The Discreet Hero is now translated into English by Edith Grossman, and The New Yorker has an article by Thomas Mallon,
Mario Vargas Llosa’s imagined lives.
“The Discreet Hero,” an energetic book with a more straightforward narrative method than almost any other Vargas Llosa novel, centers on an extortion plot against the self-made owner of a local transport company, a good man who refuses to pay, and whose son and mistress may be in on the crime. It also brings the return of Don Rigoberto, the irresponsible aesthete through whom Vargas Llosa mentally dodged some of the worst of the Peruvian eighties. Still bemoaning the “barbarism” of the country beneath his window, Rigoberto is now sixty-two and ready to retire from the insurance company. His son, Fonchito, however, is maturing with the same magic-realist slowness as Lituma: he should be easily past thirty but is still no more than fifteen, driving Don Rigoberto and Doña Lucrecia to distraction with tales of an older man who keeps mysteriously appearing to him. The parents finally put their doubts about his story into the hands of a private eye and a shrink; the possibility is even raised that this precocious sexual manipulator may have had a spiritual experience and become an angel.
I haven’t read the translation, but I greatly enjoyed “The Discreet Hero” when it first came out in Spanish. I hope you do, too.
I rarely post about the Old Country, but here we go,
The remains were found at the Convent for the Nuns of the Holy Trinity; authorities are discussing ways to grant public access without disturbing the nuns (link in Spanish).
First came Julio Cortázar, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa. Now César Aira, the late Roberto Bolaño, Jorge Franco, Andrés Neuman, Santiago Roncagliolo and Juan Gabriel Vásquez are ascending:
The so-called boom arose from a confluence of circumstances—Cold War political upheaval, intrepid Latin American publishing houses, hungry international critics prowling for new global talent, an expanding book-buying Latin middle class—that can’t easily be replicated. But if the boom is over, that doesn’t mean that a bust has followed. Here are six post-boom Spanish-language fiction writers whose works continue to redraw the map of Latin literature.
I would also add Roberto Ampuero to the list.
A post for us, lit geeks:
On Valentine’s Day, 1976, in Mexico City, Gabriel García Márquez was photographed showing off a shiner (and possibly a broken nose?):
What is known:
On February 12, 1976,
in a Mexico City movie theater packed with people attending the premiere of a film about the plane crash survivors in the Andes who turned to cannibalism.
At one point Mr. Vargas Llosa rushes up to Mr. García Márquez, who innocently tries to embrace him. Instead Mr. Vargas Llosa decks him, Mr. García Márquez’s blood gushing everywhere.
Of course, there’s plenty of speculation as to why. Photographer Rodrigo Moya, who took the above photo, said in 2007
Some had surmised that the fight may have been over politics, since Mr. García Márquez has always been on the left and Mr. Vargas Llosa at the time had begun to migrate to the right. (He later made an unsuccessful attempt to run for president of Peru in 1990 as a free marketeer.) But, as Mr. Moya explains, the cause was a woman, specifically, Mr. Vargas Llosa’s wife, whom Mr. García Márquez consoled during a difficult period in the marriage.
When I first heard of this, I thought the lady in question was Julia Urquidi, the Aunt Julia of Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, who was the first Mrs. Vargas Llosa, but it must have been the second Mrs. Vargas Llosa, cousin Patricia Llosa (also mentioned in Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter), who has been married to him since 1965.
“There’s a pact between Garcia Marquez and myself (not to talk about it),” Vargas Llosa, 78, said at a meeting of right-wing intellectuals in Caracas when a journalist popped the inevitable question following the Colombian’s death last week.
“He respected it until his death, and I will do the same. Let’s leave it to our biographers, if we deserve them, to investigate that issue.”
Which shows you one can throw a punch, be a great writer, and still come out as a gentleman.
Yes, being pro-democracy and civil rights makes you “right-ring”, in the eyes of Reuters.
Linked to by Babalu. Thank you!
Conferencia de María Blanco, “Libres como dioses: una reflexión libertaria sobre las comedias griegas”
for the Daily Beast:
Why do intellectuals hate democracy? Was Borges a fascist? The contentious 2010 Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa talks to Michael Moynihan about the big questions in literature and politics.
What about the middle way between authoritarianism and dictatorship? I know you have written about Hugo Chavez, for instance, and one can get Mario Vargas Llosa’s books in Caracas.
Oh, but with great difficulty. It is because in Caracas you still have a margin of freedom. But in Cuba—ask that Cuban journalist that is here [at the Oslo Freedom Forum]. He was telling me the way in which I am read in Cuba. It’s fantastic, you know? There are lists of people who want to read a certain book. Some times they are rented, sometimes it’s like a library, from individuals. [Dissident writer] Yoani Sanchez told me that she met her husband because she discovered that he had a novel of mine, The War of the End of the World. So she called him and said, “Is it true that you have a novel by Vargas Llosa?” He said, “Yes, but there is a list. But we can meet.” And they got married. I saw her recently and I said, “Is this story true?” She said, “Of course it is true. That’s why I am interested in what you are writing now. My sentimental future depends on it.”
In open societies you have the impression that you are just enjoying literature, that it won’t have any affect on your life. But literature always has an affect on life, even if it’s not so visible. But when you have a dictatorship, this is so immediately visible. Literature becomes an instrument to resist, to communicate things. And this is so in right-wing dictatorships and in left-wing dictatorships. It becomes a non-conformist activity, reading becomes a risk. It’s very, very important to keep alive this thing that can’t be controlled, because literature can never be totally controlled. Television can. Cinema can.
Read the whole thing.
While you’re at it, buy Vargas Llosa’s books through the above links.
If it’s Tuesday, it must be ignorance and folly day at Memeorandum,
Upcoming NewSouth ‘Huck Finn’ Eliminates the ‘N’ Word
Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a classic by most any measure—T.S. Eliot called it a masterpiece, and Ernest Hemingway pronounced it the source of “all modern American literature.” Yet, for decades, it has been disappearing from grade school curricula across the country, relegated to optional reading lists, or banned outright, appearing again and again on lists of the nation’s most challenged books, and all for its repeated use of a single, singularly offensive word: “nigger.”
“This is not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colorblind,” said [Twain scholar Alan] Gribben, speaking from his office at Auburn University at Montgomery, where he’s spent most of the past 20 years heading the English department. “Race matters in these books. It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century.”
Now I can’t wait to see what Mr. Gribben will come up with the Carolinian play ‘Tis a Pity She’s a Whore, first published in 1633.
To paraphrase Mr. Gribben, “sex matters in these books. It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century”. After Gribben’s done with it, it may get renamed to “Too Bad She’s a Sex Worker”, but that title deplores the choice of occupation, which is not conductive to the worker’s self-esteem.
…Sawyer or Finn, both books are set in a time period when racial tensions were a central part of life and are based, to a large degree, on the racially prejudices that Twain himself encountered as a child growing up in Missouri. This is especially true of Huckleberry Finn where, despite the fact that “the n-word” appears 219 times, it’s fairly obvious that Twain is condemning racial prejudice and that one of the central themes of the book is the process by which Huck discovers that the things he’d been taught by society by blacks were wrong, and that his companion him was, in fact, an heroic figure.Twain’s use of a word that, even in his time, was meant to be insulting and demeaning, was deliberate and removing it because of “sensitivities” seems to me to detract significantly from the overall power of the novel.