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  HOME | Peru

Peru's Vargas Llosa: Economic Crisis Spurs Literature, Predicts Good Cultural Times Coming
Calls Obama "first intellectual" to become President

SEVILLE, SPAIN -- Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa considers "great traumas" like the current financial crisis "very stimulating" for literature, and therefore predicts the beginning of a "good period" for literary creativity.

That opinion was expressed by the author of "La Ciudad y los Perros" (The Time of the Hero) while talking to reporters in the southern town of Osuna, in Seville province, where the prolific writer spoke both about literature and about current political and economic affairs.

Besides considering the financial crisis stimulating for literature, the writer said that it was "just beginning" and believed that it will change the world completely, because "we've never seen anything like it."

Vargas Llosa, winner of the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature and the Cervantes Prize, sees himself today in full creative mode, and said that if one believes he has already done his best work he descends into "decadence," so the healthiest attitude is to keep believing that "the best is yet to come."

The author of "Travesuras de la Niña Mala" (The Bad Girl) was referring to his recent stay in the Congo, a country where he traveled to gather documentation for his next novel, which he has given the provisional title of "El Sueño del Celta" (The Dream of the Celt).

The work is inspired by the life of Irish nationalist politician Roger Casement, the British consul in that African country at the beginning of the 20th century and a friend of writer Joseph Conrad.

Casement, Vargas Llosa recalled, helped Conrad discover what happened in the Congo under the rule of Belgian King Leopoldo II, when acts of "great cruelty" were practiced against the natives.

The author said that his trip to the African country helped him acquire a "direct understanding" and enabled him to gather documentation that would make him "feel less insecure when he sat down to write."

The "health" of the Spanish language did not escape the analysis of one who in 1994 was the first Ibero-American elected as a member of the Real Academia Española.

The language, which according to Vargas Llosa is enjoying "very good health," has entered a time of vigorous expansion and has avoided the "danger of fragmentation because the common denominator is solid."

On the contrary, he conjectured that it is Portuguese that is headed for fragmentation.

He believes that Spanish is expanding and is more and more to be found in other linguistic latitudes such as Britain and the United States.

The versatile author, one of the great innovators of the realist novel and who has also practiced journalism as well as cinema and art criticism, commented ironically that "as a liberal" (which he himself has described as someone who defends democracy and the free market) it is "completely impossible" that he will ever be awarded the Nobel Prize.

"I have taken all the precautions necessary for them never to give it to me," he laughed.

Vargas Llosa also tackled the question of current politics, having run for president in Peru in 1988.

For the writer, the U.S. president-elect, Democrat Barack Obama, is "the first intellectual" to enter the White House in the history of the country.

In his opinion, that circumstance is as important or more so than the fact that a black has been elected head of state, because up to now the intellectual excellence of a candidate tended to arouse "great distrust" in the North American electorate.

As a final note, Vargas Llosa avoided talking about his relationship with Colombian colleague Gabriel Garcia Marquez, preferring to "leave the matter for the biographies." EFE


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