Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World
Irene Vallejo Interviewed by Peter Kemp
Tuesday, 6 June 2023
Pusey House: Chapel
£7 - £12.50
Spanish historian, writer and philologist Dr Irene Vallejo talks about her global bestseller about the creation of the earliest books and the literary culture of the ancient world.
Papyrus is the story of the book’s journey from oral tradition to scrolls to codices, and how that transition laid the very foundation of Western culture. Vallejo describes how the earliest books made from reeds from the Nile were worth fighting over and dying for and follows the journey of the earliest books from the creation of the Library of Alexandria to the fall of the Roman Empire. Vallejo talks about the spies, scribes, illuminators, librarians, booksellers, authors and statesmen who had a complicated relationship with books and the written word that bears similarities with today. They include Aristophanes and the censorship of humourists, Sappho and empowerment of women’s voices, and Seneca and the problem of a post-truth world.
‘A mindboggling history of the earliest books . . . the story she tells is impressively rip-roaring’ Daily Telegraph
Vallejo won the Spanish national essay prize for Papyrus, which has been published in 30 countries. It also won the Premio Aragón, the highest distinction awarded by the government of Aragon. She is also author of two children’s books, two novels, and three collections of essays, articles, and short fiction. Her writing often mixes discussion of ancient writers with current events. Here she talks to chief fiction reviewer of The Sunday Times Peter Kemp, author of Retroland: A Reader’s Guide to the Dazzling Diversity of Modern Fiction.
The event is part of the festival’s programme of Spanish and Latin American literature and culture.