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.