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By Mario Vargas Llosa

The 1st choice of essays by way of the world-renowned Peruvian novelist explores the connection of literature and politics, the factor of Latin American independence, and the magic realist form of his books, between different topics."

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To the names Sartre and Camus must be added Georges Bataille, a reference point that criticism on him has tended to ignore. The essay included shows Vargas Llosa’s affinity to many aspects of Bataille’s literary criticism: literature’s relationship to what Bataille calls Evil (obsessions, frustrations, pain and vice); its communication of essentially negative – maudit – experiences; the literary vocation as a quest for sovereignty; the fundamental importance of eroticism and the interest in the legendary Gilles de Rais as an example of unrestrained sovereignty.

He has also contributed articles to a number of North American newspapers and journals. As his international reputation became established, the visit to the North American campus became a regular event. In many of these university environments he depicts himself, in humorous vein, as somewhat of a fish out of water, or at least as someone swimming against the current critical tides. While his appointment as a visiting professor at Cambridge in England involved him, by his own account, in teaching just one student, in North America a rather larger, more demanding and expectant audience awaited.

The order of the articles is in the main chronological, although some are grouped together thematically rather than chronologically, to illustrate an abiding interest in a particular topic, writer or location. After an opening chapter that serves as an introduction to the first two decades of his life in Peru (autobiographical memories also explored in A Fish in the Water, that have been reworked and reinvented in several of his major novels), the selection begins with a memoir of Vargas Llosa’s student days in Madrid.

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