Happy birthday, Mario Vargas Llosa! 83, today! Here are some quotes from his writing.
“Like writing, reading is a protest against the insufficiencies of life. When we look in fiction for what is missing in life, we are saying, with no need to say it or even to know it, that life as it is does not satisfy our thirst for the absolute—the foundation of the human condition—and should be better. We invent fictions in order to live somehow the many lives we would like to lead when we barely have one at our disposal.”
“Good literature erects bridges between different peoples, and by having us enjoy, suffer, or feel surprise, unites us beneath the languages, beliefs, habits, customs, and prejudices that separate us.”
“That was why fictions were born: so that, through living this vicarious, transient, precarious, but also passionate and fascinating life that fiction transports us to, we can incorporate the impossible into the possible and our existence can be both reality and unreality, history and fable, concrete life and marvelous adventure.”
“[L]iving is worth the effort if only because without life we could not read or imagine stories.”
“The writer’s job is to write with rigor, with commitment, to defend what they believe with all the talent they have. I think that’s part of the moral obligation of a writer, which cannot be only purely artistic. I think a writer has some kind of responsibility at least to participate in the civic debate. I think literature is impoverished, if it becomes cut from the main agenda of people, of society, of life.”
“Reading good literature is an experience of pleasure…but it is also an experience of learning what and how we are, in our human integrity and our human imperfection, with our actions, our dreams, and our ghosts, alone and in relationships that link us to others, in our public image and in the secret recesses of our consciousness.”
“Writing stories was not easy. When they were turned into words, projects withered on the paper and ideas and images failed. How to reanimate them? Fortunately, the masters were there, teachers to learn from and examples to follow. Flaubert taught me that talent is unyielding discipline and long patience. Faulkner, that form—writing and structure—elevates or impoverishes subjects. Martorell, Cervantes, Dickens, Balzac, Tolstoy, Conrad, Thomas Mann, that scope and ambition are as important in a novel as stylistic dexterity and narrative strategy. Sartre, that words are acts, that a novel, a play, or an essay, engaged with the present moment and better options, can change the course of history. Camus and Orwell, that a literature stripped of morality is inhuman, and Malraux that heroism and the epic are as possible in the present as is the time of the Argonauts, the Odyssey, and the Iliad.”
“Literature creates a fraternity within human diversity and eclipses the frontiers erected among men and women by ignorance, ideologies, religions, languages, and stupidity.”
John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.