Chronicle of the morning in which Mario Vargas Llosa talked about books with Blanca Rodríguez

For many, it was the best plan for a Thursday morning: listening to a Nobel Prize winner for Literature talking about, precisely, literature.

The Nobel was Mario Vargas Llosa who was in Montevideo invited by the Center for Economic Development Studies (CED) for which, on Wednesday, he gave a chat more politics. But yesterday morning in a luxurious room at the Sofitel hotel, the Peruvian sat down to chat with Blanca Rodriguez in front of a hundred guests. The excuse was to present The still gaze (by Pérez Galdos)his new book where he addresses the figure of the Spanish writer who wrote, among other milestones, Fortunate and Jacinta.

“Learning to read is the most important thing that happened to me in my life,” the Peruvian began by saying about his first approach to books during his childhood in Cochabamba. “It was dazzling and the biggest ambition I’ve ever had.”

Defending literature above all things, he said that although he liked cinema a lot, a film had never left such a strong mark on him as a book. Looking for an example of a movie that had impacted him, he mentioned The Old Man and the Sea, presumably the one with Spencer Tracy and which would explain why he prefers literature.

The Peruvian made a list of some of those readings that marked him from a “forbidden” book by Pablo Neruda that his mother hid, to his love for William Faulkner, Dostoevsky, Flaubert and Cervantes. Despite being a talk, technically about Pérez Galdós, Vargas Llosa spent a lot of time talking about Cervantes. He did, for example, an entertaining and educational overview of the series of unfortunate events that accompanied Cervantes’ life and spoke of the miracle and mystery of writing Don Quixote.

“When did he write it? he wondered.

He said that there is no way to explain why some things happen, among which he included the coincidence of the Latin American boom that assailed letters in Spanish in the 1960s and of which he was a part.

“All rational explanations are valid but in the end none is valid”, he said and reviewed some of those works that surpass their writers.

Among those literary mysteries he mentioned Juan Carlos Onetti, to whom he dedicated a book (Elvoyage to fiction). “Did you treat Onetti?” he asked. “He said few things and the ones he said were not important, but he wrote a marvelous book like Boarding Corpses, an extraordinary work that is not enough to reflect it.”

Thus, he put him in the same category as authors who created a work that, he said, surpasses them: Víctor Hugo, Cervantes and an old acquaintance of Vargas Llosa, Gabriel García Márquez.

“Do you know García Márquez?” he said at another time. “It is a mystery as great as Cervantes.” He did not comment on his legendary feud with the Colombian.

And so, between stories of books and authors, the memory of Father Justiniano who instilled in him a love of literature and what it takes to be a writer (“read”, he said) spent a Thursday morning listening to a Nobel Prize winner .

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Chronicle of the morning in which Mario Vargas Llosa talked about books with Blanca Rodríguez