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On Najat El Hachmi's winning of a prestigious Catalan-language literary award.
CATALONIA TODAY – SECTION: LONG-TERM RESIDENT - ARTICLE EIGHTY-SIX
A week ago today, Najat el Hachmi (Nador, Morocco, 1979) won the Rolls-Royce Phantom of Catalan-language literary awards: the Premi Ramon Llull, which comes steeped in prestige and decked out in 90,000 euros' worth of catch-free cash. Immediately - perhaps to disguise their lack of so much as a half-fingerprint of a clue as to who Najat El Hachmi was - most journalists covering the ceremony, spotting her North African roots, seized on a predictable buzzword beginning with the letter 'I': her as yet unpublished prize-winning novel, they averred, was about immigrants (it isn't), she herself was an example of how immigrants could be successfully integrated (an assertion she herself has disavowed), and so on and so forth.
Those of us who have known Najat for some time, by contrast, soon clocked her as that rare thing, a natural born writer. We had not only the evidence of her first book - a beautifully-written, cliché-smashing autobiography called 'Jo també sóc catalana' (2004) - but also the woman herself, with her unfakeable seriousness about writing, her heartfelt recommendations of certain contemporary authors and biting write-offs of others and, above all, the way in which she - like all writers worthy of the name - can pass with equal enthusiasm from book-talk to all kinds of matters non-literary, proof positive she has steered clear of those ivory towers in which much of contemporary Catalan literature is still partially choking on the dust of academe. Najat El Hachmi, for us, is a shot in the arm, a gale of fresh air and a welcome addition to a future which, by the by, is looking up nicely. It is because of this, I suppose, that we find it so easy to clean forget she's an immigrant.