Thursday, October 14, 2010

All The More Reason to Read the Nobel Laureate

"Swedish leftists are outraged that Mario Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize for literature, because he isn’t ‘one of us,’" reports Johan Norberg — Don’t give him the Nobel – he’s right-wing!

"People who never voiced any concerns about the politics of other Nobel Prize winners – like Wisława Szymborska, who wrote poetic celebrations of Lenin and Stalin; Günter Grass, who praised Cuba’s dictatorship; Harold Pinter, who supported Slobodan Milošević; José Saramago, who purged anti-Stalinists from the revolutionary newspaper he edited – thought that the Swedish Academy had finally crossed a line," writes the author. "Mario Vargas Llosa’s politics apparently should have disqualified him from any prize considerations. He is after all a classical liberal in the tradition of John Locke and Adam Smith."

But, of course the Nobel Prize for literature is awarded for literature, not politics or economics, and Mr. Norberg reminds us that "novels like The Feast of the Goat and The War of the End of the World [which this blogger began reading a few minutes after the prize was announced] are the kind of ambitious stories that are not told any more, in a time when most writers don’t have the patience to share anything other than their favourite bars and their tragic love lives." Mr. Norberg continues:
    At his best, Vargas Llosa is the literary world’s answer to string theory scientists: he deals with more dimensions than the rest of us can experience with our senses. Like Victor Hugo, he captures a whole era or a country’s tragedy in a few chapters, but like the best thriller writers he also keeps us in suspense with dramatic plots. And he also manages a huge number of characters, like the great Russian writers – characters whose relations, conversations and inner developments make up the real stage for the story.

    Vargas Llosa jumps back and forth between these dimensions, changes narration and time, to tell the same story from different angles, to make it more whole but also more complex. It’s technically complex, but easily accessible and readable, even unputdownable. He can make lightweight subjects seem serious and important, and he can write about misery and tragedy in a humorous, ironic way.

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Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

Don't forget that he writes in Spanish, a magnificent language that the global literati, so entranced by the blandishments of French and Russian and other such tongues, consistently under-appreciate.

1:06 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Indeed. I'm attempting to read it in the original, after about 15 years of not reading a novel in Spanish.

1:17 PM  
Blogger xavier said...


You'll enjoy La guerra del fin del Mundo. I have it and really liked it.I also have Vol 2 of his essay collection Contra Viento y Maria as well as a Catalan copy of Lletra de batalla per Tirant lo Blanc.

My only irritation with him is that he dismisses the regional nationalism of SPain as a nusiance and an affront to universalism. Of course Claudio Veliz concluding chapter of the Centralist tradition of Latin America via a vis the polyglot Latin Americans and the ordinary monolingual one still holds.

I do wish he'd show more appreciation of the Catalans, Baques and Gallegos rather than acting like a 19th century civil governor whos affronted that not everyone in the remote villages of Catalunya speak or even understand Spanish.

3:18 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

It's been a great read thus far. Sorry and surprised to hear about his dismissal of regionalism.

7:18 AM  

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