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In Praise of Reading and Fiction: The Nobel Lecture

by Mario Vargas Llosa

Other authors: Larry Fernandes (Introduction)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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686350,307 (4.21)10
On December 7, 2010, Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. His Nobel lLecture is a resounding tribute to fiction's power to inspire readers to greater ambition, to dissent, and to political action. "We would be worse than we are without the good books we have read, more conformist, not as restless, more submissive, and the critical spirit, the engine of progress, would not even exist," Vargas Llosa writes. "Like writing, reading is a protest against the insufficienciesof life. When we look in fiction for what is missing in life, we are saying, with no need to say it or even to know it, that life as it is does not satisfy our thirst for the absolute--the foundation of the human condition--and should be better." Vargas Llosa's lecture is a powerful argument for the necessity of literature in our lives today. For, as he eloquently writes, "literature not only submerges us in the dream of beauty and happiness but alerts us to every kind of oppression."… (more)
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» See also 10 mentions

English (5)  Italian (1)  All languages (6)
Showing 5 of 5

“‎Reading good literature is an experience of pleasure...but it is also an experience of learning what and how we are, in our human integrity and our human imperfection, with our actions, our dreams, and our ghosts, alone and in relationships that link us to others, in our public image and in the secret recesses of our consciousness.”
― Mario Vargas Llosa

Have you ever reached page 150 in a 400 page novel and asked yourself: Why am I reading this? What will my finishing this book amount to, really? Shouldn't I be doing something important or useful with my time rather than reading a book? I couldn't imagine a more powerful way of answering these questions then what we find in Mario Vargas Llosa's inspiring, inspiring, inspiring - yes, inspiring x 3 - 2010 Nobel Price acceptance speech entitled `In Praise of Reading and Fiction'. Here are a few quotes along with my brief comments:

"I remember clearly how the magic of translating the words in books into images enriched my life, breaking the barriers of time and space and allowing me to travel with Captain Nemo twenty thousand leagues under the sea, fight with d'Artagnan . . . and stumble through the sewers of Paris, transformed into Jean Valjean carrying Marius's inert body on my back." ---------- This goes back to what Aristotle said about an audience's connection with the tragic hero in his Poetics- we identify with the character up on stage and our emotions are thereby intensified. I recall clearly my own childhood experience of first identifying with a character - the narrator in Poe's tale `The Pit and the Pendulum'. Unforgettable. I suspect many readers can likewise easily remember their first identification experience.

"I have been able to devote most of my time to the passion, the vice, the marvel of writing, creating a parallel life where we can take refuge against adversity, one that makes the extraordinary natural and the natural extraordinary, that dissipates chaos, beautifies ugliness, eternalizes the moment, and turns death into a passing spectacle." --------- Ah! We readers of fiction do live through many lives. When I finished `The Goldfinch' a couple of summers ago, I had the sense that I was saying goodbye to good friend Theo. How many worlds have you entered? You are what you read.

"Good literature erects bridges between different peoples, and by having us enjoy, suffer, or feel surprise, unites us beneath the languages, beliefs, habits, customs, and prejudices that separate us. When the great white whale buries Captain Ahab in the sea, the hearts of readers take fright in exactly the same way in Tokyo, Lima, or Timbuctu." ---------- Literary critics like Sir Philip Sidney never tire of singing the praise of an art form that combines the universality of abstract philosophy with the concreteness of history.

"From the cave to the skyscraper, from the club to weapons of mass destruction, from the tautological life of the tribe to the era of globalization, the fictions of literature have multiplied human experiences, preventing us from succumbing to lethargy, self-absorption, resignation." --------- Indeed! If you need a good dose of fire in your life to rekindle your spirit, pick up a good book! And the book can be to your taste, Fyodor Dostoyevsky or Jo Nesbø or Gillian Flynn - whatever turns you on.

"The lies of literature become truths through us, the readers transformed, infected with longings and, through the fault of fiction, permanently questioning a mediocre reality. Sorcery, when literature offers us the hope of having what we do not have, being what we are not, acceding to that impossible existence where like pagan gods we feel mortal and eternal at the same time, that introduces into our spirits non-conformity and rebellion, which are behind all the heroic deeds that have contributed to the reduction of violence in human relationships." --------- Thanks you, Mario!! No comment needed.

"Ours will always be, fortunately, an unfinished story. That is why we have to continue dreaming, reading, and writing, the most effective way we have found to alleviate our mortal condition, to defeat the corrosion of time, and to transform the impossible into possibility." ---------- Thank you again, sir. ( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |

“‎Reading good literature is an experience of pleasure...but it is also an experience of learning what and how we are, in our human integrity and our human imperfection, with our actions, our dreams, and our ghosts, alone and in relationships that link us to others, in our public image and in the secret recesses of our consciousness.”
― Mario Vargas Llosa

Have you ever reached page 150 in a 400 page novel and asked yourself: Why am I reading this? What will my finishing this book amount to, really? Shouldn't I be doing something important or useful with my time rather than reading a book? I couldn't imagine a more powerful way of answering these questions then what we find in Mario Vargas Llosa's inspiring, inspiring, inspiring - yes, inspiring x 3 - 2010 Nobel Price acceptance speech entitled `In Praise of Reading and Fiction'. Here are a few quotes along with my brief comments:

"I remember clearly how the magic of translating the words in books into images enriched my life, breaking the barriers of time and space and allowing me to travel with Captain Nemo twenty thousand leagues under the sea, fight with d'Artagnan . . . and stumble through the sewers of Paris, transformed into Jean Valjean carrying Marius's inert body on my back." ---------- This goes back to what Aristotle said about an audience's connection with the tragic hero in his Poetics- we identify with the character up on stage and our emotions are thereby intensified. I recall clearly my own childhood experience of first identifying with a character - the narrator in Poe's tale `The Pit and the Pendulum'. Unforgettable. I suspect many readers can likewise easily remember their first identification experience.

"I have been able to devote most of my time to the passion, the vice, the marvel of writing, creating a parallel life where we can take refuge against adversity, one that makes the extraordinary natural and the natural extraordinary, that dissipates chaos, beautifies ugliness, eternalizes the moment, and turns death into a passing spectacle." --------- Ah! We readers of fiction do live through many lives. When I finished `The Goldfinch' a couple of summers ago, I had the sense that I was saying goodbye to good friend Theo. How many worlds have you entered? You are what you read.

"Good literature erects bridges between different peoples, and by having us enjoy, suffer, or feel surprise, unites us beneath the languages, beliefs, habits, customs, and prejudices that separate us. When the great white whale buries Captain Ahab in the sea, the hearts of readers take fright in exactly the same way in Tokyo, Lima, or Timbuctu." ---------- Literary critics like Sir Philip Sidney never tire of singing the praise of an art form that combines the universality of abstract philosophy with the concreteness of history.

"From the cave to the skyscraper, from the club to weapons of mass destruction, from the tautological life of the tribe to the era of globalization, the fictions of literature have multiplied human experiences, preventing us from succumbing to lethargy, self-absorption, resignation." --------- Indeed! If you need a good dose of fire in your life to rekindle your spirit, pick up a good book! And the book can be to your taste, Fyodor Dostoyevsky or Jo Nesbø or Gillian Flynn - whatever turns you on.

"The lies of literature become truths through us, the readers transformed, infected with longings and, through the fault of fiction, permanently questioning a mediocre reality. Sorcery, when literature offers us the hope of having what we do not have, being what we are not, acceding to that impossible existence where like pagan gods we feel mortal and eternal at the same time, that introduces into our spirits non-conformity and rebellion, which are behind all the heroic deeds that have contributed to the reduction of violence in human relationships." --------- Thanks you, Mario!! No comment needed.

"Ours will always be, fortunately, an unfinished story. That is why we have to continue dreaming, reading, and writing, the most effective way we have found to alleviate our mortal condition, to defeat the corrosion of time, and to transform the impossible into possibility." ---------- Thank you again, sir. ( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
The text of Vargas Llosa's 2010 Nobel speech. Probably I would have appreciated this a little more if I'd known more about him, but there's some lovely discussion of the importance of storytelling and how it raises us above the mere quest for survival. He employs wonderful imagery as well. I need to read some of Vargas Llosa's fiction one of these days. ( )
  lycomayflower | Jul 26, 2015 |
Mario Vargas Llosa's Nobel Lecture is a charming short read, not without power. He summarizes the influences on his literary life, as well as exploring the redemptive and transformational power of stories (oral, theatrical, and fictional). I was moved by the power of his hopes, dreams, and compassion, while noticing the edge in some of his comments. In brief summary, Llosa argues for parallel worlds of reality and imagination, which mutually inform each other, with the latter having the unique power to improve the former. Highly recommended. ( )
1 vote dmodjeska | Aug 1, 2011 |
Mario Vargas Llosa's Nobel Prize Lecture is beautifully written. It provides insight into the role that fiction plays in all of our lives. Llosa also provides some insight into how his own background has influenced his writing. It was a quick read that made me move Llosa higher on my TBR list.

Here are just a couple of quotes that I liked:

"Literature creates a fraternity within human diversity and eclipses the frontiers erected among men and women by ignorance, ideologies, religions, languages, and stupidity."

"Literature is a false representation of life that nevertheless helps us to understand life better, to orient ourselves in the labyrinth where we are born, pass by, and die."

"That is why we have to continue dreaming, reading, and writing, the most effective way we have found to alleviate our moral condition, to defeat the corrosion of time, and to transform the impossible into possibility." ( )
1 vote porch_reader | Jun 1, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mario Vargas Llosaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Fernandes, LarryIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Grossman, EdithTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On December 7, 2010, Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. His Nobel lLecture is a resounding tribute to fiction's power to inspire readers to greater ambition, to dissent, and to political action. "We would be worse than we are without the good books we have read, more conformist, not as restless, more submissive, and the critical spirit, the engine of progress, would not even exist," Vargas Llosa writes. "Like writing, reading is a protest against the insufficienciesof life. When we look in fiction for what is missing in life, we are saying, with no need to say it or even to know it, that life as it is does not satisfy our thirst for the absolute--the foundation of the human condition--and should be better." Vargas Llosa's lecture is a powerful argument for the necessity of literature in our lives today. For, as he eloquently writes, "literature not only submerges us in the dream of beauty and happiness but alerts us to every kind of oppression."

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Contiene: una entrevista y el discurso del Nobel.
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