For Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, reading is a “magical operation” that has allowed him to live multiple lives.
“My feelings, my understanding of life, of people, give me the illusion of not only this limited life that is the life of the human beings, but the life that has been invented, created by great writers,” he said at De La Salle University where he was conferred an honorary doctorate on Nov. 8.
Here are seven of Vargas Llosa’s reasons for you to read:
- Good books stimulate ambition. Vargas Llosa says “learning how to read is the most important event of my life,” and that reading has given birth to his vocation of storytelling.
He says there is no physical proof of the fulfillment of finishing a good novel, poem or an essay, but literature always leaves an imprint in the reader—it may come as euphoria, or maybe the feeling of being changed for the better. Whatever the feeling may be, Vargas Llosa is sure one’s life is enriched after reading a book.
- It is an intimate way of learning. “[In] reading these stories of good books, we learn to enter the intimacy of a culture in the most secret aspects of the personality of human beings. [It also enriches] our psychology— the way which our instincts, our passions, our feelings determine our behavior and in the way in which human relations use content, satisfaction, or on the contrary, fear, hate, hatred, everything that is behind the violence that has been following us since the beginning of time until, unfortunately, our modern times.”
- Literature is the best defense against prejudices. “I think good books are the best defense against distorted views of people of different languages, different beliefs, different customs. In spite of all differences, the common denominator among men and women of different traditions is much more important because we are all humans and we are all challenged by the very similar problems and obstacles, [which we must] overcome in order to survive, in order to live.”
- Good books develop malice. Vargas Llosa says literature is the natural enemy of any dictatorship because it develops dissatisfaction with the world. Reading imbues the sense of hope and longing for a better society where citizens are free to fulfill their dreams.
- Reading is the best form of entertainment there is, even magical, as the combination of words becomes a window to another living experience, but…
- It is also a fundamental training of free citizens. Vargas Llosa notes there is a notion in free societies that reading is regarded as pleasure and form of entertainment that can be eliminated in the whole living experience.
“I think this is a very big mistake, and a very dangerous mistake. The lack of freedom, impoverished in material, spiritual and cultural, tears the life of individuals and society. I think good books develop… the hope that life will change, that societies will overcome all the limitations and create societies more fair and more near of the worlds that we are able to invent in our imagination, and transform into real objects through the books.”
- Reading good books makes better citizens. “We must convince our children that reading is, of course, an extraordinary pleasure, but also a way to be better citizens and to be much better prepared to face the challenges which are present in all kinds of existences.”