Professor Jorge Aguilar Mora Wins Prestigious Literary Award

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With great pleasure we announce that Professor Emeritus of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and prominent Mexican writer, Jorge Aguilar Mora, has won the Xavier Villaurrutia Award for his most recent book, Sueños de la razón, 1799 y 1800. Umbrales del siglo XIX (Ediciones Era). This is one of the most prestigious literary awards in Mexico since its foundation in 1955, and is presented to a writer for a particular work or literary trajectory by a jury of his/her peers. Professor Aguilar Mora presented his book at the Library of Congress on February 12 of this year, an event sponsored by both the LOC’s Hispanic Division and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Maryland, College Park.

To watch a webcast of Dr. Aguilar Mora’s book presentation of his most recent work, Sueños de la razón: 1799 y 1800, at the Library of Congress this past February, click here:

The following article published by INBA, the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes or the National Institute of Fine Arts, can be found in Spanish on the government agency’s website at Below you can find an English translation.

Our heartfelt congratulations go out to Professor Aguilar Mora for such a fantastic achievement!


Jorge Aguilar Mora Awarded the Premio Xavier Villaurrutia de Escritores para Escritores 2015 for Sueños de la razón, 1799 y 1800. Umbrales del siglo XIX  Bulletin 403, April 12, 2016

The Secretaría de Cultura and the Sociedad Alfonsina Internacional announce that the Mexican writer and scholar Jorge Aguilar Mora has been awarded the 2015 Xavier Villaurrutia Prize for Writers by Writers for his book Sueños de la razón, 1799 y 1800. Umbrales del siglo XIX (Ediciones Era).

The jury -- Coral Bracho, Alberto Ruy Sánchez, and Álvaro Uribe -- was unanimous in its selection of: “a book unique in Mexican literature, by an writer who is able to turn ideas into narrative, to weave together complexities, to spin threads that go from intimacy to history, from science to fantastic dreams, from the creative power of art to the creative power of global exploration. In this adventure in prose, Jorge Aguilar Mora leads us into the dawn of the 19th Century, but the light he uncovers illuminates our current times,” attests the report signed by the three writers.

Alberto Ruy Sánchez describes the works under consideration as being of very high quality. “Even with the overall impressive quality and the numerous books we liked, we found Jorge Aguilar Mora’s book to be of exceptional literary merit. For the prize to bring attention to this book both enriches readers and brings honor to the 2015 award,” he noted at the close of the deliberations. “What I’m going to say will sound like wordplay, but it’s not: this book is so exceptional that its selection will bring attention to the prize itself,” Álvaro Uribe observed, adding, “as soon as they open the book, readers will see that it’s in a league of its own. It’s a pleasure to have had the opportunity to read it. Usually you only get this excited when you’re reading your own work!”

Aguilar Mora plans to continue his project, covering each year of the 19th century. Sueños de la razón, 1799 y 1800. Umbrales del siglo XIX , the first entry in this ambitious project, is a chronical that reflects on changes in the period of transition to the 19th century in the areas of culture, politics, philosophy, society, and economy.

Álvaro Uribe describes the project as “mind-bendingly ambitious.” “What Jorge Aguilar Mora has set out to do is to cover the 100 years of the 19th century and try to make novels with the ideas that characterized each of them, one by one.” This implies meticulous research “that is unbelievably difficult; it is nearly impossible to imagine how a single person could have read everything he has read.”

Given the ambiguity in specifying the moment when a new century begins, Aguilar Mora uses both years, 1799 and 1800, as the gateway to the 19th century. For Uribe, “the book  lays out the how and the who of the development of the ideas that would come to define the 19th century. It’s a Eurocentric book in a way, because almost all of the ideas came from Europe, but what happened in the Americas doesn’t get put to the side.  It’s very important to point this out. Nor does it leave out the fact that ideas are living entities.  It’s indeed noteworthy that many of the great thinkers – this is historically true – were German, and many of those who developed the predominant philosophy of the time were German.”

The book includes short biographies of the great thinkers, “an exceptional thing for a Mexican reader, especially in Spanish. Jorge Aguilar Mora has a flawless knowledge of philosophy, and he not only knows how to explain it as if it were a novel; you read his explanations as if it were an adventure story. This is what makes the book exceptional. You could classify it as an essay, but for me at least, I read it as a novel; he has the ability to reckon with complexity without simplifying it, all the while making it accessible; few could accomplish such a feat,” added Uribe.

Alberto Ruy Sánchez describes the process used by the 2015 jury, the prime focus of which was discussing each book to bring out both its strengths and its weaknesses. “That’s what enriches literary discussion and shows what’s important about a prize like the Xavier Villaurrutia -- arriving at a literary consensus generated by the excitement of a jury for a particular book. And that’s the method we chose.”

Translated from the Spanish.