From Alexandria to Oxford, award-winning author Irene Vallejo offers an enthralling history of the written word with Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World, translated by Charlotte Whittle.
Long before books were mass produced, those made of reeds from along the Nile were worth fighting and dying for. Journeying along the battlefields of Alexander the Great, beneath the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius, at Cleopatra's palaces and the scene of Hypatia's murder, Vallejo chronicles the excitement of literary culture in the ancient world, and the heroic efforts that ensured this impressive tradition would continue.
Weaved throughout are fascinating stories about the spies, scribes, illuminators, librarians, booksellers, authors, and statesmen whose rich and sometimes complicated engagement with the written word bears remarkable similarities to the world today: Aristophanes and the censorship of the humourists, Sappho and the empowerment of women's voices, Seneca and the problem of a post-truth world.
Read it? Let us know what you think on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #HBOTM.
How travelling booksellers spread literature throughout Ancient Greed, Literary Hub
How books built the world, The Guardian
Irene Vallejo is the author of two novels, three collections of essays, articles, and short fiction, and two children’s books. She earned her doctorate from the Universities of Zaragoza and Florence. Papyrus was awarded the National Essay Prize and the Critical Eye Prize for Narrative in Spain, and it will be published in thirty countries. Vallejo is a regular columnist for El País and Heraldo de Aragón.
Charlotte Whittle has translated works by Norah Lange, Silvia Goldman, Jorge Comensal and Rafael Toriz, among others. Her translations, essays and reviews have appeared in publications including Mantis, The Literary Review, The Los Angeles Times, Guernica, Electric Literature, BOMB, and the Northwest Review of Books. Originally from England and Utah, she has lived in Mexico, Peru and Chile, and is now based in New York. She is an editor at Cardboard House Press, a bilingual publisher of Spanish and Latin American poetry.
Hay Festival's Book of the Month is our monthly recommendation of a book we love and think holds particular resonance. This is our chance to celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry year-round.
Throughout the month, we'll share interesting links and articles relating to our selection on social media using #HBOTM and invite you all to get involved with your questions and comments.
If you'd like to recommend a book for consideration, please share on social media using #HBOTM.