Mario Vargas Llosa Interview: Literature Makes Citizens Critical

Enjoy this video with Peruvian Nobel Prize-winner Mario Vargas Llosa (b.1936). He here talks about his literary beginnings and about the inherent power good literature has to make readers aware of another reality: “What we call civilisation is a process that started with this dissatisfaction with the world as it is.”

Vargas Llosa, who is considered one of the leading writers of his generation, feels that the origin of his literary vocation can be found in his early love of reading. He good-humouredly adds that reading authors such as Victor Hugo (1802-1885) gave him the idea that “a very good novel is a very large novel.” When he began writing in the early 1950s – greatly influenced by the Existentialists – it was practically unthinkable to consider yourself “only a writer” in Peru, Colombia and Ecuador. Hence, Vargas Llosa studied law, went to Madrid on a scholarship, and eventually organized his life in such a way that he could pursue becoming a writer.

“I think that if you were completely in accordance, in agreement, with the world as it is, you wouldn’t write novels, and probably wouldn’t read novels.” Vargas Llosa believes that novels offer you an experience of a different kind of world: “You discover very rapidly that the real world is always less rich, less profound, less diverse than the world that we were able to fantasize, to invent.” He feels that this is extremely important for society as “the critical spirit of citizens is something that in great part will be resolved by this experience of different worlds that you have reading good literature.” Good literature, he continues, moves society forward: “There is a danger always in literature as becomes evident in all dictatorial, authoritarian, totalitarian regimes. Immediately literature becomes an instrument of resistance, of criticism.” The censorship of literature, Vargas Llosa argues, is precisely what gives you an idea of the importance of it in the political field, and why it is such a vital instrument to defend freedom.

Mario Vargas Llosa (b. 1936) is a Peruvian writer, politician, journalist, essayist and college professor. Many critics consider Vargas Llosa to have had a more considerable global impact than any other writer of the so-called Latin American Boom of the 1960s and 1970s, and his commitment to social change is evident in his novels, plays and essays. Vargas Llosa rose to international fame with novels such as ‘The Time of the Hero’ (La ciudad y los perros) 1963/1966, ‘The Green House’ (La casa verde) 1965/1968, and ‘Conversations in the Cathedral’ (Conversación en la cathedral) 1969/1975. Among his recent novels are ‘The Feast of the Goat’(La fiesta del chivo) 2000/2005, ‘The Bad Girl’ (Traversuras de la niña mala) 2006/2007, and ‘The Neighbourhood’ (Cinco Esquinas) 2016/2018. Vargas Llosa is the recipient several prestigious awards including the Prince of Asturias Award (1986), Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1993), and the Nobel Prize in Literature (2010) “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat.” Moreover, Vargas Llosa has been politically active throughout his career and even ran for president of Peru in 1990.

Mario Vargas Llosa was interviewed by Christian Lund at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in June 2019.

Camera: Simon Weyhe

Produced by: Christian Lund

Edited by: Klaus Elmer

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2019

Supported by Nordea-fonden


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