The highlights of Saturday morning were two sensitive, probing and humane interviews of contemporary authors, Paolo Giordano and Mario Vargas Llosa, conducted by one of Colombia’s most celebrated contemporary writers, Hector Abad Faciolince. Faciolince is best known for his autobiographical work El olvido que seremos, a searing account of the political violence in Medellín—the second largest city in Colombia—in the 1990s which led to the assassination of his father, a prominent university professor outspoken in his condemnation of para-military, drug-related violence (a work now being translated into English by the prize-winning translator, Anne McLean).
Faciolince is a generous, kind, and erudite man, and his conversation with Paolo Giordano, in Italian, drew out many of the facets of the 28-year old author from Turin, whose novel La solitudine dei numeri primi (The Solitude of Prime Numbers), has been a worldwide publishing phenomenon. Giordano, a physicist who is to present his doctoral thesis next week, spoke about the tormented adolescence of Alice and Mattia (the two principal protagonists), his literary influences (including Ian McEwan), and the process of writing the book itself. For a young man (enviably) caught up in perhaps unexpected global success, Giordano seemed kind, unassuming, reflective and critically aware.
The Teatro Heredia was bursting at the seams for Faciolince’s interview with Mario Vargas Llosa, the avuncular elderly statesman of Latin American letters, while several hundred people more watched the interview on a big screen in the blazing sun and sultry breezes of the square outside. Vargas Llosa spoke of the demons which compel him to write, and of the obsessive single-mindedness and intensity with which he has forged his novels. Not for him, he said, the inevitable inspiration of genius; rather, writing inspired by travel, reading, interviews, encounters and a deep immersion in the world, politics, the tangled knot of human relationships, and life.
Faciolince sought to understand Vargas Llosa’s recurrent concern with fanaticism in his work, with characters swept up by passion, hatred and an uncontrollable thirst for power. Vargas Llosa contended it was not autobiographical, but rather borne out by his experience of dictatorships and brutality in Peru and across the continent over the past fifty years.
And, inevitably, there was much direct talk of politics too: with Vargas Llosa setting out his vision of a Latin America…