Academic journal article Romance Notes

The Power of Imagination: Mario Vargas Llosa

Academic journal article Romance Notes

The Power of Imagination: Mario Vargas Llosa

Article excerpt

On March 28, 2008, Peruvian-Spanish writer Mario Vargas Llosa (1936) celebrated his seventy-two birthday. Few days later, on April 10, he was at the Pennsylvania State university to receive the IAH Medal for Distinguished Contributions to the Arts and Humanities. Established in 2006, prior recipients of this prestigious award were Daniel Libeskind (2007) and Salman Rushdie (2006). The title of his acceptance speech was "The Road to Fiction." Based on the title of his talk, I asked my undergraduate students to anticipate what Vargas Llosa's public lecture would be about. Most of them thought he would be speaking about himself, about his experiences as an aspiring writer and about the obstacles he had to overcome to become a consecrated author, considering therefore fiction as the end of the road he took many years before. But Vargas Llosa's words were about fiction not as a destination but as a starting point to the unknown, which is the propelling force of his writing, as the author himself explained in one of his lectures at Syracuse University in 1991: "And that is what I enjoy, that is what I like when I write a book, to discover that something has been pushing me in a direction that I could not expect when I started" ("Discovering a Method" 45).

The words that follow represent a modest and warm homage to a writer who has been--and continues to be--an inexhaustible source of inspiration for students, readers, writers and critics alike. As a telling anecdote, Spanish actor Fernando Guillen Cuervo confessed in a recent interview on Spanish National Radio that he had modeled the role of the diabolic colonel he played in the last James Bond's movie (Quantum of Solace) upon Vargas Llosa's depiction of the ruthless Dominican dictator Leonidas Trujillo in The Feast of the Goat (2000). Vargas Llosa's words and works have been filmed, staged, parodied, praised, discussed and referred to in fictions written by other contemporary Latino American writers. Creator in his own books of unforgettable characters, the author himself shares with Don Quixote the rare privilege of knowing that "he" himself has also become a character in a fictional world. In The Circle of the Murderous Writers (2006), the Peruvian novelist Diego Trelles Paz shapes Vargas Llosa into a character who shares the novelistic space with a group of young aspiring writers eager to kill their artistic forefathers in order to find their own creative voices.

Since his first appearance on the literary stage with the publication of The Cubs and Other Stories (1959), Vargas Llosa has not ceased to be a passionate and committed player in international cultural, political, artistic and intellectual debates.

In a 2000 interview with Cesar Ferreira for the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio, Vargas Llosa spoke of Bill Gates' leaving a meeting where this modern king of the technological era had just promised the members of the Spanish Royal Academy of Science, Arts and Letters, that he wouldn't remove the contested letter "n" from his computer keyboards. Gates confessed that he wanted to accomplish one more grand design before he died: make all books obsolete. Notwithstanding the playful provocation of Gates' death sentence to the printing page, Vargas Llosa doubted the success of such an enterprise arguing that "the act of reading a piece of literature demands a sort of intimacy that disappears when one sits down in front of a computer screen". It is this sense of intimacy that--I firmly believe--we all treasure when we read books: a sense of the forbidden, of the impossible made possible, of breaking the physical, social and moral boundaries that reality imposes on each of us to wander freely in a fictional world of our creation and our choosing. For Vargas Llosa this imaginative freedom, which empowers every individual to be the creator of his or her own world, is the vital force of his writings. To write means to imagine, and to imagine means to reinvent one's life thanks to the magical power of words. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.