People who want to know how you read Mario Vargas Llosa, or how he started reading and kept reading, he had a good opportunity last Sunday, April 5 if he read the article he published in its Touchstone from EL PAÍS about Brother Justiniano and his fertile initiation to reading. That’s a delightful article, from your best pieces of literary journalism. Those who decided to stop reading (or so they said) to Vargas Llosa for, they say, his political ideas, they miss such occasions, abundant since he began to share what he was reading. One of the books in which he condenses his reading skills is The truth of the lies, what with A Fish in the Water They are part of my preference list for everything he has written.
Before, a small chronicle of Vargas reading. Those who have seen it on airplanes will know that, physically, it does as if there was no world around. How fear of the plane affects you (like your colleague Gabriel Garcia Marquez), it is equipped with an open book before the window and thus completely dilutes the landscape outside. It is, therefore, bottled up as the good student he was. He carries a pen, always the same one (he would kill for that pen!), And makes notes in a little notebook. Its handwriting, as in the dedications, is clear, as previously thought, and fast, ready to be printed. His concentration is maximum, because his memory helps him, so that, years after reading, he is able to recite paragraphs from a book as if he had just finished it. He has maintained a habit that undoubtedly helped him, for example, to write The truth of the lies: At the end of each issue you write down what you just read. Thus he approves or suspends the books, and writes a few paragraphs with his opinion.
At the end of each finished issue, write down what you just read. Thus he approves or suspends books, and writes a few paragraphs with his opinion
As a plane reader you have many anecdotes, but there is one that you have told several times, so it is public. The good reader is interested in what the other is reading. So, like anyone else, he pays attention to the passenger reading next door. On a long transoceanic journey he met his colleague in the next seat Camilo José Cela. On the way the Galician was laughing out loud as he read his lined copy. Vargas Llosa could not guess either title or author, until Cela decided to go to the bathroom and left behind the object of her rejoicing. Vargas Llosa knew then the reason for the laughter. Camilo José Cela was reading Trip to the Lleida Pyrenees, by Camilo José Cela.
One more note about your sponge reader curiosity. In the last FIL from Guadalajara (Mexico) coincided with a friend of his at the Hilton breakfasts. That friend (Vargas himself recounted in an article about the literary consequences of that meeting) urged him to read The order, the book in which the lawyer Javier Melero recounts his experience as a defender in the process of you process. Vargas Llosa grabbed the book reluctantly. “I doubt he will read it.” That same night he started reading it. His article on that book, the circumstances of his reading and his enthusiasm for the casual findings to which he is willing indicate that that reader who took control of Brother Justinian has not resigned from his curiosity but has increased it.
A major work of that combination of vocations that is his way of facing books is The truth of the lies, in which he visits books that serve a confinement or a joy, and that he reconstructs, as a reader, with the mental agility usually lavish on intelligent readers. It is, in the Spanish language, the book about books that I have appreciated the most, because it is a consequence of enthusiasm and not of scarring. It is not a collection of lessons but a commitment to each of the fictions that it addresses. It is not a catalog of his knowledge, but of what he learned, as a reader, in the books he addresses. There they are from Thomas mann to Ernest Hemingway, since Vladimir Nabokov to Saul Bellow…
Here Vargas Llosa develops his theory, which is a practice: writing fiction is absolute freedom, the embrace of dreams, the constant and exalting application of the truth of the lies. In his long, and very beautiful, essay on the narrative of another fiction master, Juan Carlos Onetti, he develops that intelligence of giving dreams writing to prolong the pleasure of having read. That book is the consequence of a fact: Vargas Llosa is the Spanish-American writer who has read his contemporaries the most to write about them. It would be impossible, by the way, to find him on an airplane reading his own book, or in danger of death.
Death in Venice Thomas mann
Dubliners James Joyce
Sanctuary William Faulkner
The Great Gatsby Francis Scott Fitzgerald
Auto de fe Elijah Canetti
Abroad Albert Camus
I’m not stiller Max Frisch
The tin drum Günter Grass
The Golden Notebook Doris Lessing
Opinions of a clown Heinrich Böll