What wonderful news for 94-year-old Barcelona writer, José Luis Sampedro, this week. He was named by the Ministry for Culture as the recipient of this year’s National Prize for Literature, and was awarded a monetary prize of 40,000 €. The prize is normally given in recognition of a writer’s contributions to society.
José Luis Sampedro has had an interesting life. Born in 1917, he lived in Tangiers, Morocco, with his family when he was a child. As a young man, he fought in the Spanish Civil War with the Republican Army, but defected and joined the National Army, where his true allegiance lay.
He studied eocnomics and won a Grand Prize for Economics in 1947, and later worked as a Professor of Economics at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. He also taught at universities in the United Kingdom and the United States.
On returning to Spain, he published his first book, a satire called The Nude Horse and, in later years, books like October, October, The Etruscan smile, and The Old Mermaid.
Sampedro worked for years for the Foreign Bank of Spain but, on his retirement, devoted his life to writing. He’s received the Medal of the Order of Charlemagne, the XXIV Menéndez Pelayo International Prize, and numerous other honors and awards.
In 2011, José Luis Sampedro became the standard bearer for the 15-M movement, the Spanish protesters currently demonstrating against the Spanish government’s mishandling of the economy and employment. Sampedro, in his writings, had defended a “more human, more caring economy that is able to help develop people’s dignity.”
But, he truly came to the forefront with the protest group, when he wrote the forward for fellow writer Stéphane Hessel’s now-famous protest essay-book, Time for Outrage! Hessel, too, is 94-years old.
Looks like the old guys in Europe still have a lot to teach the young.