CULTURE

Vargas Llosa in Athens for May book fair

The arrival in Greece of the Peruvian novelist, playwright, essayist, journalist and literary critic Mario Vargas Llosa will be one of the high points of the summer. He is coming to Athens on the invitation of the Cervantes Institute (in cooperation with Kastaniotis Publishers) for an exhibition of Spanish-language literature scheduled to take place from May 17-26 at the Pedion tou Areos park in central Athens. As in the rest of the world, Vargas Llosa has been widely published in Greece (mainly by Exandas and Kastaniotis). He is best known for weaving political allegory into his books. Vargas Llosa was born in Arequipa, Peru, in 1936. He attended the Leonico Military Academy from 1950-1952 and then the San Miguel de Piura College and the University of San Marco where he studied law and literature. He received his PhD from the University of Madrid in 1959 on the basis of his thesis on Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His early career was mostly centered on producing literary criticism though he also did a stint as a journalist while still a student. Vargas Llosa moved to Paris in 1959 where he worked as a Spanish teacher, a journalist for Agence France-Presse and broadcaster for Radio Television Francaise. His literary debut came in 1962 with the novel «The Time of the Hero,» a story set in the military academy he had attended as an adolescent. In the period up to 1977, when he moved back to Peru, Vargas Llosa worked as a visiting professor at many American and European universities, married his second wife, Patricia, and had two sons and one daughter. By the end of the dictatorship in Peru in 1980, the writer had a well-established reputation both at home and abroad, winning prestigious prizes such as the Leopoldo Alas (1959), Romulo Gallegos (1967), the National Critics’ award (1967), the Critics’ Annual Prize for Theater (1981), the Prince of Asturias (1986) and the Miguel de Cervantes award (1994). His popularity and political involvement culminated in his becoming the conservative candidate for the 1990 Peruvian presidency, though he was defeated by another political novice, Alberto Fujimori. Vargas Llosa’s visit to Athens will coincide with the Greek publication of his latest novel, «The Feast of the Goat» (translated by Angeliki Alexopoulou for Kastaniotis Publishers), which refers to the Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo and his assassination in 1961. This publication comes just after the recent release in Greek of his novel, «The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto,» and Vargas Llosa will be delivering a lecture on June 3 on the two works, as well as on the course of Spanish-language literature in the past and present. Other events The Cervantes Institute has more in store for Greece though, having invited other prominent artists and critics to the book fair. Among them is 32-year-old Manuel de Prada, one of the most promising new names in Spanish literature, who will arrive just a few days before the opening of the fair to present the Greek edition of his book «The Tempest» at Kastaniotis’s Literature and Arts Center in the central Athenian neighborhood of Exarchia. He will then make another presentation in Thessaloniki. Others include 28-year-old Espido Freire (published in Greek by Enalios), Pedro Zarraluki (Selas-Medussa Publications), poet Juan Carlos Mestre and Luis Mateo Diez, an academic who was awarded with Spain’s National Literature Award, and who is known in Greece from his book «The Fountain of Youth» (Kastaniotis). Joining them at the event will be Angel Viva, literature critic for Spain’s El Mundo daily, as well as representatives from leading Spanish publishing houses such as Seix Barral and Anagrama. At the Pedion tou Areos fair, the National Book Center will also have a special kiosk dedicated to Greek translations of Spanish works, while the Cervantes Institute will be displaying new Spanish publications. This series of events is part of the Cervantes Institute’s new cultural policy, headed in Greece by Natividad Galvez, the institute’s director, and aimed at enhancing cultural ties between Greece and Spain. Cervantes Institute, tel 010.363.4117; Kastaniotis Literature and Arts Center, tel 010.380.2425. Selected works «The Time of the Hero» (1962), «The Green House» (1966), «Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter» (1977), «The War and the End of the World» (1981), «The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta» (1984), «A Writer’s Reality» (1990), «A Fish in the Water» (1993), «Making Waves» (1994), «The Feast of the Goat» (2000) and «Paradise on the Other Corner» (2001).