Thursday, October 07, 2010

Mario Vargas Llosa gets the Nobel, at long last!

A Swedish academy, long specialized in awarding obscure writers, on occasion gets it right even if late.  Mario Vargas Llosa should have gotten the literature prize at least a decade ago, but I suppose better late than never.  As such he joins Garcia Marquez, my own favorite even if his political views are distasteful to say the least.  On this respect Vargas Llosa has embraced modernity and democracy which in a way might have delayed his award since the Swedish academy has a tendency to favor more engaged writers though the engagement of Vargas Llosa leaves no doubt.

I have come late to Vargas Llosa.  Years ago I tried to read Pantaleon y las Visitadoras and dropped it after 20 pages.  However I read most of his articles and assays in papers for his unapologetic defense of democracy, individual responsibility and material and moral progress for all, no excuses, no silly political correctness.  No wonder he has become one of the greatest international enemies of the Chavez regime who stands unapologetically for mediocrity and living at the expense of others.

I had to wait for my dengue moment last December to read La Fiesta del Chivo.  Constantly tired I could not read it fast even though it was griping.  It was better that way because the speed made me realize how much I had missed.  Truly, if you have not read this book about the description on how absolute power corrupts absolutely, do not wait any more: it is now Nobel certified.  And it will bring home many aspects of the Chavez nature, by the way.

But I am tickled pink also because finally the Nobel recognizes Latin American literature as the best one of the second half of the XX century.  I mean it.  I will give a very honorable second place to US literature for that period, but from 1960 until La Fiesta del Chivo, too many world masterpieces are this side of the border (France has stopped counting long ago and the other have on occasion a good shine here and there but no language can beat the production of the Spanish language since 1960).  It is just too bad that the Nobel has lasted so long to fess up, and we will always wonder why Borges did not get it.  Spain is quite proud by the way and El Pais gives you 10 essential links to Vargas Llosa.  Of course they are, Vargas Llosa adopted the double nationality 20 years ago.


  1. Daniel,

    I normally wouldn't bother noting your errors in English, but you have me laughing out loud with "pickled pink". The actual expression is "tickled pink", and where it comes from, I have no idea.

    "Pickled" means soaked and preserved in brine (vinegar and water). Somehow, the mental image of someone being "pickled pink" is just funny as all hell! :)

    On a serious note:

    I think we are seeing the beginnings of a semi-coordinated effort amongst the international community to put pressure on Chavez, isolate him, and deprive him of respectability. This Nobel prize award appears to one more push in that direction. I mean, we all know that these awards, while not supposed to be political, have been. At the very least, the timing is political. As you say, the award itself is well deserved.

    I am still waiting for:

    1. The final reports of the international observers to the elections.

    2. The release of the intelligence take from the documents, computers, and data storage devices recovered from the Camp of Mono Jojoy.

    3. Further legal movements from the major corporations who owed billions to force seizure of Venezuelan assets abroad.

    4. More pressure in the U.S. to change their diplomatic stance on Venezuela.

    The list could go on...

    I had concluded some time ago that the efforts of yourself and the other bloggers to counter the Chavista international media campaign had at long last succeeded and that these blogs were no longer useful (other than for venting). I was wrong. I neglected to consider that these blogs can also be an offensive weapon as well to turn world opinion firmly against Chavez and make doing business with his regime dis-respectable.

    So, keep up the good work.

  2. Something is happening in Sweden. It seems that it is no longer cool to be a communist. Too bad Borges is not around to get his prize next year.

  3. I have read most of his books and La Fiesta del Chivo is among the very best. I am also happy Vargas finally got the prize. As to why Borges did not get it: he was not "left" enough for what Swedes expected from Latinos. In reality Borges was just writing at a completely different level of ideas.
    I had the pleasure to see Vargas in Heidelberg over 10 years ago, when he went there to read from his latest book back then. I hope he will write many more books

  4. Anonymous6:50 PM

    For the english crowd, the NYT's covered it well too.
    Bravo! Sr Llosa...

    marc in calgary

  5. Anonymous6:59 PM

    no language can beat the production of the Spanish language since 1960



  6. 1979 Boat People7:28 PM


    Is there an English version of this book?


  7. Boludo Tejano8:12 PM

    It is just too bad that the Nobel has lasted so long to fess up, and we will always wonder why Borges did not get it.
    Most likely because when he was being considered for it in the late 1970s, he supported the military regime, as he was no friend of the Peronistas nor of the guerrillas.[Few remember that Jacobo Timerman, whom the Junta tortured for his wanting answers on desaparacidos, had called for a coup back in 1975.]

    Daniel: where can one find population figures for the Circunscripciónes/Voting Districts?

    Some Miranda State gerrymandering, which would look better with population figures instead of voting figures.
    In Circunscripción 7, the PSUV candidate won with 54,980 votes, which represented 65.53 % of the total. Doing the math, a total of 83,901 votes were cast in Circunscripción 7.

    In Circunscripción 3, the M.P.J./MUD [oppo] candidate won with 122,847 votes, which represented 59.7% of the total. Doing the math, a total of 205,774 votes were cast in Circunscripción 3.

    Take a look at the total votes cast per Assembly seat in the Circunscripciónes [voting districts] that elected PSUV [Chavista] candidates versus those that elected M.P.J./MUD [oppo] candidates.

    Overall, of the 7 Circunscripciónes [voting districts] in Miranda State, the three Circunscripciónes [voting districts] that elected four M.P.J./MUD [oppo] candidates cast a total of 948,133 votes, or about 237,000 votes per Assembly seat. The four 7 Circunscripciónes [voting districts] in Miranda State the elected five PSUV [Chavista] candidates cast 740,427 votes, or about 148,000 votes per Assembly seat.

  8. roy

    one shoudl never relay on speel chekers alon.....

  9. boludo

    sorry, but i have not started writing on those things yet, though i am working on them. too much "competition" out. but soon i will write a few things. you just wait.

  10. Roy,

    I think you are over-interpreting a bit this time.
    Vargas Llosa is simply a great writer. He deserved the prize.

    Now, IF, IF there was a political move, it was not to put Vargas, but NOt TO give the prize to Liu Xiaobo.

    I watched yesterday on German TV quite some statements from Chinese politicians and "thinkers" about how Sweden could NOT give the prize to Liu.

    Some here in English, but from Liu's wife:

  11. Actually Roy, Daniel was probably eating sushi when he posted. He got copnfused with the pickled ginger!

  12. Boludo Tejano9:59 PM

    I would also go for Fiesta Del Chivo.The first Vargas Llosa book I read was Tia Julia y el Escribidor. Both good reads, but of decidedly different tones- comic versus tragic. Such versatility is the mark of a great writer. I have had Historia de Mayta on my bookshelf for years, but never finished it. Time to do so.

    BTW, back in the 1970s the Argentine comic strip Clemente y Bartolo had a great one on Borges not winning the Nobel Prize. It went like this [translated]: "It's a shame Borges didn't win the Nobel Prize for Literature. After all, Argentina recently won the Nobel Prize for Futbol [soccer] [World Cup in 1978.] And for years we have won the Nobel Prize for Inflation."

    Does anyone have an idea where to get population - not voting- figures for the voting districts? [Circunscripciónes] Or number of registered voters? Kepler?

  13. amieres10:32 PM

    go to
    they have all the information by State/Circuit/Center/Table

  14. amieres10:52 PM

    Daniel look at La Carolina now

  15. 1979 Boat People10:55 PM

    Could anyone please tell me where i can buy the English version of this book.


  16. Boludo Tejano10:58 PM

    amieres: much thanks. It definitely shows the gerrymandering was designed into the system.

    Circuito 3 del Estado Miranda MUD
    Parroquias o Municipios REP Mesas
    Par. Pq. Petare 321,909 reg. voters 623 mesas

    Circuito 7 del Estado Miranda PSUV
    Parroquias o Municipios REP Mesas
    Mpo. Mp. Independencia 83,000 reg voters 167 mesas
    Mpo. Mp. Paz Castillo 57,843 reg voters 118 mesas
    total 137,843 reg. voters
    How much more blatant can you get?

  17. Boludo,

    I downloaded data about registered voters for 2009 from some part of the esdata info site. I haven't checked recently whether they have the latest there, they probably do.

    I did some number crunching on 2009 some weeks ago and produced some maps on weird patterns and places we should focus on now.

  18. Kolya3:19 AM

    Yes, I'm also very happy Mario Vargas Llosa got the Nobel. I read many of his books and liked many of them (some I didn't.) My favorite is "La tia Julia y el escribidor". With a totally different flavor, but that I also liked, is "La guerra del fin del mundo". In the late 1980s, while living in New York, my wife and I went to a talk given by him. Much of it was a reading (in English) of Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. Vargas Llosa is an erudite and serious man, but on that occasion more than once he had his audience laughing into stitches.

    As to the Nobel itself, this from a comment I wrote elsewhere:

    The Nobel Prize in Literature is the most prestigious and famous of literature prizes. Nonetheless, you often hear phrases such as, "the Nobel is not what it was used to be." The implication is that once upon the time the Nobel Prize was consistently awarded to great writers, but now, more often than not, the prize has little to do with great literary merit. Not true. Not true because the Nobel Prize in Literature has been rather inconsistent since the very beginning. If you look at the list of laureates, you will see some great authors, but you will also see many obscure names that now very few remember. Some of these obscure names, no doubt, belong to great writers, but many of them are forgotten simply because they were never great. Moreover, since its inception in 1901 several great authors died without ever being awarded the prize. Among them Lev Tolstoy, Mark Twain, James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, Marcel Proust, Jorge Luis Borges, Vladimir Nabokov and Graham Greene.

  19. Winston Churchill got the Nobel prize for Literature. That was preposterous. He wrote among other things a book about the personalities of his time (Great Contemporaries), which is highly interesting and yet: please!


    Check out the circuits for Carabobo.
    I think the opposition should distribute this information bloody NOT through Globovision but through flyers in those areas so that people get an idea. A lot of people are not really aware of how this worked. I talked to several oppos in those humble areas and they were horrified about the details.

  20. amieres said...
    Daniel look at La Carolina now"

    Well that didn't take very long.

  21. Boludo Tejano6:57 PM

    Let's put it this way. When I did a quick estimate of the registered voters/circuito in Carabobo, it wasn't difficult to pick out the main oppo circuito. [initial estimate because esdata format is not Excel friendly.]

    It seems that in looking at Miranda and Carabobo, the circuitos/voting districts that went for PSUV candidates had on average about 30% fewer registered voters/Assembly seat than those that went for Oppo candidates.

    Registered voters/Assembly seat
    Broken down by victors in Circuitos/Circunscripciones/voting districts

    Oppo 255,104
    PSUV 170,144

    Oppo 267,524
    PSUV 179,382

    Pretty consistent, no?

    I like your idea about flyers. Thugo would probably call it slander and calumny to distribute such information- or divulging of state secrets to the enemy.

  22. The Peace Prize is always political motivated, and sometimes perhaps even the Literature Prize, and all the other Prizes.

    If one truly knows art then one accepts and honors that 'it' cannot be broken down into experts and prizes.There is a facet of our experience called taste which is mostly personal and subjective.

    Objective art would only be that art which is unanimously loved but not which is necessarily " better"

    I greatly admire a man like Grigory Perelman for rejecting the million dollar prize he won for PROVING the PointCare conjecture, for a reason known as integrity, though he could have accepted the money and then given it away to those in need.But it is easier to prove that which is mathematical whereas art is in the eyes of the beholder unless made political.

    I also found it admirable that Perelman posted his great achievement directly and openly on the internet for everyone to have access to instead of the usual procedure of going through selective professional journals.

    The day we eliminate false standards, will be a happy day in my life.

    I say this without any evaluation of this writer from my own personal stance, whether negative or positive.

  23. Boludo,

    You saw the pattern. It is shameless, isn't it?

    I wrote also about the gerrymandering in Carabobo as early as January to March and created several maps. I think the alternative forces should have used that kind of data BEFORE the elections, but they either did not see it necessary or they thought it would be counter-productive.

    I would have loved to see a journalist asking Tibisay Lucena what exact criteria were taken to join San Diego municipality to Northern Valencia even if they are divided by a mountain range and else a motor-road but no urban continuity and yet they split Southern Valencia...and just too exactly the right parishes (they cut at the level of parroquias) to give to Circuito 5 enough sure oppos to guarantee win for Chavismo and take away from the "oppo" circuit enough to make the representative ratio only "very shameless" and not 2 to 1.

    And still: with that and other tricks they almost lost their gerrymandering.

    I see a great potential for us - if WE WANT to use it. For that we need to do our homework and the homework won't be easy.

    Abstention is higher in the poor areas and we need to spend 80% of our efforts now there. Those people won't go to Chavismo anymore, but we need to be swift to finally win them over. To do that we need to spend more time there. It will be difficult and sometimes dangerous. I got from witnesses the following account: some people went to the Av. Penalver in Southern Valencia and started to distribute some flyers but kept in one place. They were non-moving targets and that is just too dangerous. As expected, some Chavistas popped up and started to discuss with them. Chavistas provoked a fight but the others reacted, in my opinion, too promptly, which is what the Chavistas were looking for. Chavistas attacked with screwdrivers and two of our people ended up in hospital. One of the Chavistas apparently had a "pre-heart attack". Result? One of the oppos was jailed after spending time in hospital, the other managed to escape from hospital. The Chavistas were the attackers but not in the eyes of Chavismo.

    We have to be extremely careful with that. Chavistas may know nothing about economics, science, literature, anything, but they do know a thing or two about how to manipulate people, get to power and
    keep power, cause riots, infiltrate and the like.

    In the seventies and up to the mid eighties people from the PCV were sent to the Soviet Union to follow courses on such things as intelligence and "conspiracy creation" (how to provoke riots, move masses, etc).

    Alek had a link to a site of dissident Bukosvsky with some KGB material and I translated one of the reports.
    These people kept "schools" of training in lots of slums in Caracas and elsewhere. Since then Cubans are continuing with their "education".

    We have to be aware of that. We need to outsmart them. We need to be very fast and avoid violence and document any attack from them. We need to "strike" with ideas - leaflets, talks - and be aware they will try to infiltrate us and they will try to provoke violence.
    We need to focus on winning the hearts of the huge abstention groups in those areas and to create real unity among all of us.

  24. His books and La Fiesta del Chivo is among the very best .Borges is a great writer

  25. Anonymous8:14 AM

    I live in the states and of course the only news is what we can find online regarding Venezuela. I am greatly concerned and worried over our family it is hard to keep sane when our hearts are heavy and full of fear for safety for family and friends. Your blog gives me hope and is well written. Stay safe


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