Two professors nominated for prestigious short story award

This story has been updated.

What are the odds that two Cornell professors, who happen to be spouses, are longlisted for a prestigious literary award at the same time? Edmundo Paz-Soldán, professor of Spanish literature, and Liliana Colanzi MA '14, PhD '17, visiting lecturer, were both longlisted for the Gabriel García Márquez Award for the Short Story. Colanzi has now been chosen as one of five finalists. The winner will be announced November 1.

Colanzi’s short story collection “Nuestro mundo muerto,” “Our dead World”, and Paz-Soldán’s “Las visiones,” “The visions”, are among 13 authors shortlisted for the prize, named in honor of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez. The award offers $100,000 to the best book of short stories written in Spanish.

“The short story is a very important genre in Latin America,” Colanzi said. “Our most important 20th-century writer, Jorge Luis Borges, never wrote a novel. García Márquez is better known for “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” but he has wonderful and strange short stories that are classics in the genre and should be read as much as his novels.”

Colanzi’s collection of eight stories has been described as sci-fi meets magical realism featuring characters “that are besieged by forces that are much greater than them.”

“The reader should decide whether these forces come from the outside or from the inside, whether they are real or imaginary, because the principle of reality is questioned and blurred in the stories,” Colanzi said. “The main characters are undergoing the dissolution of body and mind, and the trigger can be paranoia, mystical experiences, psychosis or fear of the unknown.”

Paz-Soldán’s collection deals with an island that has been colonized by an empire, and tackles the many ways people who are being subjugated by a big power try to endure, Paz-Soldán said.

“The stories that make up the book are a blend of science fiction, horror and fantasy,” Paz-Soldán said. “They are set in the future, which allows me to talk more freely about the present.”

“I drew on the long and traumatic story of colonial oppression in Bolivia, particularly what took place in Potosí and the exploitation of its silver mines.”

The literary award is hailed as a benchmark in the publishing world and Spanish literature.

“Latin Americans have always excelled at the short-story,” Paz-Soldán said. “Apart from García Márquez, just think about Borges, Cortázar, Rulfo, etc. This is an award that focuses on the short story and brings visibility to the work that is being done today in this marvelous genre.”

Paz-Soldán is the winner of the Bolivian National Book Award and the Juan Rulfo Short Story Award. He is the author of nine novels and three books of short stories.

Colanzi is the author of two books of short stories. She has received the Premio Aura Estrada de Literatura. Her work has appeared in Granta, the Michigan Quarterly Review, The White Review and REVIEW.

Earlier Colanzi and Paz-Soldán, both colleagues and partners, expressed their wish for the other to be included among the finalists.

“I just hope she wins it,” Paz-Soldán said.

“It is definitely a strange thing to be competing with my partner and colleague. Of course I’ll be happy if he wins,” Colanzi said.

Yvette Lisa Ndlovu is a communications assistant for the College of Arts & Sciences. 

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