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Planeta award-winner Bryce Echenique visits the Cathedral

10/02/2003 The Peruvian writer participated in the ´Encounters with the Cathedral´ cycle, giving a talk on Spanish American churches.

10/02/2003 The Peruvian writer Alfredo Bryce Echenique, recent winner of the Planeta Award, gave a talk on 10th February in Vitoria-Gasteiz at the invitation of the Santa María Cathedral Foundation. This talk, held in the Main Theatre, formed part of the cycle of literary meetings entitled ´Encounters with the Cathedral´.

As has been the case with other writers, Bryce Echenique confessed himself to be fascinated by the restoration work being carried out on the Old Cathedral. ´It´s like a world in itself. It´s like taking a trip back in time, peeling away the different layers and discovering the whims of the past,´ he said at the end of his tour around the cathedral, during which he was accompanied by key members of the Foundation.

For the Peruvian novelist, his visit to Santa María was ´an amazing journey around the inconsistencies of a cathedral´. In this sense, he praised the work carried out by the Foundation, highlighting the fact that, unlike in other places where ´the project is limited to the typical work of architects and master builders´, in Vitoria, the initiative ´involves other professionals such as sociologists, archaeologists and anthropologists´.

The talk, which was attended by over 700 people, was entitled ´Contexts of our America´, and focused on cathedrals in Spanish America. However, the talk also touched on the importance of the steps taken to return Santa María to its former glory. ´The restoration project is now gaining the Cathedral the recognition and prestige that it deserves in both Europe and throughout the rest of the world, despite the terrible mistakes that have been committed during its history,´ he said.

Fifth writer
Echenique, one of the most prestigious contemporary authors writing in the Spanish language, was awarded the Planeta Prize for his novel El huerto de mi amada, a story charting the rite of passage of a young boy living in Lima (where the author grew up) during the fifties and sixties. One day, a 17-year-old boy hears the song Siboney sung by Stanley Black and from that moment embarks on a passionate romance with an older woman.

Bryce Echenique accepted the Foundation´s invitation due to the interest aroused throughout Spain by the talks organised around the theme of Santa María Cathedral. Other writers of international acclaim who have participated in the cycle include Ken Follett, Rosa Regás, Julio Llamazares and Eduardo Mendoza. On this occasion, the talk was held in the Main Theatre, due to the enthusiastic response of the general public. Mario Vargas Llosa will also participate in the cycle at an as yet unconfirmed date.

Alfredo Bryce Echenique was born into a wealthy family of illustrious lineage on 19th February 1939, in Lima (Peru). He studied Arts at the University of San Marcos, and in 1964 journeyed to Paris where he gained his doctorate degree at the Sorbona. He taught for a number of years at both this university and the universities of Vincennes and Montpellier, before moving to and settling down in Madrid.

In 1968 he began his literary career with a book of short stories entitled Huerto cerrado, which was published in the same year and which received a special mention during the Casa de las Américas Competition in Cuba. In 1970 he published his first novel Un mundo para Julius, which met with great acclaim.

His other publications include Tantas veces Pedro (1978), La vida exagerada de Martín Romaña (1981), El hombre que hablaba de Octavia de Cádiz (1985), No me esperen en abril (1995) and the more recent Reo de nocturnidad and La amigdalitis de Tarzán. In all of these, as in his award-winning work, Bryce Echenique combines biographical and fictional elements in a style that is both fluid and amusing.