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Mario, or the great writer’s wrestlessness

Por: | 07 de mayo de 2011


Nope, that’s not a typo there in the title. Rather, it’s a literary blend of ‘wrestling’ and ‘restlessness’ which I observed in the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa in Madrid this past week.

On Wednesday in the buzzing Paraninfo San Bernardo, just off the bustling Gran Via, it was simply Mario. Our Mario. Because after picking up that much-coveted Nobel Prize in Literature at the end of last year, Mario was coming home; to the University Complutense of Madrid (UCM), where he studied as a doctoral student from 1958-1960.

Madrid then was rather different, as he recalled luxuriously: “It was unrecognisable compared with the Madrid of now; a modern, European city, cosmopolitan, open to the world. Back then, the city was small and closed, with a very strict censorship in place.”  

Some fifty years later, with no one dreaming of censoring a single word of his, Mario arrived a few minutes late on stage.

He was forgiven. The inevitable cameras flashed. Then the introduction was pronounced, and Mario sat there, looking rather wrestless. What was he wrestling with, and why was he restless, you ask? And is this all not a little exaggerated? Perhaps he was simply tired. Used to being introduced in wonderful terms. Bored by the prospect of yet another extended interview.

But no. There his broad smile flashed out as he applauded at the end of the introduction. Suddenly, Mario sprung to life. A joke here on his liking for huge university ‘bocadillos’ as a young student. A marvellous, meaning-filled statement there on Flaubert (whose masterpiece ‘Madame Bovary’ was actually slumbering half-read in my bag at the time), praising the French genius and the writing fanaticism which turned him from a ‘bad writer’ into a masterful one. For the young writer, there can be no more assuring words. Having just published my first novel (fittingly entitled ‘Selfishness’, available at: ) on the UCM writer’s website in celebration of the ‘I Semana Complutense de las letras’ culminating in Vargas Llosa’s visit, here was a chance to learn from the master.

And the master did not disappoint. He talked of the writer’s omnipresent insecurity. He joined together beautiful sentences, as if indeed writing in the air. And he complained that the Nobel Prize has taken away his time for writing, and at times even his energy to do so. And therein lay the essence of Mario’s restlessness on this balmy Madrid spring evening. No writer, he said then, could ever be completely satisfied; with their work, with the time they’ve invested, with the effort they’ve made.

Wrestling internally with the oil-drenched, impossible to grip menace of insecurity. Restlessness which comes with the knowledge that every minute wasted is one minute spent not writing. Those inspired minutes which Mario dedicated to his Madrid public on Wednesday were well worth the short wait. Wrestlessness. Indeed.

Matthias Krug is a Madrid-based writer of fiction and journalism which has been published across six continents. He is currently working on his second novel 'The Dream Sweeper'.


Hay 3 Comentarios

'that much-coveted Nobel Prize in Literature'; now, the one who covets this, it won't be Krug, by any chance? I don't think Vargas Llosa gave a fig, really.

gracias por compartir tus impresiones sobre la charla de Mario. Me hubiese encantado estar allí.

un saludo

Mario es un gran escritor y gran intelectual defensor de ideas liberales y democráticas. No como estos otros:

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