Demons and Lies: Motivation and Form in Mario Vargas Llosa

By Rebasa-Soraluz, Luis; Chaddick, Larisa | The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Spring 1997 | Go to article overview

Demons and Lies: Motivation and Form in Mario Vargas Llosa


Rebasa-Soraluz, Luis, Chaddick, Larisa, The Review of Contemporary Fiction


Luis Rebaza-Soraluz: In Garcia Marquez: Historia de un deicidio (Garcia Marquez: Story of a Deicide), a book whose circulation--if I am not mistaken--you helped minimize, you developed your theories of "Inner demons" and the "total novel." What course have these ideas taken since then? Could you summarize your understanding of these ideas and explain how you see them now in relation to your narrative poetics?

Mario Vargas Llosa: I continue to believe that the basic ideas expressed in that book, and in other books or essays I have written about the novel, are valid. They are fairly general ideas that do not explain particular cases but that do explain a certain characteristic akin to the genealogy of novels. The point of departure of the novelistic calling, the vocation of creating with words and with the imagination worlds that are distinct from the real world, is born of a certain conflict, some incompatibility with lived experience, that induces a person, in a generally obscure, nonrational manner, to seek out the alternative offered by fiction. The imagination does not work in a vacuum, it is not a gratuitous movement of the spirit, it operates drawing upon that conflict, trauma, interdict, enmity. . . . That difficult relationship with reality, such as it is lived, can be called many things. In any case it is from this that the imagination constructs that parallel world that is fiction. I call all of this "demons," metaphorically. I did not want to use the word trauma so as not to give an orthodox Freudian explanation; nor do I believe that it can be explained as merely stemming from a neurosis. It is a type of conflict that can be infinitely broader than that determined purely pathologically. If there were no basic conflict with reality this vocation would not emerge. This vocation, in my opinion, consists of a rejection of reality and the substitution of another reality re-created in the image of its inventor, drawing from those types of problems or conflicts that I call "demons" because of their obsessive nature. This is a point of departure that establishes an immensely broad common denominator into which practically everything that could create difficulty in adaptation to lived experiences could fit; so you have motives ranging from the most altruistic (the rejection of injustice or social abuse) to the most private or egotistical (not being able to accept an eccentricity or an anomaly) or simply a thirst for the absolute (wanting to live existence more intensely, more fully, going beyond the limits of the human condition). Anyway, that form of rebellion is for me the point of departure for fiction. The originality of a narrative lies not in what it portrays of the real world but rather in what it reforms or adds to it. That is, for me, the specifically literary. The value of fiction is not in its similarity but rather in its dissonance with a reality which it should, nevertheless, represent--in order to obtain recognition identification with the reader. That is what we call fiction: a reality that, without being reality, being distinct and alternative, asserts itself, in the case of successful narratives, due to its power of persuasion, as the real reality, the authentic, secret reality, reflected in literature. It seems to me that this is a valid explanation for all cases, and yet, of course, a generalization; each particular case represents a distinct method, technique, set of problems, and ambition.

LRS: Returning to the idea of the "added element": in The Perpetual Orgy, speaking of Flaubert, you separate description from the anecdote, considering the latter an obligation of novelistic prose. An anecdote is made up of all kinds of experiences, which the author uses unscrupulously. What is important is its organization and its new form; it is here that the "added elements" make the anecdote a fictitious reality, which appears before the reader as a more conceivable reality than the very same reality he himself experiences.

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