[Marxism] The Political Lives of Mario Vargas Llosa | The Nation

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 18 05:53:11 MDT 2019

By Mario Vargas Llosa; Anna Kushner, trans.

“Literature is fire,” Mario Vargas Llosa declared in 1967, when he 
accepted a prize commemorating Rómulo Gallegos, the esteemed Venezuelan 
novelist and former president. Gallegos represented the center-left 
tradition in Latin America, and Vargas Llosa was determined to challenge 
his audience from the left. Literature, the Peruvian novelist continued, 
“means nonconformism and rebellion…. Within ten, twenty or fifty years, 
the hour of social justice will arrive in our countries, as it has in 
Cuba, and the whole of Latin America will have freed itself from the 
order that despoils it, from the castes that exploit it, from the forces 
that now insult and repress it.”

Nearly 40 years later, in 2005, Vargas Llosa received a very different 
sort of prize and delivered a very different kind of speech. Accepting 
the Irving Kristol Award from the American Enterprise Institute, he 
denounced the Cuban government and called Fidel Castro an “authoritarian 
fossil,” praised the Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises as a 
“great liberal thinker,” and defended calls for privatizing pensions. It 
was quite a remarkable transformation. In the opening paragraph of 
Vargas Llosa’s 1969 novel, Conversation in the Cathedral, the 
protagonist asks: “At what precise moment had Peru fucked itself up?” It 
is a question that many people have asked as well of Peru’s greatest 


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