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Letters to a Young Novelist [Paperback]

Mario Vargas Llosa , Natasha Wimmer
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Now based in London and teaching at Georgetown University in the U.S., Peruvian novelist and erstwhile politician Vargas Llosa's novels (In Praise of the Stepmother, etc.) and essays (Making Waves). Though the "Letters to a Young " concept has recently been franchised by another publisher (applying it to everything from golf to rabble-rousing), Rilke's slender and sage Letters to a Young Poet remains the standard after 100 years. Vargas Llosa's 12 Letters to a generalized interlocutor drift in and out of Rilke's league, rich with insight into Western literature and with commentary on the urge that overtakes its practitioners "The literary vocation is not a hobby, a sport, or a pleasant leisure-time activity. It is an all-encompassing, all-excluding occupation, an urgent priority, a freely chosen servitude that turns its victims (its lucky victims) into slaves." Yet Vargas Llosa is also somewhat wryly withholding, as if to thicken the plot: "Writing novels is the equivalent of what professional strippers do when they take off their clothes and exhibit their naked bodies on stage. The novelist performs the same acts in reverse." His examples of good and great novelists, whom he discusses while making larger philosophical points about concepts like style, time or representation, are pretty hard to take issue with: Woolf and James; Dos Passos and Hemingway; Flaubert (Madame Bovary is a particular favorite), de Beauvoir and Robbe-Grillet; Borges and Cervantes. Neither a survey course in what to read nor a practical guide to writing, the book finally is a meditation on writing and its proper relationship to life. "Good novels, great ones, never actually seem to tell us anything; rather, they make us live it, and share in it, by virtue of their persuasive powers." Particularly given the excellent translation here by PW contributing editor Wimmer, the same could be said for letters like these.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Imitating Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, the famed Peruvian novelist passes out advice in the form of 11 letters.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The author of the magnificent historical novel the Feast of the Goat [BKL Jl 01] ostensibly addresses a young protege in this series of 11 letters distilling his own fiction-writing concepts into concrete terms. The great Peruvian master proves to be a wellspring of wisdom, experience, and inspiration not only for serious fiction writers but also for serious fiction readers. Eschewing the presentation of some kind of program for quick publication, Vargas Llosa instead becomes an instructor in the anatomy of the novel. Believing that "inventing beings and stories" is based in a writer's need for rebellion, and that "literature becomes a permanent preoccupation, something that takes up your entire existence," Vargas Llosa compels readers and would-be writers to ponder, among other ideas, the need for a novel to possess the "power of persuasion," an "essentiality" of language, and a form "expressi[ve] of the artist's originality." Commentary on favorite books merges with theories and musings, resulting in a work of sheer, provocative eloquence. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“A fascinating commentary...distills [great works] brilliantly, revealing an architecture to their greatness.” —The Washington Post Book World

“Ought to be dubbed the world’s cheapest MFA...Not just a book for writers, but one for readers, too...And for those who want to do more than read, [it] will instruct, illuminate, and most important, inspire.” —St. Petersburg Times

“[This book] will make you, if not a novelist, at least a subtler taster of novels.” —San Antonio Express

“Less a collection of dictums on the craft of the novel than a tribute to its formal complexities and potential through his admiring comments on works by the likes of Flaubert and Cervantes.” —The New York Times Book Review

About the Author

MARIO VARGAS LLOSA was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010 “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat.” Peru’s foremost writer, he has been awarded the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world’s most distinguished literary honor, and the Jerusalem Prize. His many works include The Feast of the Goat, The Bad Girl, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, The War of the End of the World, and The Storyteller. He lives in London.
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