Mario Vargas Llosa: The Amicable Icon of Peruvian Literature


"When you write novels, discipline is a must. A poet can afford to write one day and not the next, but when you write novels you must stick to discipline, otherwise the thing falls apart. Flaubert said that being a writer is a lifestyle. This means I work seven days a week, twelve months a year. I don't use the computer - I write with pen and ink. I need to smell the ink and I like the rhythm that guides the hand in writing," says the eighty-three-year-old Mario Vargas Llosa - Peruvian writer, journalist and politician living in Spain, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. 

At this year's Book World Prague he was among the most eagerly awaited guests - a fact illustrated both by the endless queue at his book signing and the interest generated by his debate, hosted by the erudite translator Anežka Charvátová. The writer spoke about his novel The Neighbourhood that has just been published in Czech translation. The novel describes how the tabloid press and media in general can serve totalitarian power. The environment of dictatorships and totalitarianism count among Llosa's key themes. "I belong to a generation that grew up and came of age at the time of South America's dictatorships. It is only natural that this topic has left its mark on us," the writer notes. During the debate the spontaneous and vigorous author has also touched the topic of humour in his work. "There are stories that you cannot narrate unless you provide them with some comical, humorous undercurrent. That was how I discovered the significance of humour in literature." 

 These stories include Captain Pantoja and the Special Service or the popular and strongly autobiographical Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. In connection with this particular book, Mario Vargas Llosa made the audience laugh by admitting that after the publication of the book, he disclosed in one of the interviews the identity of the comic character - the author of radio plays Pedro Camacho. In the meantime, however, Camacho had become the mayor of Bolivia's capital, remembered none of the events portrayed in the book and felt deeply offended to the point of considering vengeance in the form ofwriting a book about Vargas Llosa's homosexual life in Bolivia. It is interesting to note that even real-life aunt Julia later opted to write her own account of Vargas' story. Mario Vargas Llosa also talked about his debut in the field of erotic literature, the book In Praise of the Stepmother, also currently being published in Czech to mark the author's visit to Prague.