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The everyday life of great literature, in new exhibit

‘Passejades de Nobel’ opened in CaixaForum and features photographs, details, and interviews of 23 Nobel Literature Laureates

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16 April 2018 04:58 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

One is hard-pressed to think of an award with more prestige in its field than the Nobel Literature Prize. Now, a new Barcelona exhibit aims to bring viewers a bit closer to the everyday lives of the authors. Called ‘Passejades de Nobel,’ roughly translated as ‘Nobel Walk’ in English, is a project by photographer Kim Manresa and journalist Xavi Ayén. Starting in 2005, the two have been interviewing laureates in their homes or to the backdrop of where their stories are set.

The idea, explained Manresa in interviews to the Catalan News Agency (ACN), was to take photos of the writers in a natural setting, giving a window onto their day to day lives – no posing or using a flash. There are 23 Nobel Literature laureates featured in total, including illustrious names like Gabriel García Márques, Dario Fo, José Saramago, Günter Grass, J.M. Coetzee and Orhan Pamuk. The exhibition comprises 96 photos in total, complemented by text written by Ayén, narrating details to getting the meet the writers and fragments of the interview itself. 

  • “For them, literature was a tool to transform, and to achieve changes in their respective societies” 

    Xavi Ayén · Journalist and writer

An impossible interview

Out of the dozens they interviewed, the subject who most fascinated Manresa and Ayén was noted Colombian pioneer in magic realism – one who lived in Barcelona, and who was featured in a book written by Ayén himself –Gabriel García Marquez. The reason they so remember their encounter with ‘Gabo,’ as the author was affectionately known, is because García Marquez didn’t actually give them an interview. Instead, they were able to go into his home as ‘messengers.’

“He hadn’t let journalists in for over 15 years,” explained Ayén, adding that him and Manresa were only able to do so because they “gained the trust” of his renowned literary agent, Carme Balcells. The two were entrusted to bring the writer his 2005 Christmas presents, all the way to Mexico City where he was living at the time. “He opened the door to us, and in the end, we got the interview,” remembered the journalist.

‘Absolute dedication’ to literature

Despite the mystique surrounding the great authors featured in the exhibit, Ayén pointed out that “they’re human, just like everyone else.” The difference, he noted, is that “they had absolute dedication to their literary vocation, and they sacrificed all other aspects of their life, for writing.” “For them,” the journalist detailed, “literature was a tool to transform, and to achieve changes in their respective societies.”

The 23 Nobel  Literature laureates featured in the CaixaForum exhibition are Gabriel García Márquez, Wole Soyinka, Naguib Mahfuz, Nadine Gordimer, Derek Walcott, Toni Morrison, Kenzaburō Ōe, Wisława Szymborska, Dario Fo, José Saramago, Günter Grass, Gao Xingjian, V.S. Naipaul, Imre Kertész, J.M. Coetzee, Orhan Pamuk, Doris Lessing, J.M.G. Le Clézio, Herta Müller, Mario Vargas Llosa, Tomas Tranströmer, Patrick Modiano, and Svetlana Aleksiévitx.

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  • The exhibition 'Passejades de Nobel' of Kim Manresa and Xavi Ayén at the Caixaforum in Barcelona on April 16 2018 (by Pere Francesch)