Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mario Vargas Llosa, Nobel Prize Winner In Literature, Says Stories And Fiction Are Critically Important For Promoting Liberty And Fighting Prejudice

Myths are stories. So I enjoyed reading Emily Parker's article in the Wall Street Journal about Vargas Llosa. See Vargas Llosa and the Value of Literature: His work is a rebuttal to those who believe that fiction exists on the periphery of history and politics. He also has opinions on economics. Here are some excerpts from the article:

"In a New Republic essay in 2001, Mr. Vargas Llosa argued for granting literature "an important place in the life of nations." He wrote, "Without it, the critical mind, which is the real engine of historical change and the best protector of liberty, would suffer an irreparable loss.""

"Mr. Vargas Llosa's novels reflect his deep, personal hatred of dictatorships and his staunch belief in the value of individual liberty."

"He unsuccessfully ran for president of Peru in 1990, losing to Alberto Fujimori. During the campaign Mr. Vargas Llosa gained notoriety for his emphasis on a market economy, free trade and private property."

"As Mr. Vargas Llosa wrote in his 2001 essay about literature, "Nothing better protects a human being against the stupidity of prejudice, racism, religious or political sectarianism, and exclusivist nationalism than this truth that invariably appears in great literature: that men and women of all nations and places are essentially equal.""

I hope all this is true. It is possible that fiction could promote dictatorship and bigotry. Perhaps on balance fiction does more good than harm.

It is interesting that Adam Smith's personal collection of books did not contain any prose fiction (see sources).

Here is an example of the power of fiction. It is from Social Networking Affects Brains Like Falling in Love.

"Two researchers from Washington University in St. Louis scanned the brains of fiction readers and discovered that their test subjects created intense, graphic mental simulations of the sights, sounds, movements, and tastes they encountered in the narrative. In essence, their brains reacted as if they were actually living the events they were reading about."


Review: Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations
Author(s): Donald White
Source: Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 37, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1976), pp. 715-720
Published by: University of Pennsylvania PressStable

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