Vargas Llosa: “I learned to compensate the lack of talent with discipline, perseverance and patience”


By Juan Cruz/El País
Adapted by Jorge Riveros Cayo

Vargas Llosa: “I learned to compensate the lack of talent with discipline, perseverance and patience”
Peruvian Nobel Prize, Mario Vargas Llosa, answers questions of journalists from around the world during his first official day in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo: EFE)

Incredible as it sounds, Mario Vargas Llosa was nervous today, Monday, when he offered a press conference at noon for journalists of around the world who had flied all the way to below zero, freezing Stockholm, to know about him, about his opinions and his state of mind during his first official day of his week as the 2010 Nobel Prize of Literature.

When he arrived to the same hall where the Swedish Academy had announced, two months ago, this year’s Nobel Prize winners, it took him a bit of effort to smile as photographers requested him, especially from Peru.

“Those cameras are so intimidating!”

A bit later he sat down and then he was the Mario we all know, without dodging any questions, correcting his translator –when talking about Flaubert–  and then he spoke about literature and politics, as he usually does.

He was asked about WikiLeaks, and he said: “I have contradictory opinions about this. On one side it results formidable the exercise of transparency; it is important that everything sees the light, because it eases one’s mind of lies and intrigues. But I also think it is dangerous that, if everything is disclosed, if all confidentiality disappears, if there is no privacy, how will a state function? The essence of democracy would be at risk.”

“It is a paradox that precisely democratic countries turn out to be the most vulnerable and dictatorships are more protected against these risks,” said the author of The War of the End of the World.

Vargas Llosa spoke about many other things. What follows is an excerpt of questions and answers journalist from around the world and the novelist:

What do you want to tell us with your literature?

Vargas Llosa in Stockholm (Photo: EFE)

I do not want to send messages, but just tell stories. Writing means to enrich our experience with imaginary stories, to enrich our sensitivity, to increase our unrest and critical attitude in order to face the world as we see it.

Are you a male chauvinist and neoliberal?

I am not. I am a firm advocate of gender equality; in my books there are scenes of male chauvinism, but this is what unfortunately there is in the world I describe. Neoliberal? No, I am a liberal, I believe in democracy, in all freedoms, and I am against authoritarianism and totalitarianism.

How did you perceived Peruvian’s reaction to your Nobel Prize?

I am moved by that attitude, and this means for me an additional award. Peru lives in democracy since ten years ago, maybe imperfect, but that has guaranteed a peaceful coexistence. My desire is that this rule of law strengthens in the future without giving one step back.

Do you still have the mood to write or is the Nobel an end to it?

I am not going to be buried by the Nobel Prize. I have desires and projects until the end.

Is it true that your novels are situated at the left of yourself?

I will let the critics and readers make any ideological interpretation about my books.

How do you write books?

My ingredients are imagination, enthusiasm and fantasy… When I start a story I have been working on it for some time, utilizing prime materials that are functioning in my imagination, then fantasy does the rest.

Would you tempt politics again?

Mario Vargas Llosa and the Nobel Prize

Never. I was candidate in a very particular moment of Peru’s history, but I would never do it again.

What writer would you like to pay homage now?

Flaubert. Thanks to him I learned how you can compensate the lack of talent with discipline, perseverance and patience… It was essential for my vocation.

So now there is humor in your books? Is this the autumn of your life?

Do not call me an old man! I did not use humor at the beginning because I followed Sartre’s pattern; his work would hardly, if ever, make you smile. It seemed humor was incompatible with literature. But then I found the story of Pantaleón and the Special Service, and then I finally started using humor.

Who would you give the Nobel Prize to, if you could?

I would resurrect Jorge Luis Borges to do so.