Alonso Cueto [ Peru ]
Alonso Cueto was born in Lima, Peru, in 1954. He studied at the Universidad Católica de Perú, and graduated in 1977. He lived in Madrid teaching English and travelled through Europe until 1979. In that year he went on to do a Master’s and Ph.D. at the University of Texas in Austin, which he received in 1984. His doctoral thesis dealt with the subject of age and the city in the stories of the Uruguayan writer Juan Carlos Onetti. Cueto’s first publication, a collection of short stories entitled »La batalla del pasado« (1983; t: Last Year’s Battle), is said to have echoes of Henry James due to its focus on the lives of cosmopolitan Peruvian exiles in Europe and the United States. It has also been called one of the most important books in modern Peruvian literature. Much of his work, however, focuses on the middle classes of Lima, whom he soon turned towards as the main source for his subject matter. His characters went from being nostalgic and contemplative, to lively and quotidian, more in the tradition of Raymond Carver than that of Julio Ramón Ribeyro and Mario Vargas Llosa, whose works depicted the burgeoning middle class as both heroic and somewhat pathetic. Cueto emerges as more of a neo realist, searching for signs of simple humanity within the humdrum of daily life. He has said that the greatest aspiration for any writer is to give life to a character. He has also said, in another interview, that it is in the profound simplicity of Cervantes where he feels most at home – his own tone is often understated. Cueto has won several distinctions for his literary work, among them the Anna Seghers Prize for his oeuvre (Berlin 2000) and a grant from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2002). His first novel, »El tigre blanco« (t: The White Tiger), won the Premio Wiracocha in 1985. The jury consisted of Mario Vargas Llosa, Julio Ramón Ribeyro and Blanca Varela. His most recent novel, »Grandes miradas« (2003; t: Big Views), is set during the final months of President Fujimori’s dictatorship, and tells the true story of a judge assassinated in the year 2000 for his refusal to succumb to corruption. Another character drawn from real life is Vladimiro Montesinos, former spy chief and Fujimori’s closest advisor, said to have ordered the execution. In the novel, the murdered judge’s girlfriend vows to avenge his death by killing Montesinos. The novel ends with the government’s downfall, but not before many intrigues and unexpected twists have transpired. Cueto is currently a columnist on the daily newspaper »Peru 21« as well as Professor of Journalism at the Peruvian University of Applied Sciences in Lima. He also conducts a programme of writing workshops at the Centro Cultural of the Universidad Católica de Perú.
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