Vargas Llosa, his passion for French letters

The fate of the writer is unpredictable. The Nobel Prize in Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa, 85, elected a new member of the French Academy of Language, the first Latin American writer to achieve this distinction, lived in his youth, seven years in Paris, which he considers “the most decisive of my life”. At that time he was immersed in the reading of Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Balzac, Flaubert, Stendhal, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Lautrémont, the existentialists Sartre and Camus, among others. Vargas Llosa has fulfilled a dream of his youth, when he still believed in a romantic way, that no literary vocation would reach its splendor without the Parisian experience. It may interest you: Juan Gabriel Vásquez wins the Mario Vargas Llosa Novel Prize.

But it is curious that a man who has achieved what he has dreamed of, beyond the Nobel Prize for Literature, has wanted to be a member of the French Academy. And he has achieved it with the highest merits of a vitalist and insatiable writer, perhaps the most prolific in the literary history of the contemporary world. Vargas Llosa will sit in the armchair of the philosopher Michel Serres, who died in 2019.

Vargas Llosa recalls that in the grandparents’ house in Lima there were French books, from Jules Verne, especially ‘Les miserables’ by Victor Hugo, to the romantic novels that shook grandmother to tears.

Several times he has confessed that what has surprised him the most about French culture is the sense of freedom.

“No literature has been, in the course of its history, less nationalist or more universal than that of France, and I doubt that there is another that, in all its historical stages, has served more effectively as a counterweight to power, to all powers, such as the one that has enriched humanity with the pens of Moliere, Pascal, Diderot, Michelet, Proust, Céline, Antonin Artaud and many others ”.

Finding these revelations by Vargas Llosa in his book ‘Dictionary of the Latin American Lover’ (Paidós, 2005), I see that the writer has been consistent with his personal search as an incessant creator and scholar of French classical literature, one of his great passions that have permeated him in his perception of the world.

Wish fulfilled

Something more than a generosity is this distinction that Vargas Llosa receives.

When his appointment as a member of the French Academy became official, Vargas Llosa told the EFE agency:

“I am very grateful to the academics who have been so generous to me”, and he recalled that in the years he lived in Paris “I became a writer.”

“I believe that many of the things that I have practiced in literature came from the influence of Flaubert, whom I have read and reread and still reread from time to time, with great admiration and as a dedicated disciple of him.” Also read: Nobel Prize in Literature confesses that he was sexually abused by a priest.

Vargas Llosa is an example of Spartan discipline, not only as a reader and decipher of realities, but as a writer. There is not a day that I do not read or write. Now you will have another opportunity as an academic of French culture to look at the world with the heritage of Flaubert or Proust.

Read Vargas Llosa

Mario Vargas Llosa (Arequipa, Peru, 1936), Nobel Prize in Literature 2010, is the great author of ‘The city and the dogs’ that won the Prize of the Spanish Critics and the Short Library. Later, he published ‘La casa verde’, which achieved unanimous critical acclaim. It was followed by ‘Conversation in the Cathedral’ (1969) and ‘Pantaleón and the Visitors (1977)’. ‘The war of the end of the world’, which would initiate a new stage in his style and which would mean his first historical work. ‘La fiesta del chivo’ (2000), is one of his great novels about the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo.

In March 1993 he obtained Spanish nationality. In 1994 he was appointed a member of the Royal Spanish Academy and that same year he won the Miguel de Cervantes Prize. Subsequently, he was recognized with an honorary doctorate at numerous universities. His work has been translated into more than 30 languages.

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Vargas Llosa, his passion for French letters