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How 'Madame Bovary' fueled Mario Vargas Llosa's career.

A classic piece of literature has a way of changing an aspiring writer's life.

Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, in his recent visit to Manila, said it was French novelist Gustave Flaubert and his novel 'Madame Bovary' that encouraged him to pursue his dream of becoming not only a novelist but also a realist writer.

'I remember the year 1959. I was very young and, like many, many writers, I started with the idea that I had no talent at all. I had the vocation but no talent,' he said at a welcome gathering in the Miguel Hernandez Library at Instituto Cervantes de Manila in Makati City.

'Then I read 'Madame Bovary' and that book changed my life. I was absolutely fascinated. I learned the kind of writer that I wanted to be. I discovered I am a realist, not a fantasy writer.'

Trying to find relevance in his work as a starting writer, he chanced upon a collection of Flaubert's correspondence.

Still, hard work

'It was an extraordinary help. As in case of many writers, [I discovered] when he started, Flaubert had no talent at all. He wanted to be a great writer. How he fought against this lack of talent? With perseverance, with stubbornness, with discipline, with hard work,' he said.

'And so I learned that if you want to be a good writer and you don't have talent, you must work very hard, very disciplined, stubborn, not to be satisfied with what you have done, and that you can always improve what you have done as did Flaubert, and this is a way to build talent if you don't have talent at the beginning,' he added.

'My debt to Flaubert is enormous. And I still reread Flaubert from time to time and with the same pleasure as the first time.'

Critics say the eroticism of 'Madame Bovary' can be felt in Vargas Llosa's 'In Praise of the Stepmother' and 'The Bad Girl.'

Writing process

Vargas Llosa confessed he didn't choose the subjects of his novels but, instead, he was chosen by them.

'In a sense, all the stories that I have written follow the same process. If something happened to me-one experience among many others that produces certain images that my memory kept-one day I discovered that one or certain number of images had started to produce, like an embryo of a story,' he said.

'At the beginning, very spontaneous, not totally conscious, little by little, I discovered I'd been working mentally on a story,' he added.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Nov 14, 2016
Words:510
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