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Mario Vargas Llosa

Has anyone read any of Vargas Llosa's novels?  I am sure I have seen mention of him, but not much in the way of discussion over the years - forgive me if there is an ardent fan here whom I have forgotten about!

I am asking because I have just booked a ticket to go and hear/see him at Warwick Arts Centre in June.  It's a free talk, so I couldn't resist a free chance to hear a Nobel laureate discussing literature.  I have not read any of his books, and am now wondering where to start - probably with what's readily available!  I have ordered The War at the End of the World from the local library, and will get The Feast of the Goat from the university library this evening - they both seem to get good reviews.

I have shied away from him a bit because his novels are quite political in content, and often based on real events, which is not something that appeals to me in a novel - but I will give him a go.  I have downloaded his Nobel lecture, on the importance of literature and specifically fiction, to my Kindle, so that will be a start.

If anyone has read anything, I'd love to hear your views.  The one most familiar to me is Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, which may be a better place to start - the others I've chosen seem quite hard-hitting!

I am sad to say that I missed Mario Vargas Llosa, purely through being slightly under the weather this week - I fell asleep and woke up too late to get the bus to the university.  I do feel sad, as I am sure it was interesting.

But it has at least got me reading his books, and so far I am very much enjoying the experience.  I am reading his novel The War of the End of the World, and have just read his Nobel prize acceptance speech, which is largely about why he thinks reading is important.  I will seek out some quotations, but his view is essentially that literature makes possible things that are not possible in our everyday lives - he says this as a politically-committed South American, where life is often very different from our cosy life here in the UK (can't speak for other countries represented on the board, though I also consider NZ and Canada relatively cosy in comparison with those South American politically-volatile societies!).  He has spent a lot of his life in Europe, primarily in Spain but also in France, and believes he would never have been able to pursue his literary  career in the way that he has without this European exposure.  So his view of exploring the potential of life through literature, even when we can't live it ourselves, is more meaningful than it might be for those of us with endless opportunities and a relatively stable and wealthy society.  Though, of course, most of us still live pretty mundane lives - he seems to think there is not much that is exciting in real life, but for me, much of my mundane life is wonderful - there is so much to enjoy and explore and experience and for me the small things (changes in weather, watching the seasons, just watching the sky) are hugely exciting.

But I do take his point about the way in a novel you can go further than you often can in real life.  This may in part explain the love of magical realism in Latin America - this sense that literature is a means of exploring even beyond the bounds of rational possibility.  And of course there is also the vastness of the landscape, the remote areas where all sorts of communities could be living, away from the more urbanised areas - it all feeds the imagination and offers inspiration for a novelist.

One quote I loved was where he lamented how much in his native Peru had been spent on arms, when it could have been spent on 'schools, libraries and hospitals' - I love the fact that he puts libraries up there with schools and hospitals.  It reminded me of David Attenborough on Desert Island Discs, horrified at what is happening to libraries in the UK, because he felt a huge part of his education came about through regular visits to the library where he would borrow books on things he hadn't a clue about, and sometimes they ended up being of no interest but it was all part of his exploration of the world, which would not have been possible in any other way.

Anyway, will seek out a few more quotes, as there are some interesting nuggets in the lecture, and will report back properly on The War of the End of the World when I have finished it.

I'm pretty sure that I have read 'The War of the End of the World' at some point - at least I have an obviously read copy on my bookshelf, and I can't think of any other family member who would have read it. It's just I can't remember a single thing about it. My trouble is, I have difficulty distinguishing between the South Americans, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (I can actually remember reading at least three of his!) et al. They all seem to blend into a single, rather strange narrative. My failing, not theirs, but there it is.

Sorry to hear that you missed the lecture, though, I'm sure you would have enjoyed it. I hope your extended nap has put you back on the road to feeling a whole lot better!

They do all have a very similar narrative style - even Louis de Bernieres' South American novels have the same flavour!  MVL is not a magical realist, as far as I can tell, unlike Marquez (who remains supreme for me).  But there is still a sort of quirkiness...not quite the right word, but it is a storytelling style that seems to suggest something unreal even though it isn't!  And in fact is based on true historial events.  It's lovely.  I am not sure MVL would choose that word!  I just love this style of writing.

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