On the occasion of this recognition, Martha Asunción spoke with uah.es noticia to explain what this recognition has meant for her literary career and her future projects as a teacher at the University of Alcalá.
- What has this recognition meant on a personal and professional level?
When they called me from Cantabria, I thought it would be related to the cycle on literary translation 'The word in original version'. It will be held soon at the Central Library in Santander, and I will participate by talking about my work as a literary translator from French to Spanish. When I picked up the phone, I was afraid that they would announce the cancellation of the event... I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they did not and that I had won this short story contest!
It had been months since I submitted the manuscript and I didn't expect it. Not once was it my first incursion into the narrative genre. Poetry has been giving me a lot of joy since I published my first book of poetry when I was still in third or fourth year of my career... However, prose was still a pending journey for me.
I am happy because this will be the first book I write entirely in Spain. I left as soon as I graduated. I have spent ten years teaching, writing and training in different French, Caribbean and Eastern European destinations. Unlike many of my classmates (some sociologists call us 'the lost generation'), last year I was able to return to work and write at the UAH, which makes me very happy.
- Can you explain to us what the play 'Once upon a time' is about? When is it published?
It is a collection of short stories that I have been amassing, almost without realizing it, for the last three years. The origin of each story is different. Sometimes, the germ is in one of the many notes I make in my notebooks after witnessing a surprising scene, reading a curious event in the press or catching a conversation on the train. Other times, I have worked by imagining from my own experiences, from dreams, from fears or from anecdotes that someone has told me.
I blushed as much as I was happy to read the jury's appraisals of this contest. They described me as a good 'observer of untravelled angles of life'. That is what I tried to do from each of these stories: draw windows on the walls of everyday life and then lean out with the eyes of a foreign child, full of wonder and desire to play.
- What do you highlight from your career as a writer? What has motivated you to become a writer?
As I was saying, I owe a lot to poetry. It has given me some relevant awards that, without a doubt, have served to boost my career. They have helped me to believe in the value of my voice and to make my proposals heard, something that is increasingly difficult in the cultural sphere.
In 2011, when I lived in the French city of Nantes, my book of poems Detener la primavera (Hyperion, 2011) won the National Young Poetry Award, granted by the Spanish Ministry of Culture. This recognition was very important for me at that time. So were later the Adonáis Prize or the Spanish National Radio Poetry Prize, which I received while being even further away: on an island in the Antilles and in Tirana (Albania). It was in 2013 and 2015 respectively, for my collections of poems La soledad criolla (Rialp) and Wendy (Pre-Textos).
In this book I explore the links between poetry and urban art, proposing a sentimental chronology for the graffiti of the 80s and 90s in the Madrid suburbs where I grew up. I published it in 2014, in the Sevillian publishing house Libros de la Herida. It includes photographs, unexpected gifts and some beautiful graffiti templates, so that readers can leave their mark on the walls of their choice. The project was made possible thanks to the support of the Ministry of Equality and INJUVE (Youth Institute), who granted me a scholarship for artistic creation.
But, above all, I have to say that literature has given me incredible encounters. Thanks to it I have travelled a lot, which is my greatest passion. I also owe it the unforgettable experience of having participated in a documentary film about contemporary Spanish poets (Se dice poeta, 2014, directed by Sofía Castañón); and the wonder of listening to what my verses sound like translated into languages such as English, Italian, Greek, Romanian or... Albanian!
About your second question, I think I have always been a writer. I've always needed to write in order to order my life, to fix time and beauty, to cure myself of pain, to feel less alone, to discover what I think about things, to vindicate the ancestors who paved the way for us... I know that this word doesn't exist in the dictionary. That's why I pronounce it and write it so much. I suppose that literature, in short, is my way of intervening in the world, of understanding myself and of fighting.
- How have your studies influenced your writing career?
I studied French Philology at the UCM and later a Master in Advanced Studies in Art History at the University of Zaragoza. At the end I finished my PhD in French Studies at the UCM, with a feminist thesis on the Guadeloupean storyteller Maryse Condé. This explains that my writing abounds with intertextual references to French-speaking letters and the plastic arts; in addition to my interest in translating unique women's voices from French into my mother tongue.
- Future projects at UAH. Do you plan to publish more books? Any new stories in mind?
Besides teaching (which I like very much) and continuing my research in the field of French-language literature from a gender perspective, I have exciting adventures on my hands at UAH. For example, I am happy to be part of a project that, under the coordination of English professor Bruno Echauri, promotes the creation and translation, by students of modern languages and Hispanic studies, of a graphic novel about Benito Pérez Galdós with which we will celebrate Galdos' centennial.
On the other hand, together with our partners from the iDEALE group (Innovación Docente en El Aula de Lenguas Extranjeras), we are immersed in the search for innovative strategies that allow us to successfully face the challenge of accompanying our students in their learning processes, especially in these difficult times.
Do I plan to publish more books? For the moment, I can tell you that in the coming months, in addition to Not Once Upon a Time, some translations into Spanish of French-language works that I have been in charge of will see the light of day: a new and exciting novel by Maryse Condé (winner of the 'alternative' Nobel Prize for Literature in 2018), a historical anthology of French-language poetry that has taken me more than six years to translate...
The truth is that I am always working on several things at the same time, or reading, translating, writing down ideas, writing my diaries... I sleep little! But it happens that I'm a bit superstitious and that I don't usually talk about projects in the making until they're more or less finished.