June 1, 2023

The Argentinian Alisa Lein is the winner of the 28th edition of the José Nogales International Short Stories Awardorganized by the Provincial Council of Huelva and considered one of the most prestigious of its kind and in the Spanish language. His story, entitled ‘Placton’, has won the prize, endowed with 6,000 euros and the publication of the winning work.

The jury, made up of Francisco Silvera Guillén, Juan Villa Díaz and Hipólito González Navarro, selected the story from among those submitted to this edition, coming -mainly- from Europe, Latin America and the US. Regarding ‘Placton’, the jury underlined “the impeccable technical invoice of the story, as well as the use of an elegant and suggestive prose that captivates from beginning to end”.

After learning of the ruling, the Argentine writer, a native of Rosario -Santa Fe-, has declared that “it is a great joy that the jury has chosen Plancton as the winner of a contest as prestigious as the José Nogales. I appreciate the opportunity to receive the encouragement that an award means, and this award in particular, for his career. It is an injection of enthusiasm to continue on the path of writing that is so lonely and that, in turn, does not exist without its readers. I am glad that Plankton has found new readers in Huelva, and that it serves, like so many stories, as a bridge for the encounter”.

In the author’s words, “the story is an excursion into the deep. At night. That is the story, the narrative that she chose to try to tell the fear. A couple seeks adventure as a luminous experience when the routine dulls the days”. In the story, what lurks “is the narrator’s own pure fear. Fear of not seeing, not existing, not being. The familiar fades. The woman’s voice leads through the reverie of her thoughts. A poetic and metaphorical look at the present appears again and again in the form of threats that become almost real. The familiar fades and even the very sound of her voice is alien to him.

“Fear leavens like an amorphous mass,” he adds. What are the limits of terror? What things does the character cling to? Her husband’s knee leads to her children’s knee pads. Practical thinking covering the sensory. Giving him a break. A physical pain from her would save her, but she doesn’t hurt at all. There is no disease. There are no murders. Just the dark. The unthinkable darkness. The exhibition of a nature that overflows, against the blurred and monstrous edges of the fear. Everything becomes unstable on the surface of the water.

The narrator tries to stay afloat: “match the courage to survive with the fear of dying. Plankton and mangrove, familiar words that she could only complete with meanings after a trip to Colombia. I rarely write stories based on my own experiences. Swimming at night in the Colombian sea, without moonlight, among the plankton, is one of those exceptions. The adrenaline that inverting the sky with water had generated in me lasted several months. Then came the story that, entangled among the mangroves, he had to take the character to an abyss, to be able to give him a moment of heaven.

For the sixth time in the twenty-eight editions of the award, the José Nogales crosses the Atlantic to American lands, being the third time that it lands in Argentina. Mexico, on two occasions; and Bolivia, in 2019, complete the list of winning countries.

Alisa Lein (1973) is an architect graduated from the National University of Rosario and works independently in the profession. In 2019 she received the first prize in the National Endowment for the Arts (Argentina) contest, in the storybook category. That same year she won first prize in the Tejeda National Contest of the Municipality of Córdoba, in the storybook category. In 2022 she won the Nellie Campobello Hispanic-American Short Story Fine Arts Award, awarded by the Mexican government’s Secretary of Culture for her book ‘Have you never looked at a lion in the eye?’.

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