More Mario Vargas Llosa Celebration, and Where to Eat in D.C.


mario and gabriel, in happier times

In case Nick Gillespie's earlier post about today's Nobel Prize winning novelist who is "one of the preeminent public intellectuals of the post-war era and one of the great libertarian heroes of the age" whet your appetite for more Vargas Llosa love, below are two more tidbits about the worthy winner (and Reason contributor)—plus some tips about how to find great restaurants in D.C. First:

It is 31 years since Mario Vargas Llosa punched Gabriel García Márquez in the face. It happened like this. "Mario!" exclaimed Márquez happily on seeing his old literary chum after a film premiere in Mexico City. He marched towards the Peruvian, arms outstretched as if for an embrace. "How dare you come and greet me after what you did to Patricia in Barcelona!" Vargas Llosa reportedly shouted and decked the Colombian with a right hook. Mexican writers ran around looking for steaks to put on the Colombian's eye. Patricia, it turns out, was Mario's wife. The two men have reportedly never spoken since. So began one of the greatest rows in literary history.

The incident ended with a steak on Marquez's eye. While the feud may have started over a woman, it has continued in the realm of politics:

In addition to trying to encourage peace in Colombia, his civil-war-ravaged native country, Garcia Marquez continued to support the Cuban communist leader Fidel Castro, with whom he developed a close association. The upside was that he used it to mediate talks in Cuba between Colombia's government and its Marxist guerrillas….

For his part, Vargas Llosa was scathing about his former friend's links to Castro, calling him "the courtier". How, he asked, when large parts of the world's intellectual community had become critical of the Cuban revolution, over issues such as censorship and the treatment of anti-Castro artists, could Garcia Marquez always remain so loyal to the dictator? (Vargas Llosa was not alone; it was even hinted by Garcia Marquez's political detractors that his defence of Caribbean socialism had helped him to win the Nobel Prize when he was not much older than 50.)

And, while Garcia Marquez cosied up to Castro, Vargas Llosa was travelling in the opposite political direction. He became increasingly active politically in his native Peru and steadily took on more right-wing economic views. In 1990, he ran for the presidency on a centre-right ticket, proposing a drastic austerity programme that would have hit the country's poorest people hardest. He won 34 per cent of the vote but was defeated by an agricultural engineer named Alberto Fujimori.

More recently, in the 2006 presidential elections in Peru, he campaigned in favour of a strongly conservative candidate, and asked "how it is possible that at least a third of Peruvians want a return to dictatorship, authoritarianism, a subjugated press, judicial manipulation, impunity and the systematic abuse of human rights". Which is by no means how Garcia Marquez sees things.

Second: Vargas Llosa is a favorite of libertarian economist and Marginal Revolution blogger Tyler Cowen. And when it comes to matters of taste, it always pays to do what Tyler says. While there are those who ask themselves What Would Tyler Durden Do?, I prefer a milder cultural mentor.

read it.

Every year for Christmas, my husband gets me a box of books. A big box. This year, it was stuffed with selections from Cowen's list of favorite books, and while virtually all of the books were hits, the clear winner was Mario Vargas Llosa's The War of the End of the World. Many of the themes from his two essays for Reason are present in this brilliant 1981 novel. It's great starter Vargas Llosa, for anyone looking to dip into his fiction.

Bonus Cowen-Vargas Llosa connection: In an astonishing example of the social payoffs of neurodiversity, Cowen has visited what seems to be every single strip mall or otherwise down-at-the-heels ethnic restaurant in the entire D.C. area. He writes up the winners in a popular Ethnic Dining Guide. Wondering where to go for dinner in D.C.? Just let Cowen tell you what to do.He'll even guide you to an excellent Peruvian restaurant, if you're looking for a place to celebrate tonight!