cover image Conversation at Princeton

Conversation at Princeton

Mario Vargas Llosa and Rubén Gallo, trans. from the Spanish by Anna Kushner. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (272p) ISBN 978-0-374-12901-9

A 2015 seminar co-taught by Peruvian author Llosa and Princeton professor Gallo comes to the page in this fascinating volume. The seminar, on politics and literature, sees Gallo prompt in-depth personal reflections and considered opinions from the novelist. Llosa recalls his early days working as a journalist (“It helped me to discover the reality of my country”), outlines his literary influences (“Faulkner, but also Dos Passos”), and considers the challenges of translation (“The meaning of that word is very dependent on who says it, to whom it is being said, and the tone with which it is said”). Especially vivid is the chapter on his 2000 novel The Feast of the Goat, about in which Llosa outlines the novel’s inspiration, the research he did for it, and his writing process. Students occasionally interject with questions, and insightful anecdotes about the novelist’s process (“I wrote episodes here and there first, until I found the structure,” he notes of Conversation in The Cathedral) and political perspective (“No country, no matter how advanced it is, is completely immune to a dictatorship”) abound. Llosa’s readers will appreciate this peek behind the curtain. (Jan.)