Mexican writer Alvaro Enrigue on Monday won the 31st Herralde Prize with his work "Muerte Subita" (Sudden Death), a story set in the 16th century about two singular opponents, Italian painter Caravaggio and Spanish poet Quevedo, who challenge each other to a game of tennis.
After the Herralde Prize was awarded, the Mexican writer said in Barcelona that the novel takes place on a single day, Oct. 4, 1599 at noon, when on a tennis court in Rome's Piazza Navona the two rivals face off - Caravaggio and Quevedo.
Enrigue reveals the psychology of those two personalities and their different ways of seeing the world.
"Caravaggio, a symbol of the counterreformation, had a very modern concept of celebrity, of fame, and in that he was more like Warhol than Michelangelo, while Quevedo was a solid defender of Hispanic civilization, Catholicism and the empire," Enrigue said.
Caravaggio, Enrigue said, is "a young Lombard artist who has discovered that the way to change the art of his time was not by finding new and original content for his pictures but rather by changing the way of painting them, and with that he laid the cornerstone of modern art."
His adversary is "a Spanish poet, perhaps too intelligent and sensitive for his own good." Both lead lives that are dissipated in the extreme, Enrigue said.
"The two are on the court to defend an idea of honor that no longer makes any sense in a world suddenly grown enormous, diverse and incomprehensible," Enrigue said.
"Muerte Subita" is played in three sets with changes of court in a world that has finally become spherical like a tennis ball.
In writing "Muerte Subita," being published by Anagrama, Enrigue brought back the first documented use of the word "tennis," which is in an edict of excommunication of Bishop Edmundus Lacy dated 1451. EFE