Friday, February 15, 2008


A while back we mentioned a survey in which Mexicans - who are, to be frank, not a nation of voracious readers - ranked as their favorite all-time national writers the impenetrable Octavio Paz and the 17th Century Catholic nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, which either means that the survey was restricted to graduate students in Mexican Lit., or that eveyone's full of shit.

So a couple months ago the great Peruvian essayist and novelist Mario Vargas Llosa writes an essay declaring The Traps of Faith, a book written by Paz about Sor Juana (In American terms, this would be like Dan Brown writing a book-length meditation on the works of Danielle Steele), "the best work of literary criticism to appear in Latin America."

Sure, whatever. But the book is 25 years old, so why the bold declaration now? Because, Vargas Llosa says, he has "only just read it." Huh?

I mean, I know I'm the last person to criticize someone for not being up on their reading (I was surprised to learn D.H. Lawrence had written about Mexico, despite having taken - and passed - a course in college called "The Novels of D.H. Lawrence") but, hell, even I've heard of the book. Are the upper ranks of Latin American literati so swelled that a man of Vargas Llosa's erudition somehow never got around to reading a major work by a Latin American Nobel Prize winner for like 25 years? Seriously?

Suddenly, I feel much better about my never-shrinking reading pile.


Anonymous said...

Something about this immediately reminded me of the recent book Comment parler des livres que l'on n'a pas lus (Pierre Bayard). (Which I haven't read.) Maybe this is part of some whole postmodern trend.

Burro Hall said...

I'm sorry, I don't have time to read your comment. Could you just give me bullet points?

You know who said...

There's a reason Vargas Llosa didn't read Paz' book 25 years ago... back then, he was hanging out in sleazy literary salons getting into drunken brawls with that other noted pugilist, Gabriel "el realista magico" Garcia Marquez (