The Caja de las Letras takes on an "Ibero-American dimension" with the legacy of Brazilian writer Nélida Piñón

This is the first time that a Portuguese-language author has entered the Cervantes Institute's "memory chamber"
The Cervantes Institute

PHOTO/ARCHIVE  -   The Cervantes Institute

The Brazilian writer and journalist Nélida Piñón deposited this Wednesday in the Caja de las Letras a large collection of books, photographs and personal and family objects that summarise her award-winning career as a great lady of letters in the Portuguese language and show her special affection for Spain, the land of her ancestors. It is the first time that an author in Portuguese has entered this corner of the Cervantes Institute headquarters, which from today acquires "an Ibero-American dimension", according to Luis García Montero.

Nélida Piñón (Rio de Janeiro, 1937), who has just received Spanish nationality, deposited in the old vault a first edition of her first work, Guía-mapa de Gabriel Arcanjo (1961), which established her as a recognised author, as well as the manuscript of her novel 'La república de los sueños' ('A república dos sonhos', 1984). Her latest published work is 'Un día llegaré a Sagres' (Alfaguara), which she later discussed with the writer, publisher and journalist Juan Cruz.

In the same safe-deposit box, number 1261, she left more pieces of her creative career: other books, photographs (such as the one of the reception of the 2005 Prince of Asturias Award for Letters), speeches (almost all in Spanish) and various texts.

From her personal and family life she bequeathed writing pens that belonged to her father and grandfather, her mother's and grandmother's fans, bookmarks, a Popeye doll that her mother used to encourage her to eat when she was a child, other dolls with his figure bought at popular fairs ("to be in the popular imagination is the greatest honour for a writer"), a little turtle that belonged to the legendary Carmen Balcells (whose son, head of the Barcelona literary agency, accompanied the author) and sealed packages with messages for friends.

In short, "traces that one leaves behind without being aware of what one is doing", she explained in Spanish, snippets of the long life of someone who defined herself as "a nostalgic and sentimental person, although also a woman of great discipline".

The final destination of the legacy will be the Cervantes heritage library, which the institution opened this year at its headquarters in Alcalá de Henares (Madrid), the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes.

"Shaping an Ibero-American community"

The director of the Cervantes Institute highlighted the demographic importance of the Spanish and Portuguese languages, and insisted on the institution's desire to "configure an Ibero-American community", a kind of Spain-Portugal-Hispanic America-Brazil brotherhood. Nélida Piñón's entry into the Caja de las Letras corroborates and enables progress to be made towards this goal.

Luis García Montero also thanked the Brazilian author, who has donated her personal library to the Cervantes Centre in Rio de Janeiro, for her "extremely generous legacy to Cervantes".

Nélida Piñón is the daughter of a Brazilian mother of Galician descent and a Galician father. Around 1910, her maternal grandfather Daniel (Nélida is an anagram of this name) emigrated from Pontevedra to Brazil, events that are reflected in La república de los sueños. These origins have marked her creative work and her career, making her a fervent advocate of understanding between the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking literary communities.

After the presentation of the bequest, and in the auditorium, the honoured author had a talk about her latest novel with the publisher Juan Cruz, preceded by words from García Montero and Pilar Reyes, editorial director of Alfaguara.

'Un día llegaré a Sagrés', recently published in Spanish, tells the story of Portugal through its protagonist, Mateus, an apparently insignificant young man, a reckless peasant at a time when recklessness is precisely what is most necessary.

Submitted by José Antonio Sierra, Hispanismo advisor