La Literatura es fuego/Literature is fire by Mario Vargas Llosa


Mario Vargas Llosa, Premio Nobel de Literatura 2010, uno de los mas grandes escritores LatinoAmericanos.

La Literatura Es Fuego

Texto del discurso de Mario Vargas Llosa al recibir el Premio Internacional de Novela Rómulo Gallegos el 4 de Agosto de 1967 en Caracas


Hace aproximadamente treinta años, un joven que había leído con fervor los primeros escritos de Breton, moría en las sierras de Castilla, en un hospital de caridad, enloquecido de furor. Dejaba en el mundo una camisa colorada y "Cinco metros de poemas" de una delicadeza visionaria singular. Tenía un nombre sonoro y cortesano, de virrey, pero su vida había sido tenazmente oscura, tercamente infeliz. En Lima fue un provinciano hambriento y soñador que vivía en el barrio del Mercado, en una cueva sin luz, y cuando viajaba a Europa, en Centroamérica, nadie sabe por qué, había sido desembarcado, encarcelado, torturado, convertido en una ruina febril. Luego de muerto, su infortunio pertinaz, en lugar de cesar, alcanzaría una apoteosis: los cañones de la guerra civil española borraron su tumba de la tierra, y, en todos estos años, el tiempo ha ido borrando su recuerdo en la memoria de las gentes que tuvieron la suerte de conocerlo y de leerlo. No me extrañaría que las alimañas hayan dado cuenta de los ejemplares de su único libro, encerrado en bibliotecas que nadie visita, y que sus poemas, que ya nadie lee, terminen muy pronto trasmutados en humo, en viento, en nada, como la insolente camisa colorada que compró para morir. Y, sin embargo, este compatriota mío había sido un hechicero consumado, un brujo de la palabra, un osado arquitecto de imágenes, un fulgurante explotador del sueño, un creador cabal y empecinado que tuvo la lucidez, la locura necesarias para asumir su vocación de escritor como hay que hacerlo: como una diaria y furiosa inmolación.

Convoco aquí, esta noche, su furtiva silueta nocturna, para aguar mi propia fiesta, esta fiesta que han hecho posible, conjugados, la generosidad venezolana y el nombre ilustre de Rómulo Gallegos, porque la atribución a una novela mía del magnifico premio creado por el Instituto Nacional de Cultura y Bellas Artes como estímulo y desafío a los novelistas de lengua española y como homenaje a un gran creador americano, no sólo me llena de reconocimiento hacia Venezuela; también, y sobre todo, aumenta mi responsabilidad de escritor. Y el escritor, ya lo saben ustedes, es el eterno aguafiestas. El fantasma silencioso de Oquendo de Amat, instalado aquí, a mi lado, debe hacernos recordar a todos -pero en especial a este peruano que ustedes arrebataron a su refugio del Valle del Canguro, en Londres, y trajeron a Caracas, y abrumaron de amistad y de honores- el destino sombrío que ha sido, que es todavía en tantos casos, el de los creadores en América Latina. Es verdad que no todos nuestros escritores han sido probados al extremo de Oquendo de Amat; algunos consiguieron vencer la hostilidad, la indiferencia, el menosprecio de nuestros países por la literatura, y escribieron, publicaron y hasta fueron leídos. Es verdad que no todos pudieron ser matados de hambre, de olvido o de ridículo. Pero estos afortunados constituyen la excepción.

Como regla general, el escritor latinoamericano ha vivido y escrito en condiciones excepcionalmente difíciles, porque nuestras sociedades habían montado un frío, casi perfecto mecanismo para desalentar y matar en él la vocación. Esa vocación, además de hermosa, es absorbente y tiránica, y reclama de sus adeptos una entrega total. ¿Cómo hubieran podido hacer de la literatura un destino excluyente, una militancia, quienes vivían rodeados de gentes que, en su mayoría, no sabían leer o no podían comprar libros, y en su minoría, no les daba la gana de leer? Sin editores, sin lectores, sin un ambiente cultural que lo azuzara y exigiera, el escritor latinoamericano ha sido un hombre que libraba batallas sabiendo desde un principio que sería vencido. Su vocación no era admirada por la sociedad, apenas tolerada; no le daba de vivir, hacía de él un productor disminuido y ad-honorem. El escritor en nuestras tierras ha debido desdoblarse, separar su vocación de su acción diaria, multiplicarse en mil oficios que lo privaban del tiempo necesario para escribir y que a menudo repugnaban a su conciencia, y a sus convicciones. Porque, además de no dar sitio en su seno a la literatura, nuestras sociedades han alentado una desconfianza constante por este ser marginal, un tanto anónimo que se empeñaba, contra toda razón, en ejercer un oficio que en la circunstancia latinoamericana resultaba casi irreal. Por eso nuestros escritores se han frustrado por docenas, y han desertado su vocación, o la han traicionado, sirviéndola a medias y a escondidas, sin porfía y sin rigor.

Pero es cierto que en los últimos años las cosas empiezan a cambiar. Lentamente se insinúa en nuestros países un clima más hospitalario para la literatura. Los círculos de lectores comienzan a crecer, las burguesías descubren que los libros importan, que los escritores son algo más que locos benignos, que ellos tienen una función que cumplir entre los hombres. Pero entonces, a medida que comience a hacerse justicia el escritor latinoamericano, o más bien, a medida que comience a rectificarse la injusticia que ha pesado sobre él, una amenaza puede surgir, un peligro endiabladamente sutil. Las mismas sociedades que exilaron y rechazaron al escritor, pueden pensar ahora que conviene asimilarlo, integrarlo, conferirle una especie de estatuto oficial. Es preciso, por eso, recordar a nuestras sociedades lo que les espera. Advertirles que la literatura es fuego, que ella significa inconformismo y rebelión, que la razón del ser del escritor es la protesta, la contradicción y la crítica. Explicarles que no hay término medio: que la sociedad suprime para siempre esa facultad humana que es la creación artística y elimina de una vez por todas a ese perturbador social que es el escritor o admite la literatura en su seno y en ese caso no tiene más remedio que aceptar un perpetuo torrente de agresiones, de ironías, de sátiras, que irán de lo adjetivo a lo esencial, de lo pasajero a lo permanente, del vértice a la base de la pirámide social. Las cosas son así y no hay escapatoria: el escritor ha sido, es y seguirá siendo un descontento. Nadie que esté satisfecho es capaz de escribir, nadie que esté de acuerdo, reconciliado con la realidad, cometería el ambicioso desatino de inventar realidades verbales. La vocación literaria nace del desacuerdo de un hombre con el mundo, de la intuición de deficiencias, vacíos y escorias a su alrededor. La literatura es una forma de insurrección permanente y ella no admite las camisas de fuerza. Todas las tentativas destinadas a doblegar su naturaleza airada, díscola, fracasarán. La literatura puede morir pero no será nunca conformista.

Sólo si cumple esta condición es útil la literatura a la sociedad. Ella contribuye al perfeccionamiento humano impidiendo el marasmo espiritual, la autosatisfacción, el inmovilismo, la parálisis humana, el reblandecimiento intelectual o moral. Su misión es agitar, inquietar, alarmar, mantener a los hombres en una constante insatisfacción de sí mismos: su función es estimular sin tregua la voluntad de cambio y de mejora, aun cuando para ello daba emplear las armas más hirientes y nocivas. Es preciso que todos lo comprendan de una vez: mientras más duros y terribles sean los escritos de un autor contra su país, más intensa será la pasión que lo una a él. Porque en el dominio de la literatura, la violencia es una prueba de amor.

La realidad americana, claro está, ofrece al escritor un verdadero festín de razones para ser un insumiso y vivir descontento. Sociedades donde la injusticia es ley, paraíso de ignorancia, de explotación, de desigualdades cegadoras de miseria, de condenación económica cultural y moral, nuestras tierras tumultuosas nos suministran materiales suntuosos, ejemplares, para mostrar en ficciones, de manera directa o indirecta, a través de hechos, sueños, testimonios, alegorías, pesadillas o visiones, que la realidad está mal hecha, que la vida debe cambiar. Pero dentro de diez, veinte o cincuenta años habrá llegado, a todos nuestros países como ahora a Cuba la hora de la justicia social y América Latina entera se habrá emancipado del imperio que la saquea, de las castas que la explotan, de las fuerzas que hoy la ofenden y reprimen. Yo quiero que esa hora llegue cuanto antes y que América Latina ingrese de una vez por todas en la dignidad y en la vida moderna, que el socialismo nos libere de nuestro anacronismo y nuestro horror. Pero cuando las injusticias sociales desaparezcan, de ningún modo habrá llegado para el escritor la hora del consentimiento, la subordinación o la complicidad oficial. Su misión seguirá, deberá seguir siendo la misma; cualquier transigencia en este dominio constituye, de parte del escritor, una traición.

Dentro de la nueva sociedad, y por el camino que nos precipiten nuestros fantasmas y demonios personales, tendremos que seguir, como ayer, como ahora, diciendo no, rebelándonos, exigiendo que se reconozca nuestro derecho a disentir, mostrando, de esa manera viviente y mágica como sólo la literatura puede hacerlo, que el dogma, la censura, la arbitrariedad son también enemigos mortales del progreso y de la dignidad humana, afirmando que la vida no es simple ni cabe en esquemas, que el camino de la verdad no siempre es liso y recto, sino a menudo tortuoso y abrupto, demostrando con nuestros libros una y otra vez la esencial complejidad y diversidad del mundo y la ambigüedad contradictoria de los hechos humanos. Como ayer, como ahora, si amamos nuestra vocación, tendremos que seguir librando las treinta y dos guerras del coronel Aureliano Buendía, aunque, como a él, nos derroten en todas.

Nuestra vocación ha hecho de nosotros, los escritores, los profesionales del descontento, los perturbadores conscientes o inconscientes de la sociedad, los rebeldes con causa, los insurrectos irredentos del mundo, los insoportables abogados del diablo. No sé si está bien o si está mal, sólo sé que es así. Esta es la condición del escritor y debemos reivindicarla tal como es. En estos años en que comienza a descubrir, aceptar y auspiciar la literatura, América Latina debe saber, también, la amenaza que se cierne sobre ella, el duro precio que tendrá que pagar por la cultura. Nuestras sociedades deben estar alertadas: rechazado o aceptado, perseguido o premiado, el escritor que merezca este nombre seguirá arrojándoles a los hombres el espectáculo no siempre grato de sus miserias y tormentos.

Otorgándome este premio que agradezco profundamente, y que he aceptado porque estimo que no exige de mí ni la más leve sombra de compromiso ideológico, político o estético, y que otros escritores latinoamericanos con más obra y más méritos que yo, hubieron debido recibir en mi lugar -pienso en el gran Onetti, por ejemplo, a quien América Latina no ha dado aún el reconocimiento que merece- demostrándome desde que pisé esta ciudad enlutada tanto afecto, tanta cordialidad. Venezuela ha hecho de mí un abrumado deudor. La única manera como puedo pagar esa deuda es siendo, en la medida de mis fuerzas, más fiel, más leal, a esta vocación de escritor que nunca sospeché me depararía una satisfacción tan grande como la de hoy.





Excerpts from one of the greatest Latin American writers, the Peruvian-born Noble Laureate, Mario Vargas Llosa's "Literatura es fuego/Literature is fire" in English

"..Nothing teaches us better than literature to see, in ethnic and cultural differences, the richness of the human patrimony, and to prize those differences as a manifestation of humanity's multi-faceted creativity. Reading good literature is an experience of pleasure, of course; but it is also an experience of learning what and how we are, in our human integrity and our human imperfection, with our actions, our dreams, and our ghosts, alone and in relationships that link us to others, in our public image and in the secret recesses of our consciousness...

Literary works are born, as shapeless ghosts, in the intimacy of a writer's consciousness, projected into it by the combined strength of the unconscious, and the writer's sensitivity to the world around him, and the writer's emotions; and it is these things to which the poet or the narrator, in a struggle with words, gradually gives form, body, movement, rhythm, harmony, and life. An artificial life, to be sure, a life imagined, a life made of language--yet men and women seek out this artificial life, some frequently, others sporadically, because real life falls short for them, and is incapable of offering them what they want. Literature does not begin to exist through the work of a single individual. It exists only when it is adopted by others and becomes a part of social life--when it becomes, thanks to reading, a shared experience....
There is still another reason to grant literature an important place in the life of nations. Without it, the critical mind, which is the real engine of historical change and the best protector of liberty, would suffer an irreparable loss. This is because all good literature is radical, and poses radical questions about the world in which we live. In all great literary texts, often without their authors' intending it, a seditious inclination is present.

Literature says nothing to those human beings who are satisfied with their lot, who are content with life as they now live it. Literature is the food of the rebellious spirit, the promulgator of non-conformities, the refuge for those who have too much or too little in life. One seeks sanctuary in literature so as not to be unhappy and so as not to be incomplete. To ride alongside the scrawny Rocinante and the confused Knight on the fields of La Mancha, to sail the seas on the back of a whale with Captain Ahab, to drink arsenic with Emma Bovary, to become an insect with Gregor Samsa: these are all ways that we have invented to divest ourselves of the wrongs and the impositions of this unjust life, a life that forces us always to be the same person when we wish to be many different people, so as to satisfy the many desires that possess us.

Literature pacifies this vital dissatisfaction only momentarily--but in this miraculous instant, in this provisional suspension of life, literary illusion lifts and transports us outside of history, and we become citizens of a timeless land, and in this way immortal. We become more intense, richer, more complicated, happier, and more lucid than we are in the constrained routine of ordinary life. When we close the book and abandon literary fiction, we return to actual existence and compare it to the splendid land that we have just left. What a disappointment awaits us! Yet a tremendous realization also awaits us, namely, that the fantasized life of the novel is better--more beautiful and more diverse, more comprehensible and more perfect--than the life that we live while awake, a life conditioned by the limits and the tedium of our condition. In this way, good literature, genuine literature, is always subversive, unsubmissive, rebellious: a challenge to what exists.

How could we not feel cheated after reading War and Peace or Remembrance of Things Past and returning to our world of insignificant details, of boundaries and prohibitions that lie in wait everywhere and, with each step, corrupt our illusions? Even more than the need to sustain the continuity of culture and to enrich language, the greatest contribution of literature to human progress is perhaps to remind us (without intending to, in the majority of cases) that the world is badly made; and that those who pretend to the contrary, the powerful and the lucky, are lying; and that the world can be improved, and made more like the worlds that our imagination and our language are able to create. A free and democratic society must have responsible and critical citizens conscious of the need continuously to examine the world that we inhabit and to try, even though it is more and more an impossible task, to make it more closely resemble the world that we would like to inhabit. And there is no better means of fomenting dissatisfaction with existence than the reading of good literature; no better means of forming critical and independent citizens who will not be manipulated by those who govern them, and who are endowed with a permanent spiritual mobility and a vibrant imagination.

Still, to call literature seditious because it sensitizes a reader's consciousness to the imperfections of the world does not mean--as churches and governments seem to think it means when they establish censorship--that literary texts will provoke immediate social upheavals or accelerate revolutions. The social and political effects of a poem, a play, or a novel cannot be foreseen, because they are not collectively made or collectively experienced. They are created by individuals and they are read by individuals, who vary enormously in the conclusions that they draw from their writing and their reading. For this reason, it is difficult, or even impossible, to establish precise patterns. Moreover, the social consequences of a work of literature may have little to do with its aesthetic quality. A mediocre novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe seems to have played a decisive role in raising social and political consciousness of the horrors of slavery in the United States. The fact that these effects of literature are difficult to identify does not imply that they do not exist. The important point is that they are effects brought about by the actions of citizens whose personalities have been formed in part by books.

Good literature, while temporarily relieving human dissatisfaction, actually increases it, by developing a critical and non-conformist attitude toward life. It might even be said that literature makes human beings more likely to be unhappy. To live dissatisfied, and at war with existence, is to seek things that may not be there, to condemn oneself to fight futile battles, like the battles that Colonel Aureliano Buend'a fought in One Hundred Years of Solitude, knowing full well that he would lose them all. All this may be true. Yet it is also true that without rebellion against the mediocrity and the squalor of life, we would still live in a primitive state, and history would have stopped. The autonomous individual would not have been created, science and technology would not have progressed, human rights would not have been recognized, freedom would not have existed. All these things are born of unhappiness, of acts of defiance against a life perceived as insufficient or intolerable. For this spirit that scorns life as it is--and searches with the madness of Don Quixote, whose insanity derived from the reading of chivalric novels--literature has served as a great spur...
Let us attempt a fantastic historical reconstruction. Let us imagine a world without literature, a humanity that has not read poems or novels. In this kind of atrophied civilization, with its puny lexicon in which groans and ape-like gesticulations would prevail over words, certain adjectives would not exist. Those adjectives include: quixotic, Kafkaesque, Rabelaisian, Orwellian, sadistic, and masochistic, all terms of literary origin. To be sure, we would still have insane people, and victims of paranoia and persecution complexes, and people with uncommon appetites and outrageous excesses, and bipeds who enjoy inflicting or receiving pain. But we would not have learned to see, behind these extremes of behavior that are prohibited by the norms of our culture, essential characteristics of the human condition. We would not have discovered our own traits, as only the talents of Cervantes, Kafka, Rabelais, Orwell, de Sade, and Sacher-Masoch have revealed them to us.

When the novel Don Quixote de la Mancha appeared, its first readers made fun of this extravagant dreamer, as well as the rest of the characters in the novel. Today we know that the insistence of the caballero de la triste figura on seeing giants where there were windmills, and on acting in his seemingly absurd way, is really the highest form of generosity, and a means of protest against the misery of this world in the hope of changing it. Our very notions of the ideal, and of idealism, so redolent with a positive moral connotation, would not be what they are, would not be clear and respected values, had they not been incarnated in the protagonist of a novel through the persuasive force of Cervantes's genius. The same can be said of that small and pragmatic female Quixote, Emma Bovary, who fought with ardor to live the splendid life of passion and luxury that she came to know through novels. Like a butterfly, she came too close to the flame and was burned in the fire...
The inventions of all great literary creators open our eyes to unknown aspects of our own condition. They enable us to explore and to understand more fully the common human abyss. When we say "Borgesian," the word immediately conjures up the separation of our minds from the rational order of reality and the entry into a fantastic universe, a rigorous and elegant mental construction, almost always labyrinthine and arcane, and riddled with literary references and allusions, whose singularities are not foreign to us because in them we recognize hidden desires and intimate truths of our own personality that took shape only thanks to the literary creation of Jorge Luis Borges. The word "Kafkaesque" comes to mind, like the focus mechanism of those old cameras with their accordion arms, every time we feel threatened, as defenseless individuals, by the oppressive machines of power that have caused so much pain and injustice in the modern world--the authoritarian regimes, the vertical parties, the intolerant churches, the asphyxiating bureaucrats. Without the short stories and the novels of that tormented Jew from Prague who wrote in German and lived always on the lookout, we would not have been able to understand the impotent feeling of the isolated individual, or the terror of persecuted and discriminated minorities, confronted with the all-embracing powers that can smash them and eliminate them without the henchmen even showing their faces.

The adjective "Orwellian," first cousin of "Kafkaesque," gives a voice to the terrible anguish, the sensation of extreme absurdity, that was generated by totalitarian dictatorships of the twentieth century, the most sophisticated, cruel, and absolute dictatorships in history, in their control of the actions and the psyches of the members of a society. In 1984, George Orwell described in cold and haunting shades a humanity subjugated to Big Brother, an absolute lord who, through an efficient combination of terror and technology, eliminated liberty, spontaneity, and equality, and transformed society into a beehive of automatons. In this nightmarish world, language also obeys power, and has been transformed into "newspeak," purified of all invention and all subjectivity, metamorphosed into a string of platitudes that ensure the individual's slavery to the system. It is true that the sinister prophecy of 1984 did not come to pass, and totalitarian communism in the Soviet Union went the way of totalitarian fascism in Germany and elsewhere; and soon thereafter it began to deteriorate also in China, and in anachronistic Cuba and North Korea. But the danger is never completely dispelled, and the word "Orwellian" continues to describe the danger, and to help us to understand it...

To literature's unreality, literature's lies, are also a precious vehicle for the knowledge of the most hidden of human realities. The truths that it reveals are not always flattering; and sometimes the image of ourselves that emerges in the mirror of novels and poems is the image of a monster. This happens when we read about the horrendous sexual butchery fantasized by de Sade, or the dark lacerations and brutal sacrifices that fill the cursed books of Sacher-Masoch and Bataille. At times the spectacle is so offensive and ferocious that it becomes irresistible. Yet the worst in these pages is not the blood, the humiliation, the abject love of torture; the worst is the discovery that this violence and this excess are not foreign to us, that they are a profound part of humanity. These monsters eager for transgression are hidden in the most intimate recesses of our being; and from the shadow where they live they seek a propitious occasion to manifest themselves, to impose the rule of unbridled desire that destroys rationality, community, and even existence. And it was not science that first ventured into these tenebrous places in the human mind, and discovered the destructive and the self-destructive potential that also shapes it. It was literature that made this discovery. A world without literature would be partly blind to these terrible depths, which we urgently need to see.

Uncivilized, barbarian, devoid of sensitivity and crude of speech, ignorant and instinctual, inept at passion and crude at love, this world without literature, this nightmare that I am delineating, would have as its principal traits conformism and the universal submission of humankind to power. In this sense, it would also be a purely animalistic world. Basic instincts would determine the daily practices of a life characterized by the struggle for survival, and the fear of the unknown, and the satisfaction of physical necessities. There would be no place for the spirit. In this world, moreover, the crushing monotony of living would be accompanied by the sinister shadow of pessimism, the feeling that human life is what it had to be and that it will always be thus, and that no one and nothing can change it.

When one imagines such a world, one is tempted to picture primitives in loincloths, the small magic-religious communities that live at the margins of modernity in Latin America, Oceania, and Africa. But I have a different failure in mind. The nightmare that I am warning about is the result not of under-development but of over-development. As a consequence of technology and our subservience to it, we may imagine a future society full of computer screens and speakers, and without books, or a society in which books--that is, works of literature--have become what alchemy became in the era of physics: an archaic curiosity, practiced in the catacombs of the media civilization by a neurotic minority. I am afraid that this cybernetic world, in spite of its prosperity and its power, its high standard of living and its scientific achievement would be profoundly uncivilized and utterly soulless--a resigned humanity of post-literary automatons who have abdicated freedom.

It is highly improbable, of course, that this macabre utopia will ever come about. The end of our story, the end of history, has not yet been written, and it is not pre-determined. What we will become depends entirely on our vision and our will. But if we wish to avoid the impoverishment of our imagination, and the disappearance of the precious dissatisfaction that refines our sensibility and teaches us to speak with eloquence and rigor, and the weakening of our freedom, then we must act. More precisely, we must read. "

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Thank you for visiting Maulana Rumi Online, a blog dedicated entirely to the life, works and teachings of Maulana Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi better known simply as Rumi here in our beloved America. Just as a memory refresher, all articles, e-books, images, links and reading materials listed in this Blog are solely for Educational purposes. This Blog is designed and maintained by yours truly, your comments, critiques or suggestions are quite welcome and greatly appreciated. As for my own Rumi Translations, you are welcome to copy and use them as long as it's not for commercial purposes. For best viewing, please try this Blog on Google Chrome Browser. This is a very long Blog though, so please make sure to use the Scroll To Top or Bottom Buttons at the left side, or Back To Top Button at the bottom right corner of your screen for smooth navigation. If you have any question, comment, critique or suggestion, please contact me by clicking the Contact Box embedded at the right middle corner. As Rumi would say, "Come, come, whoever you are, come back again.."!








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