Archive for the ‘literature’ Category

En español: “Libres como dioses: una reflexión libertaria sobre las comedias griegas”

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Conferencia de María Blanco, “Libres como dioses: una reflexión libertaria sobre las comedias griegas”

Michel Moynihan interviews Vargas Llosa

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

for the Daily Beast:

The Politics of Literature: An interview with Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa

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. Thats 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.

After what they’re doing to Mark Twain, I can’t wait to see what they do to John Ford’s play

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

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.

Doug Mataconis,

…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.


Are the Nobels becoming relevant?

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

In the natural sciences, the Nobel Prize committees have been awarded to people who have done meaningful work that changed the study of science; however, in literature and the “peace” categories, they have shown themselves totally irrelevant.

This year marks a change:
First, with the Nobel in Literature,
Vargas Llosa and the Value of Literature
His work is a rebuttal to those who believe that fiction exists on the periphery of history and politics.

As Mr. Vargas Llosa wrote in his 2001 essay about literature, “Nothing better protects a human being against the stupidity of prejudice, racism, religious or political sectarianism, and exclusivist nationalism than this truth that invariably appears in great literature: that men and women of all nations and places are essentially equal.”

Vikram Seth:

This year’s citation for Vargas Llosa says that he got the prize for “his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat.” This points to a focus on individual rights which is central both to simple humanitarianism and also — though European Leftists would disagree — market-led neoliberalism.

In making this choice, for this reason, the Academy seems to have done just what is expected of it, which is not to go by rumours and prejudices, but to look at the work itself. And as an example of why Vargas Llosa is fascinating, there is not just all his considerable body of work over the years, but also his most recent book, published this year, which has not been translated from Spanish, but whose subject matter signals its exceptional interest.

The selection of Liu Xiabo for Peace Prize is even more striking:
China is furious, making this onerous statement,

In recent years, relations between China and Norway have maintained favorable development, which is in the basic interests of the two countries and their people. The Nobel committee’s award to Liu Xiaobo is completely contrary to the objective of the Nobel Peace Prize, and will bring harm to the China-Norway relationship.

The Chinese government has also forced Liu Xiabo’s wife out of her home in Beijing, and blanked Nobel Prize searches:

Text-messaging on mobile phones is not immune from censors, either. A Shanghai-based netizen, @littley, tweeted his unfortunate experience: “My SIM card just got de-activated, turning my iPhone to an iPod touch after I texted my dad about Liu Xiaobo winning the Nobel Peace Prize.”


Walking along Cortázar

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

I have the honor and the pleasure of being one of the inaugural writers for Latineos, a website on Latin American and Caribbean culture and arts.

Please visit Latineos, and read my article, Walking along Cortázar .

Walking along Cortázar

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

I have the honor and the pleasure of being one of the inaugural writers for Latineos, a website on Latin American and Caribbean culture and arts.

Please visit Latineos, and read my article, Walking along Cortázar .


Jules’s Adolescent Angst-Free Curriculum

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Jules Crittenden has come up with a great idea, the Adolescent Angst-Free Curriculum

I’m thinking a kid could get his or her thoughts provoked, learn about things worth angsting over, how deal with a lot of angst and alienation issues in a practical way just like bbmoe said, without wallowing in a lot of “I hate my parents” and victimhood culture.

He starts with Romeo and Juliet, and his curriculum includes the Zeffirelli film

With the 1968 Olivia Hussey flick. I recall finding her dumbstrikingly hot when I saw it in class at age 15. I could sit around listening to “prithees” and “forsooths” and convoluted Elizabethan gobbledegook all day. Haven’t seen the newer R&J remakes, but if they don’t have a pole-axingly, gobsmackingly hot Juliet, it’s a waste of time.

I have fond memories of the film, about which I posted three years ago, so here’s the original trailer.

In addition to the list of books Jules proposes for the Adolescent Angst-Free Curriculum, I would add John Glasworthy’s Indian Summer of a Forsyte, which is part of The Forsyte Saga, and Anthony Trollope’s Doctor Wortle’s School.

What would you suggest for an Adolescent Angst-Free Curriculum?

Benedetti and the south: 15 Minutes on Latin America

Monday, May 18th, 2009

In today’s podcast at 11AM Eastern:

A few words on Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti and El sur también existe.

Kimball on Pinter

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

I’m still sick and just started on antibiotics, but here’s a post which elucidates my own attitude on Harold Pinter: Unpleasant thoughts about Harold Pinter, by Roger Kimball.

Over the years I managed to subject myself to hours of Pinteresqueness, and after a while decided that the only thing that made them bearable was the performances of a few of the actors, most notably Alan Bates in The Caretaker, and Jeremy Irons in Betrayal. Beyond that, count me among the many who,

reacted to the Swedish Academy’s latest flirtation with absurdity by quoting the English wit who, writing about Harold Pinter’s plays, observed that Pinter was “a man of few words, most of them silly.” There was a lot of sniggering when Stockholm announced Pinter as the winner of the prize for literature. But there was also a certain anger, a certain outrage. If nothing else, Harold Pinter has done us the service of demonstrating that the silly is by no means at odds with the malevolently deranged. R.I.P.

Will the Nobel Prize for Literature rise above politics, ever?

Last night’s Poetry Slam

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

My friend Jane asked for a Poetry Slam podcast, and I gladly agreed. You can listen to the podcast here.

Siggy and Richard Fernandez, and callers Zen and Shiva joined in.

Jane read To Be Invisible in the 21st Century, Siggy read The Soldier by Rupert Brooke (who, as Richard mentioned died of a mosquito bite), and Shiva and Zen read their own poetry. Richard recited Phillippine prison poetry in Tagalog and English,

Lumipas ang panahon
Unti-unting nalalagas and dahon ng kalendaryo
Ang limutin kita ay hindi ko magagawa
Ang limutin mo ako ikaw ang bahala

Time fleets by
The leaves of the calendar fall
You always will forget me
Though I cling to your ghost
Like a pall

We had such a good time that Jane asked for more, so we’ll be back next Friday at 7PM Eastern. Join us!