Mario Vargas Llosa on writing, love, and dictatorships
Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, 2010 Nobel laureate in Literature, spoke to local and foreign journalists, as well as fellow writers, at a press conference organized by Instituto Cervantes Manila at the Ayala Tower on Thursday, November 3.
The former journalist and one-time presidential candidate is in the country for several engagements, including a lecture at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) where he will receive an honorary professorship on November 7, and an event at the De La Salle University (DLSU) where he will be conferred an honorary doctorate on November 8. Llosa had his primary education at a La Salle school in Bolivia.
Writers vs tyrants
Llosa, who writes an opinion column for El Pais, the most widely-circulated newspaper in Spain, nonetheless noted that writers are the natural enemy of tyrants.
"Dictators are right in being suspicious of this kind of activity, because I think this activity develops in societies a critical spirit about the world as it is. Why do you think that all dictatorships have tried to control literature? They have established systems of censorship.
"They have given special laws to put limits to the fantasy world that literature creates because they mistrust very much this activity that is producing stories to replace the real world with the fantasy world of literature."
These insights resonated in the room packed with journalists from a country where national hero Jose Rizal helped spark a revolution for independence with his novels that mirrored real-life oppression. Llosa's own novels, such as The Green House, expose military abuses, the rape culture, and corruption.
He also spoke more about his latest work. “I am writing an essay about liberalism and culture – how liberalism has affected culture in a positive sense in the modern world.” His most recent work, "Cinco Esquinas (Five Corners)" published January this year, which explores the state of Peruvian journalism during the rule of President Alberto Fujimori, whom Llosa challenged as a candidate in the 1990 elections.
A playwright as well as a novelist, Llosa confided that he did not wish his novels be turned into plays as they were expressly written for that medium. He noted that "novels without description are impossible" whereas plays are all about dialogue.