Apply for the Michael Jacobs travel writing prize
8 de Noviembre de 2016

Apply for the Michael Jacobs travel writing prize

The Michael Jacobs travel writing prize is open until November 27, 2016. Journalists from any nationality can apply with works in English or Spanish that approach travel journalism in Hispanoamerica or Spain.
Apply for the Michael Jacobs travel writing prize

The Michael Jacobs travel writing prize is open until November 27, 2016. Journalists from any nationality can apply with works in English or Spanish that approach travel journalism in Hispanoamerica or Spain. Apply here or write to dmarquinez(at) for more information.

This fellowship for 5.000 dollars is run jointly by the Gabriel García Márquez Foundation for New Iberoamerican Journalism (FNPI) and the Hay Festival Cartagena de Indias.

The jury - Jon Lee Anderson, Daniel Samper Pizano and Federico Bianchini- will select the winner taking into consideration narrative quality and journalistic depth. 

In the following text, originally published by The Guardian, you can learn more about Michael Jacobs and the legacy this prize seeks to promote. 

The writer and art historian Michael Jacobs, who has died aged 61 of kidney cancer, described himself as a vagabundo literario – and indeed he was of that rare breed, the scholar gypsy. A robust and fearless traveller, while researching The Robber of Memories: A River Journey Through Colombia (2012), he fell into the hands of Farc guerrillas. To repay their "hospitality", he translated some US machine-gun manuals into Spanish before they released him unharmed. He had exhausted them, no doubt, with his maniacal energy and charm.

Michael was born in Genoa, his mother an Italian actor, Mariagrazia Paltrineri, and his father an Anglo-Irish intelligence officer, David Jacobs, later to become a lawyer for the oil industry. The family moved to London, where Michael attended Westminster school.

He went on to take a history of art degree (1971-74) at the Courtauld Institute, London, under Anthony Blunt, whose retirement as director in 1974 came five years before his denunciation as a Soviet spy. Michael was a great admirer of Blunt, who warned him to get his subsequent PhD thesis finished before things started to cut up rough. This degree – for which Blunt still acted as supervisor – took him until 1982, as Michael was writing his first two books, Mythological Painting and Nude Painting (both 1979), teaching art in France, and travelling around Italy on a Vespa getting to grips with Italian art. By the time he gained his doctorate he had developed a refined – and highly iconoclastic – appreciation and understanding of the subject.

Michael wore his considerable erudition as lightly as if it were a cloak of feathers; the elegance and sensibility so evident in his writings on art belie a man whose soul brimmed with madcap humour and zest for the wilder side of life. He devoted much of the energy of his later years to what he saw as making up for lost time, for he had had a rather cerebral upbringing. His mother, for example, "mistrusted spontaneity, even when it came to entertainment, which was limited to Saturday dinner parties, a Friday evening visit to the cinema or theatre, an extremely reduced television diet (mainly nature programmes, political debates and serialisations of fictional classics) and, above all, reading". It is hardly surprising to learn that the family spoke only Latin on Thursdays.

Rarely does one encounter a person with such an insatiable appetite for carousing. And he had the constitution for the task: he would dance, drink and horse about until dawn, and then with an hour or so of sleep be eager to burst upon the adventure of the new day. He was never ill; he never took a pill; and he never suffered from a hangover, airily dismissing the phenomenon, like altitude sickness (to which he also seemed immune), as being "all in the mind".

Michael scraped a living from books, writing 29 in all, and, as he liked to say, "no two with the same publisher", which was almost, but not quite, true. His masterly work  Alhambra (2000) was produced after he had lived within the precincts of the Moorish palace and gardens in Granada for many months. However, with his unerring instinct for skewering himself, Michael was so appalled by the mismanagement he encountered that he told its administrators just what he thought of them. Consequently they refused to allow the book to be sold in the Alhambra bookshop, thus losing him a potential readership of two million visitors a year.

But what would he have done with the money, anyway? He had no car; he never learned to drive. And his home, a lovely house perched like an eyrie above the village of Frailes, in the province of Jaén in Andalucía, was far from opulent, but possessed an exquisite simplicity. It was a home he shared with his life-long partner, Jackie Rae, herself a great storyteller, and his dog Chumberry, and was set among lovingly tended beds of Mediterranean vegetables. It was not until the age of 50 or so that Michael discovered the delights of sharing his life with a dog and the profound pleasures of growing one's own food. He was a wonderful unconventional cook, creating in his kitchen the most dazzling dishes and conserves from his home-grown ingredients. His friends Sam and Sam Clark – Samuel and Samantha, who run Moro restaurant in central London – were also grateful beneficiaries of his knowledge of Spanish gastronomy.

Frailes was the subject of what many see as Michael's finest book, The Factory of Light: Life in an Andalucian Village (2003), in which he made of it his own Macondo – the village of Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. Latterly, after a spate of books on South America, Ghost Train Through the Andes (2006), Andes (2010) and The Robber of Memories (2012), he was focusing once more on Spain, with a book about Velázquez and Las Meninas, the enigmatic painting of the artist himself with members of the royal household. In spite of Herculean efforts it remained unfinished.

We are left with Michael's books on art, books on Spain, and books on his travels throughout South America. His wit and humour come shining through them all, with his lively storytelling, gregariousness, lack of malice and passionate love of life, to remind us of what an incomparable man we have lost.

He married Jackie shortly before his death and she survives him.

• Michael Jacobs, writer and art historian, born 15 October 1952; died 11 January 2014.

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