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AN INTERVIEW WITH MARIO VARGAS LLOSA Mario Vargas Llosa Mario Vargas Llosa has distinguished himself as short story writer, critic, essayist, journaUst, radio and television personality and-most prominentlyas novelist. His eleven novels include The War of the End of the World, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, The Storyteller, The Time of the Hero, Captain Pantoja and the Special Service, The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta, Conversation in the Cathedral, The Green House, and In Praise of the Stepmother. He is the recipient of many international literary prizes, including Latin America's most prestigious, the Romulo GaUegos Award. After many years of living abroad, he returned to his native Peru in 1974 and in 1990 ran, unsuccessfully, for the presidency of Peru. This interview with Mario Vargas Llosa was conducted in October 1992 for the American Audio Prose Library by Elzbieta Sklodowska, professor of Latin American literature at Washington University. The Prose Library offers recordings of distinguished authors reading and discussing their work. For a free catalog of complete listings contact AAPL at PO Box 842, Columbia, MO 65205, or 1-800-447-2275. An Interview with Mario Vargas Llosa / Elzbieta Sklodowska Interviewer: Anyone who doesn't write fiction has an abiding curiosity about how this kind of writing originates. Did your first novel, The Time of the Hero, start with an image, a revelation, or peculiar experience? Vargas Llosa: I would say a peculiar experience. Everything I have written has started as a personal experience—a person I have met, something I have seen, sometimes something I have read, which remains in my memory and Uttle by Uttle produces a sort of curiosity or enthusiasm to fantasize around. I don't know why some experiences are so fertile from a creative point of view and why so many don't leave any trace. Interviewer: Did The Time ofthe Hero grow from your own experience in the mihtary school? Vargas Llosa: That was the point of departure of the novel. When I was thirteen years old I was put in mUitary school in Peru. I remained there for two years, and it was a very very important experience in my Ufe. Very hard. I was brought up in a middleclass family, so I had a protected chUdhood. Until I entered the miUtary school my idea of my country, of the world, was very limited. I had no idea, for instance, of violence in social relations or of racial and class prejudices. At that time the miUtary school was one of those rare institutions in which you had people from aU social classes—middle-class boys who were sent there because their famiUes thought that a miUtary education would reform them, and people from very poor sections of society who went there through a large system of grants and feUowships. In the miUtary school you The Missouri Review · 115 had a microcosm of Peru, and this created tremendous tensions and violence. We were, of course, under a miUtary discipline, which for very young people could cause a distorted reaction. I suffered a lot in miUtary school, but at the same time I learned a lot about my country, about the real world. While I was there I was already thinking of writing one day something based on those two years. Interviewer: The novel explores the experience from several points of view. Did you begin the novel with that final structure in mind? Vargas Llosa: When I write a novel or a short story the form is never present at the beginning. At the beginning I have something vague. In the case of my first novel it was probably an atmosphere— of violence, of tension, of excitement—much more than characters or episodes. I wrote first a very long draft version of the novel, very chaotic, in which I repeated episodes and produced different possibiUties of anecdotes. When I had this draft I started to construct the novel, eUminating more than adding to it. Since then I've worked in this way, producing something Uke magma, a chaotic first version, which is for me the most difficult aspect of creating a novel. But when I have this draft, everything changes. I work...


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