and the spiral of silence, which has turned many of George Orwell’s predictions into official currency.” Behind, on a pedestal, one of Francisco Umbral’s own typewriters slept, haloed by one of his legendary white scarves. The figure and work of Umbral, recalled Rosell, maintain their extraordinary validity, his unforgettable presence. There was no lack of emotional memories of the writer’s son, who died of leukemia as a child and was the protagonist of one of the most beautiful and violent books of the 20th century, Mortal y rosa.
Sitting in the front row, María España, Umbral’s widow and guardian angel of his legacy, smiled. The meeting was also attended by the former Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy; the Minister of Culture, Tourism and Sports of the Community of Madrid, Marta Rivera de la Cruz; the academic and theater director José Luis Gómez; the journalist Ignacio Amestoy; the sculptress Esperanza d’Ors; the writer Gervasio Posadas; the editor Jesús García Visor; the widow of Francisco Ayala; Carolyn Richmond, the editor of Espasa, Pilar Cortés and writers such as Ignacio de Valle and Eduardo Martínez Rico.
The mayor of Majadahonda, José Luis Álvarez Ustarroz, explained that the winning book is “a direct, fun, educational, different, dazzling and delicious essay.” Quoting Villanueva, the journalist Manuel Llorente, president of the jury, recalled that “post-truth is the postmodern lie, the lie of our days, a deconstruction and destruction of the strong thinking of the Age of Enlightenment.”
Marta Rivera de la Cruz highlighted “the exceptional professional career of the winner, a benchmark in Spanish letters.” Villanueva, for his part, warned of the “denial of the existence of truth.” “We know,” she said, “that truths have a component of invention, but there are truths of fact, incontestable.” A good connoisseur of the postmodern pestilence that infects the faculties of the United States, he commented that although it is almost certain that Donald Trump has not read Derrida or Foucault, his (dire) influence is “incontestable”.
In a subsequent debate with Llorente himself and the writer Juan Cruz, Villanueva affirmed his optimism. Convinced that “correction is perverse censorship,” he explained that “language cannot be freely altered.” “There have always been fashions,” he said, “even in the linguistic field, but language does not belong to the State,” although “if power assumes this new language” and forces citizens, “we enter the field of censorship.” . The ballad of the gag, the song of the executioner and censorship, older than the world, against which the word of race writers, from Umbral to Villanueva, will continue to rebel.
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