Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, the
2010 Nobel Laureate in Literature, told a full house in the University
of Delaware's Clayton Hall the evening of Oct. 31, 2013, that when he sits down to
write a novel, the process "is fascinating and mysterious, but it is
As a writer, he said, "One is willing to take advantage of the best
and worst of himself and the people around him," all to find the kinds
of real, personal experiences with which his works of fiction begin. But
after outlining a story based on those actual experiences, fantasy and
imagination come into play to create the final work, he said, calling
the initial real-world event or person "only the starting point, not the
point of arrival."
Vargas Llosa spoke on the theme "A Writer and His Demons" as part of the "Transnational Encounters" visiting authors series made possible through a cornerstone grant from the College of Arts and Sciences' Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center.
On Friday, Nov. 1, he read
from his work and signed books at two additional events that were free and
open to the public. He read excerpts in Spanish at a morning session and
in English that afternoon.
Vargas Llosa is one of the leading writers and intellectuals of our
time. In 2010, when officials of the Swedish Academy announced his Nobel
Prize in Literature, they cited "his cartography of structures of power
and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and
With more than 150 literary prizes and nearly 50 honorary doctorates,
he is the author of over 60 works, including novels, essays, short
story collections and dramatic works, and he publishes regular political
columns in major American and European newspapers. His themes treat
issues related to Peruvian and Latin American society and also address
such fundamental problems of the human condition as the yearning for
happiness, the presence of evil in the world, boundless ambition and the
secret desires of ordinary people.
Some of his many works that have been translated into English are his earlier novels The Time of the Hero, The Green House, Conversation in the Cathedral and Captain Pantoja and the Special Service. On Thursday at UD, Vargas Llosa talked specifically about those books and the process he went through to write each one.
His first novel, The Time of the Hero, was based on his
experience as a teenager in a harsh military academy, where he said he
is now grateful for having learned about Peruvian social structure and
about violence — themes he has incorporated into various writings. In
writing The Green House while living in Paris, he said, nostalgia
for his home played a key role, as did narrative techniques he learned
from reading William Faulkner. Conversation in the Cathedral drew on political and social themes of living in a corrupt dictatorship, while his next novel, Captain Pantoja and the Special Service, was the first time he incorporated humor into his writing.
Overall, fiction allows both writers and readers to "go beyond the
limits" of reality, Vargas Llosa said. "Novels may not make us happy,
but they make us…more complete," he said.
In addition to the Nobel Prize, he has won numerous awards for his
writing, including the Miguel de Cervantes Prize, the PEN/Nabokov Award
and the Carlos Fuentes International Prize for Literary Creation in the
Vargas Llosa's appearances at UD have been organized and hosted by the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and the Department of English, with additional sponsorship from the Center for Global and Area Studies, Institute for Global Studies, English Language Institute, Department of Political Science and International Relations, Department of History, Student Life, the Center for Black Culture and the University of Delaware Library.