Letters to a Young Novelist

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9780374119164: Letters to a Young Novelist

A literary apprenticeship in eleven letters, by the internationally acclaimed master of the novel

In the tradition of Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, Mario Vargas Llosa condenses a lifetime of writing, reading, and thought into an essential manual for aspiring writers, revealing in the process his deepest beliefs about our common literary endeavor. A writer, in his view, is a being seized by an insatiable appetite for creation, a rebel, and a dreamer. But dreams, when set down on paper, require disciplined development, and so Vargas Llosa undertakes to supply the tools of transformation. Drawing on the stories and novels of writers from around the globe -- Borges, Bierce, Céline, Cortázar, Faulkner, Kafka, Robbe-Grillet -- he lays bare the inner workings of fiction, examining time, space, style, and structure, all the while urging young novelists not to lose touch with the elemental urge to create. Conversational, eloquent, and effortlessly erudite, this little book is destined to be read and reread by young writers, old writers, would-be writers, and all those with a stake in the world of letters.

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About the Author:

Mario Vargas Llosa's novels include Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, In Praise of the Stepmother, The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto, and The Feast of the Goat. He recently won the PEN/Nabokov Award. He lives in London.

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.

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