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A Companion to Mario Vargas Llosa

A Companion to Mario Vargas Llosa

Series: Monografías A
Volume: 331
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    A Companion to Mario Vargas Llosa
    Book Description:

    This companion to the work of Peruvian Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa traces his fictional and non-fictional writing throughout the different phases of a career spanning more than fifty years. His lifelong dedication to literature goes hand in hand with his commitment as a public intellectual, a role that frequently involves him in controversy. Against the backdrop of Vargas Llosa's political and intellectual development this study brings out the continuities and interrelations that give unity and coherence to a diverse body of work. It highlights the thematic concerns that re-emerge at different points in his writing and link Vargas Llosa's journalism and essays with his fiction: the effects of social ills on the individual, the nature of fiction, and the importance of literature for society. The novels at the centre of his work combine passionate storytelling with technical complexity and an often playful experimentation with genres. This book not only provides a comprehensive overview of Vargas Llosa's writing in the context of his intellectual biography, but looks in detail at each individual work, summarizing contents and analyzing the interplay of form, language, and meaning. A bibliography and suggestions for further reading complement this Companion which will serve the general reader as much as the undergraduate and scholar. Sabine Köllmann is an independent academic writer living in London.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-203-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-8)

    The Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa is one of the major Latin American literary figures of the last five decades. A prolific writer, he has so far published sixteen novels,¹ some shorter narrative works, eight plays, a children’s book, five major critical studies of other writers, and a large number of essay collections concerning literature, politics and wider social and intellectual issues, many of which derive from the journalistic work that he has always pursued in parallel with his fictional writing. From the beginning of his career, literature and politics were two sides of his vocation as a writer that...

  5. Part 1: A Lifetime of Reading and Writing

    • 1 Two Sides of a Vocation: Writer and Intellectual
      (pp. 11-21)

      When news of the Nobel Prize reached Mario Vargas Llosa in New York, it found him doing what he has done all his life: reading and writing. That autumn, he was teaching two courses on fiction at Princeton University and had started his day early to prepare a class on the importance of point of view in fiction, which he was going to illustrate with examples from Alejo Carpentier. He later described how, during those early hours, the rereading ofEl reino de este mundo[The Kingdom of this World] (1949) had worked its magic on him.¹ But that fateful...

    • 2 Truth and Lies: Literary Theory and Criticism
      (pp. 22-43)

      A large number of essays, lectures and interviews in which Vargas Llosa explores his understanding of literature bear witness to his continuous interest in the theoretical aspects of literary creation. To name just a few landmark texts: in 1966 he delivered the programmatic lectureLa novela[The Novel],¹ an exposition of his ideas about novel writing; a year later he declared that ‘literature is fire’, elaborating on the rebellious nature of fiction in his famous Rómulo Gallegos Prize speech;² the critical study ofGarcía Márquez. Historia de un deicidio[History of a Deicide], published in 1971,³ begins with a definition...

    • 3 Journalism and Essays: from Art to Politics
      (pp. 44-78)

      Vargas Llosa’s literary criticism is complemented by his keen interest in other art forms. In his newspaper column ‘Piedra de toque’ [Touchstone],¹ which appears inEl Paísand is licensed to other newspapers internationally, he regularly discusses cultural issues arising from, for example, attending a theatre production or a concert, watching a film or visiting an art exhibition.² Sometimes his curiosity is aroused by an interesting piece of writing, such as Hayden Herrera’s biography of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo which he mentions in an article about an exhibition of the artist’s work.³ It is striking to what extent the...

  6. Part 2: The Narrative Work

    • 4 Prelude: Los jefes (1959)
      (pp. 81-85)

      The collection of short stories, published in 1959 under the titleLos jefes[The Leaders],¹ was Mario Vargas Llosa’s first literary publication in book form. English versions ofLos jefesare usually published in conjunction with his only other piece of short narrative,Los cachorros[The Cubs] (1967),2 under the titleThe Cubs and Other Stories.³ But while he regardsLos cachorrosas a mature piece of writing, Vargas Llosa characterizes the stories that make upLos jefesas ‘youthful transgressions’ inspired by Hemingway’s ‘stylistic abstinence and objectivity’, a ‘handful of survivors out of the many I wrote and tore...

    • 5 Experimenting with Form and Language: Narratives of the 1960s and 1970s
      (pp. 86-149)

      Vargas Llosa wrote his debut novel while living in Europe with his first wife Julia, whom he had married in 1955 when he was still a teenager. After spending the year 1959 at the Complutense University in Madrid, where he held a bursary for a doctoral research project on modernism, the grant ran out and the couple moved to Paris.¹ Despite holding several jobs simultaneously in order to keep himself afloat, he found time to work on his first novel which had the working titles ‘La morada del héroe’ [The House of the Hero] and ‘Los impostores’ [The Impostors]. In...

    • 6 Towards the Total Novel: La guerra del fin del mundo (1981)
      (pp. 150-168)

      Published in 1981,La guerra del fin del mundo[The War of the End of the World]¹ is in many regards the central work of Vargas Llosa’s oeuvre. The novel shows important continuities of motif and technique with the works published so far, but combines them with major new concerns that have evolved out of Vargas Llosa’s intellectual, artistic and political development during the 1970s, concerns which will remain important in all of his later fiction. The ‘demons’ that have shaped his writing since the beginning of his career are present inLa guerrain the form of religion and...

    • 7 Experimenting with Genres: Novels of the 1980s and After
      (pp. 169-212)

      In 1984 Vargas Llosa publishedHistoria de Mayta,¹ a novel whose title alludes to the ambiguous relationship between story and history that was a crucial theme inLa guerra del fin del mundo. The English translation appeared under the titleThe Real Life of Alejandro Mayta,² for lack of an equivalent of the dual meaning of the Spanish ‘historia’. Vargas Llosa put it on record that he was unhappy with the English title, and unhappy with the reception of his book as a political novel. Although he initially commented widely on the political meaning of the novel in his interviews...

    • 8 Interlude: the Demons of Literature and Politics (El pez en el agua, 1993)
      (pp. 213-222)

      When I met Mario Vargas Llosa in November 1991 at the Wissenschaftskolleg [Institute for Advanced Study] in Berlin and had the chance to put some questions to him about literature and politics,¹ he had already published an account of his unsuccessful bid for the Peruvian presidency in the English journalGranta² and was working on an extended version of that essay, planned as a book-length memoir of the political campaign leading up to his defeat in the second round election in June 1990. HisGrantaessay was appropriately named ‘A Fish out of Water’, tracing the phase of his life...

    • 9 The Return of the Grand Design: La Fiesta del Chivo (2000), El Paraíso en la otra esquina (2003) and El sueño del celta (2010)
      (pp. 223-276)

      Despite the interesting and varied nature of Vargas Llosa’s experimentation with different novelistic genres, none of the works discussed in chapter 7 can compare withLa guerra del fin del mundo[The War of the End of the World],¹ his central novel of 1981 which best embodies what he calls his ‘totalizing ambition’, the will to confront a complex reality with its fictional recreation on an equally grand scale. The publication ofLa Fiesta del Chivo[The Feast of the Goat]² twenty years later marked a return to the project of the total novel, followed in 2003 byEl Paraíso...

  7. Part 3: Works for the Theatre

    • 10 Life’s Dreams: the Storyteller on Stage
      (pp. 279-301)

      Vargas Llosa had his first success as a writer of fiction with the playLa huida del inca[The Inca’s Escape] which he wrote in 1951, aged fifteen. Encouraged by his uncle he submitted it to a contest of children’s plays organized by the Ministry of Education and won second place. In 1952, his school in Piura gave him the chance to put on a performance of this play at the Teatro Variedades under his own direction. Vargas Llosa fondly recalls the exciting process of bringing a piece of writing to life on the stage, even though he dismisses the...

    (pp. 302-305)
    (pp. 306-317)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 318-325)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 326-326)