Vargas Llosa, cultural journalist

Among my literary weaknesses are the books that bundle newspaper articles, so I have enjoyed a great time with the fire of imagination , a volume that compiles the journalistic work of Mario Vargas Llosa, wisely compiled by Carlos Granés, author of the prologue. It has been a kind of double session for me because, to the pleasure of reading important articles, the pleasure of returning to the literature of this Nobel laureate, an R+D+I of Letters is added: the most interesting, outstanding and influential in the Spanish language.

If the present is the proper territory of the journalist, the present is that of the writer. The actuality is the moment, the burning, the short and fast time; while the present is a denser time, the time that we have had to live. The writer who endures sets himself up as a medium of the present, absorbs the spirit of the times from him and transforms it into literature. Cervantes does it with the Quixote, and Vargas Llosa, with everything he touches.

the fire of imagination It dazzles like a car with high beams. It has such forceful beauty that I was unable to devour it quickly, driven by a desire to swallow it. I had to slow down and walk through its pages to reread them several times, enchanted by its refined style, intellectual display and clairvoyance. The articles date from different years, it doesn’t matter if they are from the 1960s or three years ago, because they all seem written the day before yesterday, this being what gives an author genius. The incorruptible independence of judgment, his own criteria, accumulation of experiences and readings of Vargas Llosa make this work a sort of literaturized biography, a vital GPS, the construction material of his novels.

The texts are grouped into themes that respond to the Nobel Prize winner’s personal preferences for cinema, art, libraries and bookstores, theater and, above all, literature, which he breaks down into: Anglo-Saxon, French, Latin American, Spanish and the mixed bag of “other countries”. There is a succulent section on “the art of fiction” where he pours out his mastery as a literary demiurge –or deicide–, whose articles are not an autopsy of the novel, but rather an anatomy of the creative act, a thorough and elegant explanation that brings together as much of experiential, artistic and artisan has writing.

We all know that literature produces a sweet emotional rapture in us, but I have rarely read it so beautifully expressed: “Fiction is a transitory substitute for life. The return to reality is always a brutal impoverishment: the verification that we are less than we dream”.

His rant about Damien Hirst’s morning singsong and his stuffed animals, his plea in favor of Galdós or his early praise of one hundred years of solitude (The Spanish American Bible). And it has comforted me to read his opinion about In Search of Lost Time.

From now on I will not shy away from saying what I think of Proust. Don Mario has freed me.

Mario Vargas Llosa: The fire of imagination. journalistic work I. Alfaguara. 786 pages. €26.90

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Vargas Llosa, cultural journalist