El País del Diablo, by the Argentine writer, narrator, essayist and novelist Perla Suez, was the selected work, out of a universe of 214 novels, as the winner of the 1878th edition of the Rómulo Gallegos International Novel Prize. The verdict highlighted the narrative intensity with which the author recounts, through fiction, the destruction of the Mapuche culture, seen from the eyes of a girl and taking as a context the desert campaign, in which Patagonia was invaded , Argentina, between 1885 and XNUMX.
The award given by the Celarg, since 1964, is considered the most important literary prize in Latin America and in its last two editions it has recognized works that reveal untold truths of historical processes. So it was with Triptych of the infamy of the Colombian and today member of the jury, Pablo Montoya, winner in 2015, with the work in which he addresses the expeditions of conquest and colonization of America.
In The Country of the Devil, Suez intends to raise concerns in readers about the veracity of the historical facts that have been told to us, as well as current world events, the darkness that surrounds them, and to provide a blind light on the possibility of changing it, changing our way of seeing and living the world.
“During the second half of the XNUMXth century, Lum, a girl, the daughter of a white father and a Mapuche mother, bathes in the river. They play, they laugh, he doesn't know it, but he won't repeat that routine again. In that desolate landscape, horror has a specific appointment, a lost group of five soldiers prowls through the area and assaults a toldería, one of the last that is still standing. They kill, they burn, they devastate, it seems the end of a story and yet it is the beginning. There is no evil that does not promote its own revenge ”, is narrated in the synopsis of the novel.
Suez, co-founder of the Center for the Diffusion and Research of Children's and Young People's Literature, in Córdoba, Argentina, is the author of more than two dozen children's publications and another ten novels.
"Why talk about the desert campaign?"
—Every war has left survivors who have the memory to tell what happened. There were always people who survived and we were able to learn another story, another truth, which is not the lie that they taught us. Memory is not the past for me but the future and here it is shown that, from what I remembered about school and the oblivion to which I was subjected, I was able, through fiction, to start a memory that is in me to tell the story they didn't tell me. What do I have in common with the Mapuche people if I am white, the daughter of a European immigrant of Jewish origin? I realized that I had in common the exile, the persecution, the desert. There is the identity thing that I looked for.
- What will the readers who already know what happened in Patagonia find?
"The novel is to be read." I hope that many things can be asked. The force of the desert in the novel is too terrible and wonderful to bear any shadow. I am interested in the contradiction, the paradox so that the reader can ask questions. Fiction allows you to get into unknown areas to explore them. When one works with the characters there are always contradictions: we are not all bad or all good as the story sometimes presents us. So I said: I have to tell it with a contradictory force.
- Do you think these situations are still valid?
—We writers anticipate fiction. Literature takes memory, takes it to the future and not to the past. In the novel I grasp that past, that time and those soldiers, but I look at them from a XNUMXst century perspective, from what is happening to us in such a dark world, between the pandemic and the corrupt powers, at the international level. Wherever you look, in Europe, in India, in China, in Latin America, everywhere, the human being has not yet found the strength to believe that there are other things besides money. Women continue to fight slowly. It will take centuries, I don't know, and although I'm not going to see it, I don't care; I fight for the new generations. This system has exploded everywhere. There has never been so much hunger and so much misery in the world. I believe in this fight that women are carrying out for the legalization of abortion. I'm not apocalyptic.
"How do you feel about this recognition?"
—The novel was submitted to the Rómulo Gallegos Prize by the Editorial Edasa of Buenos Aires. They consulted me and I agreed to send it. I never thought I would win it. I am very happy and proud to have won this award, that Argentine writers such as Ricardo Piglia won it and women such as Mexican Elena Poniatowska, among others, fills me with pride.
- How was your encounter with literature?
—I think that literature found me reading. Before I had learned to read, I listened to the stories my father and mother told me.
"Are you currently working on any other work?"
—I have just published the book-album for children, Aconcagua, with the Ojoreja publishing house in Buenos Aires and now I am working on what I think will be a novel. The only thing I can anticipate is that the background is the issue of human trafficking and what I tell is the bond of a mother with her teenage daughter. l