Competition: Latin America & Caribbean
Since both of my parents were writers I was naturally inclined and started writing at the age of 17 when still at school. In 1962, I went to Cuba to study Philosophy and English Literature at the University of La Habana, thanks to a Cuban government grant.
However, early in 1964 I soon bumped into problems with the Castro régime and had to interrupt my studies and go back to Peru. At that time, I had just published my first poetry book, Consejero del Lobo (The Wolfe’s Advocate), in La Habana that same year, followed by another edition in 1965 in Lima.
In 1968, I married Nadine Caillière, a French resident in Peru and we went to live in Paris where I wrote my second poetry book, Contra Natura, influenced by the student riots of May 1968. In 1971, with that same manuscript, I won the Maldoror poetry contest sponsored by Barral Editores under the chairmanship of the great Mexican poet Octavio Paz.
From then on, I diversified my writings and worked in several other literary genres. I became fascinated with the complete extension of words—aside from poetry itself—and focused on modern literature.
In 1978, Editorial Tusquets published my book Aprendizaje de Limpieza (Lessons in Cleanliness), a testimonial-type novel based on my seven-year-long psychoanalysis in Paris. I also ventured into drama, probably as a result of the influence of Argentine author Oswaldo Dragún’s theatre course I took in La Habana. During that period I wrote two great baroque comedies: Cuadrando el Círculo and Apocalipsis de una noche de verano ( A Midsummer Night’s Apocalypse); the latter was only published many years later, in 1986. In 1983, I went back to Peru and worked as a journalist for many years. I also married my second wife, Ingrid Sipkes, a Dutch-born resident of Peru; we now have three children, a girl and two boys.
In 1986, I won first prize at the Juan Rulfo competition in Paris with my tale “El Benefactor” (The Benefactor), which was finally published several years later in 2002, in Lima, as part of my book Cuentos de Extremo Occidente (Tales from the Far West), together with six other tales of fiction. I continued writing prose and in 1994 published my novel Fata Morgana in Lima. Some critics saw it as a paradigm of postmodern and baroque literature.
In 1997, my comedy Cuadrando el Círculo won the contest “Arte Nuevo” organized by a local commercial firm. The prize consisted of funds to stage the play—with more than thirty actors—and tour with it throughout Peru, from Ecuador’s border to the Main Square in Cusco, as a “roving theatre” (on the back of a transformed Volvo truck), capturing an audience of more than 75,000 people during its long itinerary.
I then went back to preparing scripts for the theatre and wrote Huamán Poma: camina el autor (Waman Poma: the author walks) on the Peruvian Indian chronicler Guamán Poma de Ayala. This play was included in a compilation of my stories and poems called La Extensión de la Palabra (The Extension of the Word), published by Aldus in Mexico in 2003.
Ever since I returned to Peru twenty-five years ago I have specialized in gastronomic journalism. In the 1990s, I wrote an historical essay on that topic, which ended up being a book called Primicias de Cocina Peruana (Hear All About Peruvian Cuisine), published by Spain’s Everest in 2005. This luxury book has won three international prizes so far: the Gourmand Award in 2005, and two second prizes, one from the Gastronomic Academy of Spain in 2006, and the Latino Book Award at New York in 2007.
In 2004, I returned to poetry with Memorial de Casa Grande, published by Lustra Editores, which also published Nudo Borromeo y otros poemas perdidos y encontrados (Borromean knot and other lost and found poems) two years later in Lima. In 2007 the Spanish publisher Editorial Visor issued a collection of my four poetry books entitled Poesía Completa (Complete Poetry), with a foreword by Fernando de Diego, a Spanish scholar at the University of Ottawa.
This is a brief summary of my literary career which started half a century ago. I am convinced that as a result of my Guggenheim Fellowship, I will have the time and resources to produce my poetry project entitled Dioses (The Gods), which explores the relationship of mankind with the gods venerated by different cultures around the world. I have already started to work on this project and I can already claim that it will have a great impact on my future works