Mar 282014


Today is the birthday (1936) of Jorge Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa, 1st Marquis of Vargas Llosa, Peruvian writer, politician, journalist, essayist, college professor, and recipient of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature. Vargas Llosa is one of Latin America’s most significant novelists and essayists, and one of the leading writers of his generation. Some critics consider him to have had a larger international impact and worldwide audience than any other writer of the wave of Latin American literature that began in the mid-20th century (known as the Latin American Boom), with authors such as Octavio Paz, Julio Cortázar, Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez and Carlos Fuentes.. Upon announcing the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy said it had been given to Vargas Llosa “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat.” Vargas Llosa is currently a visiting professor at the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University.

Vargas Llosa rose to fame in the 1960s with novels such as The Time of the Hero (La ciudad y los perros, literally The City and the Dogs, 1963/1966), The Green House (La casa verde, 1965/1968), and the monumental Conversation in the Cathedral (Conversación en la catedral, 1969/1975). He writes prolifically across an array of literary genres, including literary criticism and journalism. His novels include comedies, murder mysteries, historical novels, and political thrillers. Several, such as Captain Pantoja and the Special Service (1973/1978) and Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1977/1982), have been adapted as feature films.

Many of Vargas Llosa’s works are influenced by his perception of Peruvian society and his own experiences as a native Peruvian. Increasingly, however, he has expanded his range, and tackled themes that arise from other parts of the world. In his essays, Vargas Llosa has criticized nationalism in different parts of the world, among others, in Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia. Another change over the course of his career has been a shift from a style and approach associated with a rather conventional and serious literary modernism, to a more playful postmodernism.

I could give you a load of erudite drivel about Vargas Llosa, but I am not going to.  Go and read his novels.  Instead I am going to give you a few quotes that I find inspiring followed by a couple of favorite Peruvian recipes.  I’m very fond of Peru and Peruvian cooking.  This first quote is my absolute favorite.  Some of the quotes are in translation and some in Spanish.  No apologies. The ones in Spanish are untranslatable.

There is one thing I am sure of amid my many uncertainties regarding the literary vocation: deep inside, a writer feels that writing is the best thing that ever happened to him, or could ever happen to him, because as far as he is concerned, writing is the best possible way of life, never mind the social, political, or financial rewards of what he might achieve through it.

Las mentiras machacadas día y noche se vuelven verdades.

In my case, literature is a kind of revenge. It’s something that gives me what real life can’t give me – all the adventures, all the suffering. All the experiences I can only live in the imagination, literature completes.

Memory is a snare, pure and simple; it alters, it subtly rearranges the past to fit the present.

Writers are the exorcists of their own demons.

No matter how ephemeral it is, a novel is something, while despair is nothing.

Es más fácil imaginar la muerte de una persona que la de cien o mil…Multiplicado, el sufrimiento se vuelve abstracto. No es fácil conmoverse por cosas abstractas.

Cuando creí que iba a perder la razón ante tanto sufrimiento. Así descubrí que un ser humano no puede vivir sin creer.

The secret to happiness, at least to