nostalgia and literature

This is from The Paris Review interview with Mario Vargas Llosa:

 

INTERVIEWER

Much of your work was written outside of Peru, in what one might call a voluntary exile. You stated once that the fact Victor Hugo wrote out of his own country contributed to the greatness of a novel like Les Misérables. To find oneself far from “the vertigo of reality” is somehow an advantage for the reconstruction of that same reality. Do you find reality to be a source of vertigo?

VARGAS LLOSA

Yes, in the sense that I’ve never been able to write about what’s close to me. Proximity is inhibiting in the sense that it doesn’t allow me to work freely. It’s very important to be able to work with enough freedom to allow you to transform reality, to change people, to make them act differently, or to introduce a personal element into the narrative, some perfectly arbitrary thing. It’s absolutely essential. That’s what creation is. If you have the reality before you, it seems to me it becomes a constraint. I always need a certain distance, timewise, or better still, in time and place. In that sense, exile has been very beneficial. Because of it, I discovered discipline. I discovered that writing was work, and for the most part, an obligation. Distance has also been useful because I believe in the great importance of nostalgia for the writer. Generally speaking, the absence of the subject fertilizes the memory. For example, Peru in The Green House is not just a depiction of reality, but the subject of nostalgia for a man who is deprived of it and feels a painful desire for it. At the same time, I think distance creates a useful perspective. It distills reality that complicated thing that makes us dizzy. It’s very hard to select or distinguish between what’s important and what is secondary. Distance makes that distinction possible. It establishes the necessary hierarchies between the essential and the transient.

Read the whole interview here.

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Michelle

Reader, writer, translator, nature-lover, happy expat and concerned world citizen.

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