nys writers logo


NYS Writers Institute, October 14, 2011
1:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Panel Discussions and Readings | Standish Room, Science Library


A celebration of Gonzalo Torrente Ballester (1910-1999), major Spanish author and former Distinguished Professor at the University at Albany (1966-1972), will be held on October 14, 2011, 1:30-5:00 p.m., in the Standish Room, Science Library, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. Later that same day, there will be a screening of two films in Page Hall on the downtown campus— GTB x GTB (2009), a short documentary about the author’s life, and El Rey Pasmado (1991, Spanish only), a feature film based on his novel of the same name. The events are free and open to the public, and are cosponsored by UAlbany’s Office of International Education, University Libraries, the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, and the New York State Writers Institute.

The famed Spanish novelist Gonzalo Torrente Ballester found creative refuge at the University at Albany in the 1960s, where he came to escape the heavy hand of censorship under General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. Torrente Ballester (1910-1999) joined the department of Romance Languages and Literatures at UAlbany in 1966 as a Distinguished Professor. He stayed until 1972 in what would prove to be a period of unparalleled creativity for him.

As part of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Torrente Ballester’s legacy will be honored on October 14 from 1:30 to 5 p.m. in the Science Library’s Standish Room. Torrente Ballester will be recognized with a mini-symposium and series of readings sponsored by the Office of International Education and the New York State Writers Institute.

At Albany, Torrente Ballester began to write what would become his “fantastic trilogy” of novels, widely viewed as his greatest works: La saga/fuga de J.B. (1972), Fragmentos de apocalipsis (1977), and La isla de los jacintos cortados (1980). La saga/fuga de J.B., considered by many critics as his masterpiece, was conceived and created in Albany. Nobel Prize winner José Saramago said of this novel: “Until now, there was a vacant place next to Miguel de Cervantes, a place that has just been filled by Gonzalo Torrente Ballester.” Torrente Ballester was awarded the Cervantes Prize, which each year honors the lifetime achievement of a writer in the Spanish language from any nation. While in Albany, Torrente Ballester also finished another novel, Off-Side (1969). Portions of his non-fiction book, Cuadernos de un vate vago (1982), also include narratives on New York State.

Vice Provost for International Education Ray Bromley said Torrente Ballester had a special relationship with the University at Albany that is reflected in his works.  “Las Isla de los jacintos cortados is an award-winning novel that begins on our campus, features some real professors and students – some named, some with pseudonyms – and focuses on a love triangle featuring a scholar who claims to have proof that Napoleon never existed,” noted Bromley.

Films on Torrente Ballester and his work will be shown Oct. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in Page Hall on the downtown campus. A documentary on Torrente Ballester, GTB x GTB (Spain, 2009) and El Rey Pasmado [The Dumbfounded King] (In Spanish) based on an adaptation of his 1989 novel, will be shown as part of the New York State Writers Institute Film Series.

The Torrente Ballester events are occurring in tandem with the opening of the University Libraries exhibit, The Worlds of Gonzalo Torrente Ballester in Albany, N.Y., October 14 – January 12 at the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives in the Science Library, third floor. 

“Of special importance are his diaries and the two typescripts of his novel Don Juan,” said curator Jesus Alonso-Regalado. The collection also contains first editions of Torrente Ballester’s works, many of which were signed by the author.

The exhibition is being shown in collaboration with the Gonzalo Torrente Ballester Foundation, a research center in Spain established to protect and disseminate his work.

Alvaro Torrente Sanchez-Guisande

Alvaro Torrente Sanchez-Guisande, the son of Gonzalo Torrente Ballester, speaks at the mini-symposium and series of readings sponsored by the Office of International Education and the New York State Writers Institute.

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.