Mario Vargas Llosa – The Time of the Hero (1963)

Mario Vargas Llosa’s statement ‘literature is fire’ provides both an insight into his views regarding the potent weight he feels literature may carry and also the effect that words can exert over him and, although the Peruvian writer’s political beliefs have shifted to the beat of Churchill’s epigram since he was the youngest of the big four comprising Latin America’s boom period, his love of writing has never wavered. Growing up in a state of restricted civil liberties and a student under the corrupt tyrant Manuel A. Odria at a time when all student activities were observed on, the regime unsurprisingly rendered Llosa’s character to be extremely politically oriented from an early age. Additionally, while the boom period in South American literature’s most significant contribution to contemporary literature may be magical realism, Llosa’s work has consistently featured a strident realism and critique of political extremity that resulted in 1000 copies of his first work, The Time of the Hero, being burnt by Peruvian generals who thought it the work of a depraved mind on the bank roll of sadistic Ecuadorians. Like much of Llosa’s work, the structure and use of shifting narratives challenged what the novel was capable of delivering and while Llosa aligned himself to the left, supporting the ascendancy of Castro’s Cuba at the time, many critics believe his novels lost some of their magic once his disillusionment with Castro’s increasingly authoritarian stance and tendency to banish homosexuals from the country in order to ‘cure’ them, resulted ultimately in his abandonment of socialism. It is the 1960s then that many consider to be Llosa’s best period, when he was simultaneously at its most politically critical and, as some critics assert, of less obvious entertainment value than more recent works such as The Bad Girl – a reworking of Flaubert’s A Sentimental Education. Llosa is quick to disparage those who present his canon since the 80s as being more flippant in tone and although he acknowledges his narrative has shifted often, he doubts he has ever ceased to produce work of contemporary value or that literature need deal with in order to present relevant commentary on the human character or its politics. Llosa like Salman Rushdie, believes the writer has a social obligation to name the unnameable, to start arguments, take sides and stop the world from going to sleep. Society will always need writers and especially writers prepared to offer commentary on political regimes, of which Latin America has too often served as stage for the past 100 years. …”
Mario Vargas Llosa and the relationship between politics and journalism
W – The Time of the Hero
[PDF] The Time of the Hero

About 1960s: Days of Rage

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