SECOND TIME AROUND World-famous Peruvian writer
Mario Vargas Llosa, who first visited the Philippines in 1978,
says he has already written a book about the country but won’t
saywhich one. —KIMBERLY DELA CRUZ
Mario Vargas Llosa was put on the spot right away. Noting that he had written about militarization, human rights and brutality in his novels, a member of the audience asked him what he thought of the current events in the Philippines.
“I have just arrived in Filipinas,” the 80-year-old Nobel laureate answered. “Let me stay a few days and I will have an idea what’s going on. I think it would be arrogant to give a statement about what is going on in Filipinas. Give me a few days to hear, listen and read about it, and then I can give you a more documented opinion about the Philippines.”
He added, “I don’t want to be expelled from the country yet.”
Vargas Llosa was speaking at a press conference at Instituto Cervantes de Manila in Makati City. He arrived in the country on Thursday, welcomed by Spain’s Ambassador to the Philippines Luis A. Calvo and the Instituto Cervantes director, Carlos Madrid.
Vargas Llosa did not read a prepared speech. He instead engaged in an exchange of questions and answers with the audience and reporters.
He noted that this was the second time he had been to the Philippines. The first was in 1978 to attend a conference as the international president of the writers group PEN (Poets, Essayists and Novelists).
Second visit since 1978
He said of that visit: “At the time, it was a dictatorship. It was very interesting to talk to Filipino writers. I think they were deeply critical of what was going on. Some were optimistic. Some were very pessimistic. They didn’t think things would change for the better in a short period of time. So I learned about what was going on. And I discovered that the Philippines, Peru and Latin America had many, many things in common, particularly in the political sphere.”
He said he believed this trip “will be as good and as interesting as it was my first time.”
With a laugh, he hinted that he had included the Philippines in one book. “I was at the point of answering your question that I have already written a book about the Philippines but I think it was too much. I won’t say which book was about the Philippines.”
Vargas Llosa is visiting the Philippines with his girlfriend, Filipino socialite Isabel Preysler. Asked about his relationship with her, he said:
“Love is a fantastic experience, probably the richest that we have had, but it is private. When it becomes public, it impoverishes it. It becomes banal. Public expression of love banalizes love. So I don’t want to banalize this fantastic, marvelous experience. For me, it is and always will be private.”
Preysler did not attend the press conference.
Vargas Llosa is the critically acclaimed, world-famous Peruvian-Spanish author of books such as 1963’s “La Ciudad y los Perros (The Time of the Hero)” and 1969’s “Conversación en la Cathedral (Conversation in the Cathedral).” He received the Nobel Prize in literature in 2010 “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat.”
A colorful and controversial literary icon, Vargas Llosa unsuccessfully ran for president in Peru in 1990, losing to Alberto Fujimori.
Asked about American singer/songwriter Bob Dylan having been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in literature, Vargas Llosa said: “I am an admirer of Bob Dylan as a singer. I like his songs very much. I don’t think he is a great writer. I think the Nobel in literature is for writers, not for singers.”
On his new book
He is currently working on a new book. “I am writing an essay about liberalism and culture—how liberalism has affected culture in a positive sense in the modern world.”
Like his other books, he said he knew when he started writing a book but never knew when the book itself would be finished. His latest book was the 2016 novel “Cinco Esquinas (Five Corners).”
On Nov. 7, Vargas Llosa will give a lecture at the University of the Santo Tomas, where he will also be conferred an honorary professorship. The next day, he will receive an honorary