Nicanor Parra, 97, one of Chile’s most important poets, has won the presigious Cervantes Prize, the highest honor in Spanish language literature. The prize has been awarded every year since 1976, and normally alternates between a Spanish writer and a Latin American writer. Previous winners of the prize include Mario Vargas Llosa, Jorge Luis Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Ernesto Sábato, Octavio Paz and the Chileans Jorge Edwards and Gonzalo Rojas.
Parra was born to a modest family in a small town in the south of Chile, near the city of Chillán. His sister was the famed folk-singer Violeta Parra. Nicanor studied mathematics at the Universidad de Chile, and continued his studies abroad at Brown University and Oxford. It was during his studies at the Universidad de Chile when he published his first written work. Throughout his life, Parra balanced work as a professor of physics and mathematics and his writing.
His style of poetry is discribed as “anti-poetry” because of his incorporation of colloquial language and subject matter into traditional poetry. He also wanted to make poetry accessible to people from all walks of life, and demonstrate that it could be a common way of expression.
Parra will receive the prize on April 23, 2012 the anniversary of Miguel de Cervantes death. The prize is worth 125,000 euros.
Students on the Chilean Universities Program in Santiago have the option to complete a 6-credit research project on a topic of their choice, and some have completed projects on Nicanor Parra and his poetry.