Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More from The Paris Review...

Another gem from The Paris Review, this time from No 116, Fall 1990: an interview with Mario Vargas Llosa shortly after he bowed out of the Peruvian election race that same year. You can read a transcript online here. In 2010 he was the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
So who does a Nobel Prize winner read?
He reads William Faulkner: 
'Faulkner was the first novelist I read with pen and paper in hand, because his technique stunned me. He was the first novelist whose work I consciously tried to reconstruct by attempting to trace, for example, the organization of time, the intersection of time and place, the breaks in the narrative, and that ability he has of telling a story from different points of view in order to create a certain ambiguity, to give it added depth.'
Jorge Luis Borges:
'Borges, because the world he creates seems to me to be absolutely original. Aside from his enormous originality, he is also endowed with a tremendous imagination and culture that are expressly his own. And then of course there is the language of Borges, which in a sense broke with our tradition and opened a new one.... He is the only writer in the Spanish language who has almost as many ideas as he has words. He’s one of the great writers of our time.'
Pablo Neruda:
'Pablo Neruda is an extraordinary poet. ...Neruda adored life. He was wild about everything—painting, art in general, books, rare editions, food, drink. Eating and drinking were almost a mystical experience for him. A wonderfully likable man, full of vitality — if you forget his poems in praise of Stalin, of course. 
'Neruda comes out of the Jorge Amado and Rafael Alberti tradition that says literature is generated by a sensual experience of life.'
And Octavio Paz: 
'Not only a great poet, but a great essayist, a man who is articulate about politics, art, and literature. His curiosity is universal.'
Llosa goes on to talk at length about his inspiration, process and technique, his language, his politics and his success...
'I think my greatest quality is my perseverance: I’m capable of working extremely hard and getting more out of myself than I thought was possible. My greatest fault, I think, is my lack of confidence, which torments me enormously. It takes me three or four years to write a novel — and I spend a good part of that time doubting myself. It doesn’t get any better with time; on the contrary, I think I’m getting more self-critical and less confident.' 
The interview was recorded 20 years ago, one hopes the Nobel has settled his self-doubt once and for all...
Check out the manuscript page from Llosa's 1988 novel In Praise of the Stepmother (above, click on image to enlarge).

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