Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mario Vargas Llosa and the future of books

I was in Germany when Mario Vargas Llosa was announced as this year's winner of Nobel Prize for Literature. Among the Latin American writers, after Marquez and Borges, he is my third favourite writer. I had loved his "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter", inspired by his own experience of marrying his aunt. I bought his The Feast of the Goat and The War of the End of the World long ago but am yet to read them.

I came across this piece on Mario Vargas Llosa where he talks about the future of books. Those who worry about the future of books should read Jonathan Franzen's How to be Alone (the book). He shares his doubts on this theme but his reading is optimistic. Here, in this interview, Mario Vargas Llosa makes some very important points that go into the heart of literature and why we should value it:

"I think there is a danger that the technology will impoverish the contents of the book," he said.

"But this also depends on us: if we want literature to keep being what it has been, it is in our hands."

Vargas Llosa, who is teaching his philosophy of literature at Princeton University in New Jersey this semester, gave a vibrant defense of its continuing relevance.

"Reading has to be encouraged in the new generations, and young people especially have to be convinced that literature is not just knowledge, that literature is not just a way to acquire certain concepts or ideas, but is an extraordinary pleasure."

Good literature is "fundamental if we want to live in freedom in the future" because it creates citizens who are less easily manipulated by those in power.

"Nothing awakens the critical spirit in a society as much as good literature. That is why the first thing all dictatorial regimes do, not matter what their stripe, is impose censorship.

"They try to control what is the literary life because they see in the literary life the seeds of danger to power.

"And it's true: good literature, by awakening the critical spirit, creates citizens who are more difficult to manipulate than in a society without literature and without good books."

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