May 27, 2020

"This novel took my gray hair out"

"I started writing episodes disconnected from each other, with different characters – a bodyguard, a maid, a successful businessman, a middle-class boy -, also working with great confusion, because at that time I didn't know how I was going to order all that. I thought a lot and I went around it a lot, until I had the idea that the backbone of the story was a conversation that would have interruptions because other conversations would get inside it and then come out. " This is how Mario Vargas Llosa explained the genesis of "Conversation in the Cathedral", one of his most acclaimed and most famous novels. He began writing in 1965 and added the final point in November 1969. The first edition was printed in Barcelona and sold 5,000 copies; the second, the following year, 15,000. The title did not immediately enjoy enormous popularity, but with it the name of its author ascended a milestone within his own mythology, the one that had begun to be forged with "The city and the dogs" or "The green house", which he edited in 1966. In later editions elements were added that increased the celebrity of this narrative. In 1972, with the sixth edition, Carlos Malet's photograph appeared on the cover: two beer glasses surrounded by cigarette butts. Since then, the narration is always linked to that image between desperate, intimate and sad, but always deeply evocative.

The fiftieth anniversary of this work, one of those held at the top of the universe of "Boom", has given rise to honoring it and taking out a commemorative edition that has a valuable annex: fragments of letters, writings and interviews of the own Author. Some testimonies that give account of the hazards, confidences and setbacks that accompanied the management of the book. "Great novels are, to some extent, those that approach the novel of impossible novels," said the novelist long ago. But yesterday, in Seville, in an act framed in the Congress of the Asale, Mario Vargas Llosa admitted that "this is the book that cost me the most work, at least until I found a way on how I should tell it. It is a novel that before writing it, I lived it, and also all Peruvians who endured that dictatorship between 1948 and 1956. For my generation it was especially harmful, I was a child when it started and when it fell, I and my friends were men. a corrupt environment, politics was a bad word and the repression was very hard. I once thought about writing a novel telling the effects of a dictatorship in non-political institutions, in professional life, in family. From this initial intuition came this story ".

The narrator acknowledged that during the first year he was immersed in confusion and that he would no longer know where the seed emerged from structuring it around a conversation. "I wrote in a vacuum and did not know how to connect so many characters. When I found the point of union, everything was easier. The second year of the novel hardly cost me. But then I did another review to eliminate adverbs and adjectives, which, like many know, they have been made not to use them, "he joked.

With those 29 and 30 years, Mario Vargas Llosa assembled that huge literary toy, that mass of names and protagonists that enter and leave the action. But, defying the impatience of age, he still held the manuscript in his possession before sending it to the editor. "In this way I saw more clearly what is left over. What I do is cut, but without killing the experience and credulity. And I delved into a few more episodes." During these months he placed the original in a kind of secular tabernacle, chaired by a portrait of Jean-Paul Sartre, "of whom he read everything with passion and what is more serious: he believed everything."

In the letters of that period he acknowledges that the wording "pulled gray hair", something that he still defends, and that on two occasions he thought he had finished it. "A sonnet can be a perfect masterpiece. It can also be a short essay. But in a novel there is a quantitative element that is part of the story. Why have we turned into cathedrals novels that are great in quantitative and qualitative? This applies to “War and peace” or “Don Quixote.” I believe that how many more experiences are expressed in a story and more the objective part, actions, thinking, passions, feelings, richer and more persuasive are covered. a work. When I write novels I have the impression that if I continued all the remaining loose ends, I would never finish. This happens when we read some pages that fascinate us. The novel must be a totalizing experience of human life, rational or irrational I have always felt that infinity. I have always defended the principle that the total novel has to gather the human in all its possibilities. It is a goal that is at the heart of a literary project. "

Vargas Llosa reminded the friends who accompanied him on this tumultuous literary journey, the inevitable worries and doubts that stirred his conscience in those months of frantic writing and, above all, that presence that was definitive, a face he embodied under the name Cayo Shit, and that is none other than that cruel and tiny Rasputin that was Esparza Zañartu. "He was the one who politicized this novel," he said. Then he added: "When I traveled from Lima to Europe, to Spain, I already brought the idea of ​​this narrative with me. Then I wrote several books on dictatorships, but the truth is that their themes have arisen from unexpected experiences." Fiesta del Chivo "I wrote it because I went to the Dominican Republic and heard some impressive stories about Trujillo, such puzzling things … one of them picked up that at the time he toured the country, the farmers gave him his daughters. One of Trujillo’s military assistants confirmed it to me and said it was a problem for the chief because I didn’t want to snub those people and that’s why I married them later with the military. These stories, which seemed so impossible to me, pushed me to write this novel. ”

The dedication and effort of writing, the slavery that entails being tied to the imagination and the typewriter every day, was the subject of a final reflection by Mario Vargas Llosa: "A writer works with different moods. When he has succeeded. and considers that a path enriches history, is overwhelmed by exaltation, but when he discovers that the work has become impoverished, because the word does not express the life of those characters, because perhaps the word robotizes them, demoralization is enormous. the addition and subtraction, I have never been as happy as writing. This need to make schemes, tokens, to undertake the investigation of the world in which the story takes place is exciting, stimulating. The writer's work is difficult. One suffers enjoying. "

. (tagsToTranslate) javier ors

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