Saturday, February 5, 2011


The Spanish king Juan Carlos awarded the title of Marquis to the great Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa*. It's great, of course, that the king is trying to do something to recognize a writer who has done so much to make the people of the world love and respect literature in Spanish**. Still, the very idea of honoring a writer by giving him a title is quite bizarre. The concept of aristocracy, of some people being better than others because they were born to a certain family, is one of the most ridiculous inventions of humanity. Nowadays, it has become popular with the surviving European monarchs to award nobility titles to important artists in order to save the concept of nobility from complete oblivion. 

The very nature of creative talent is such as to make of it the exact opposite of the concept of nobility. Even if you come from a long line of talented writers, painters or musicians, this heritage does not bring you even an inch closer to being capable of creating your own work of art. The nobility of spirit and the nobility of blood often fail to coincide at all. An artist always begins creative work from scratch. A noble has every advantage possible from birth but, more often than not, never manages to transform it into something worthwhile.

For these reasons, I find it funny that Juan Carlos of Spain would think that he has something he can give Mario Vargas Llosa to honor him. The power of this writer's creative genius gives him a much greater right to confer honors on other people than any such right that a king might possess. It would have made a lot more sense for Vargas Llosa to decide whether he chose to honor the king of Spain.

* The link is in Spanish.

** If you are looking to get familiar with the work of this great writer who received the Nobel Prize for Literature last year, I recommend his beautiful novel The War of the End of the World. Another novel by Vargas Llosa that merits attention is The Bad Girl: A Novel. This novel represents the writer's contribution to the attempts to create the great Latin American love story. In my opinion, all such efforts until now have failed (Juan Rulfo got close to this goal in his novel Pedro Paramo, even though the novel itself is not centered on love) but Vargas Llosa's The Bad Girl: A Novel is a good effort in that direction.

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