Thursday, October 07, 2010

Vargas Llosa, Nobel winner

Congratulations to Mario Vargas Llosa on winning the Nobel for literature today! I'm pretty sure I've read some shorter stuff by him, including essays, but the thing that stands out the most is El Hablador (The Storyteller is what its English translation is called, I believe), which alternates between two storylines. One is an account of a storyteller traveling the (Peruvian, I imagine) Amazon rainforest, using his stories to maintain a sense of cultural identity among a dwindling group of forest wanderers. The second is of two university friends and the way their lives diverge. I probably shouldn't say more about that aspect, because while I'd guessed the connection between the two storylines fairly early, based in part on the back cover copy, I think it's supposed to be a kind of spoiler. But it's a story of the difficult question of cultural contact (especially in this context from both missionaries and anthropology professors), of "advancement" and the losses that entails...but not in any kind of one-sided or strident way. A wonderful book.

(La SeƱorita de Tacma, that's the other thing I read in college. A drama. I don't remember much about it at the moment. And I also found we own Llosa's Lituma en los Andes. I'm not sure if that was a thrift store find once that I never got around to reading, or if it was one of my wife's college books. I may have to pull those down and see about reading one or both.)

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