Spanish writer Irene Vallejo presents the English translation of her book Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World (El infinito en un junco: La invención de los libros en el mundo antiguo, in Spanish) in four places in the United Kingdom: the Hay Festival, the Hereford cathedral, the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival and the Cervantes Institute in London.
«The presence of Irene Vallejo and her essay in the United Kingdom is due to the enormous success that her work is having in this country. It is a work that explores the origins of writing, books and lovers of books, literature, history and reading in an exquisite way,» says the director of the Cervantes Institute in London, Víctor Ugarte.
«This essay is, to a large extent, a tribute to the dazzling tradition of the British essay, capable of interweaving knowledge, and the reader’s seduction with literary writing, emotion and even humour. For this reason, I undertake this journey as a pilgrim towards a genre and a culture that has largely inspired my writing,» adds the author, winner of the 2020 Spain National Essay Award.
Papyrus embarks on an enthralling journey through the history of books and libraries in the ancient world, describing the mysterious origins of writing and the adventure of those who have safeguarded our most valuable stories from destruction and oblivion. As an unexpected publishing phenomenon, it has achieved 50 reprints in Spain, is being translated into 35 languages, published in more than 60 countries, and it has sold more than one million copies worldwide.
Papyrus was awarded with the National Essay Prize, the ‘El Ojo Crítico’ Prize for Best Debut and the Booksellers’ Guild Award in Spain, the Henríquez Ureña Essay Prize in Mexico and the Wenjin Prize from the National Library of China, among others. Published in UK by Hodder & Stoughton and translated into English by Charlotte Whittle, it was a Financial Times, The Economist and Mail on Sunday Book of the Year.
Hay Festival: Sunday, 4 June, 11.30am
Irene Vallejo will be in conversation with The Guardian’s cultural journalist Charlotte Higgins at the prestigious Hay Festival, in Wales, on Sunday 4 June at 11.30 am.
«I live in disbelief and gratitude for the trust of the legendary Hay Festival, who previously invited me to Segovia in Spain and Cartagena de Indias in Colombia. I’m looking forward to the city of books, the territory of the first times, Hay-on-Wye, where it all began and radiated inspiration to other places,» says Vallejo.
More information: bit.ly/vallejohayfestival
Hereford Cathedral: Monday, 5 June, 7 pm
The author will be in conversation with translator Charlotte Whittle, on Monday, 5 June, at 19:00, at Hereford Cathedral, whose library contains the Hereford Mapa Mundi, a marvellous jewel, the largest known medieval parchment map, made around 1300.
«Hereford Cathedral is a magnet for the fabulous treasure it holds, the famous medieval Mappa Mundi, the spiritual cartography of a world where legends and classical knowledge converged with biblical imagery. It will be an honour to be able to talk about the love of books in this place of vibrant traditions,» says Vallejo.
More information: bit.ly/VallejoHerefordCathedral
FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival: Tuesday, 6 June, 6.30 pm
The writer will be speaking at the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival on Tuesday 6 June at 6:30 pm about her bestseller on the creation of early books and the literary culture of the ancient world alongside The Sunday Times head of fiction Peter Kemp.
Vallejo’s event is part of the festival’s programme of Spanish and Latin American literature and culture. Furthermore, it is also an exceptional setting for the author, as she enjoyed a scholarship in Oxford whose adventures ended up becoming an essential chapter of Papyrus, so it is an extraordinary return to a city where, in a way, the seed of this book began to be born.
«I feel immense gratitude to Professor Sir Fergus Millar, a brilliant and outstanding historian, who hosted me from the Oriental Institute. During that stay, I was able to explore the labyrinth of the fabulous Oxonian libraries, almost as if I were a time traveller, returned to mythical Alexandria. That experience, so shocking for the young student I was at the time, ended up being transformed into literary material,» says Vallejo.
More information: https://bit.ly/vallejooxfordliteraryfestival
Instituto Cervantes London: Wednesday, 7 June, 7 pm
Vallejo will also talk about Papyrus on Wednesday, 7 June, at 7:00 pm, in the Luis Cernuda room at the Cervantes Institute in London. It will be a free, hybrid activity in which the author will be accompanied by her English translator, Charlotte Whittle.
«Returning to Oxford and London, the cities where I studied and learned, whose literature inspired me to write Papyrus, has a symbolic dimension for me: a long road of initiation and literature returns me to the place where I began to imagine the possibility of being a writer,» says Vallejo.
Copies of Papyrus, published by Hodder Books, will be available for purchase at the Cervantes Institute in London and will be sold by Romancero Books bookshop.
«I feel deeply moved to present this book at the Instituto Cervantes, where today’s saviours of books work intensely to support and protect Spanish-language literature, with admirable enthusiasm and an unbridled passion for culture», says Vallejo.More information: bit.ly/VallejoPapyrus7june