A novel about immigration gives Xesús Fraga the National Narrative

The writer Xesús Fraga in one of the places described in ‘Virtues (and mysteries)’ / ANA COUCEIRO

The Galician writer and journalist recounts the adventures of his grandfather and two generations of brave women in hostile times

Miguel Lorenzi

Xesús Fraga (London, 1971) won the National Narrative Prize this Thursday for his work ‘Virtues (e mysteries)’, a story about Galician emigration in England and America told from both shores. It shows the brightest and darkest side of immigration through the adventures of his grandfather, “who got lost in America looking for El Dorado, while the Galician family watched the Indian dream melt,” as the writer explained in his day. Awarded by the Ministry of Culture and endowed with 20,000 euros, the award rewards the best novel published in any of the languages ​​of the State in the year prior to the ruling.

Fraga’s novel was distinguished “by showing with a very careful prose, in substance and in form, the story of two generations of brave women from a family in hostile times.” “With this novel we contemplate immigration, with its light and dark, from its two shores, that of those who leave and that of those who remain, and also from the point of view of those who live on horseback between two worlds”, it required the jury’s decision.

Edited in Galician by Literaria and in Spanish by Xordica ‘Virtudes (y misterios)’, it was previously the winner of the Blanco Amor Prize. According to its author, “it seeks the trace of emigration through the coexistence of two intimate concerns.” “To know under what circumstances and what reasons led my grandfather to emigrate to Venezuela in 1955 without anything being heard from him again, and to fable about what my life would have been like if my parents had not returned from London when I was five years old” , as Fraga explained to this newspaper after the publication of his novel. “Both events are linked, since the absence of my grandfather forced his wife to go to the city to which my mother would follow her shortly afterwards and, in the end, I would be born.”

A «novel without fiction» on the trail of Spanish emigration

This “novel without fiction” has served its author to “banish family traumas”, such as “abandonments, absences, loneliness and sacrifices”, and to “rebuild memories.” The story haunted Fraga for years “like a ghost that haunts a large house”, until the death of the father, a severe setback in life, made the narrative move forward.

The family of the cobbler whose flight triggers the plot makes a long journey through the last century with stops in Caracas, Buenos Aires and London. A journey “of which a memory remains that we sometimes betray”, according to the writer who is grateful for the efforts of his family. We were the first to go to university thanks to the migratory sacrifices of my grandmother and my parents. It is something that I neither want nor can forget nor stop being grateful for ».

Editor of the newspaper ‘La Voz de Galicia’, Xesús Fraga studied Journalism at the University of Salamanca. In Galician language he has cultivated both the story, ‘A-Z’, and the novel, ‘Solimán’, and the youth narrative, ‘Reo’. He has translated into Galician and Spanish books by Julian Barnes, Vladimir Nabokov, Jack Kerouac, Anne Fine, Roald Dahl, Edith Nesbit, Sylvia Plath and Robert Macfarlane.

“While there were migrants who focused only on overcoming their material deficiencies, others saw their new life as an opportunity for improvement through education, a spirit that should be maintained,” explained the writer. It narrates how “the Indian dream melted away in a hard time for Spain” and tells how “the great houses of the villages from which they returned were an exception among the thousands who went to work tirelessly all their lives, and who would not return” .


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