Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Vargas Llosa speaks about his craft

"It's not the story--it's the way in which the story is presented." --Mario Vargas Llosa

Mario Vargas Llosa recently sat down with Tom McCarthy to discuss his craft in an interview for The Daily Star (Lebanon). The report opens with a discussion of the novel The Feast of the Goat, which is about Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. I actually read that book a while back. On the one hand, I found it a bit on the long side. On the other hand, I just kept at it because there was a story there, a story that Vargas Llosa weaves out of history and fiction. Vargas Llosa is upfront in saying that "probably the details that are in my book are not exactly the details that were in Trujillo's life. But he had this problem with his bladder, as many old people have. . . Not everything that happens in my book happened during the Trujillo regime, but it all could have happened." And that is why I stuck with the book and overall enjoyed it.

Vargas Llosa at the time of the article is visiting Beirut as part of a speaking engagement, which is sponsored by the Cervantes Institute (link leads to page in Spanish). The Peruvian writer says that each story is different, that it depends on what you need to tell. He talks about the influence of William Faulkner in his work. Personally, I dislike Faulkner, but I have read enough of Faulkner's work to have a sense of what Vargas Llosa means. In the end, I think these writers bring to life something universal yet so unique. Vargas Llosa describes a little of Faulkner's work The Hamlet to make his point. He then says, "It's not the story. It's the way in which the story's presented, the way in which he [Faulkner] creates a context that can transform this stupid thing into something very tragic in which the human condition is expressed." Now that is some powerful stuff.

Further on, the writer describes how fiction can be a catalyst for rebellion and action. He then comments on his more recent novel, The Way to Paradise (2003), ending on a hopeful note that nations can, if they do things right, become modern and democratic. The brief interview is worth reading to get a glimpse of this great writer's mind and craft. Which reminds me, I need to read that new book.

A hat tip to the Literary Saloon.

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