Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010 “for his cartography of the structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat.” Peru's foremost writer, he was awarded the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's most distinguished literary honor, and the Jerusalem Prize. His many works include The Feast of the Goat, The Bad Girl, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, The War of the End of the World, and The Storyteller. He lives in London. This essay, making its U.S. debut, is excerpted from Touchstones: Essays on Literature, Art and Politics. There are certain naïve people who believe that a fear of flying is, or can be explained by, a fear of death. They are wrong: fear of flying is fear of flying, not of death, a fear as particular and specific as a fear of spiders, or of the void, or of cats, three common examples among the thousands that make up the panoply of human fears. Fear of flying wells up suddenly, when people not lacking in imagination and sensitivity realise that they are thirty thousand feet in the air, travelling through clouds at eight hundred miles an hour, and ask, 'What the hell am I doing here?' And begin to tremble.
When the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature announcement went out last week, we were thrilled they named our author Mario Varga Llosa. I reached out to two of his translators for their thoughts. Edith Grossman is an award-winning translator of Gabriel García Márquez, Julián Rios, and Álvaro Mutis, among others. Her 2003 translation of Cervantes' Don Quixote is widely acclaimed as one of the best translations from the Spanish in recent years. Natasha Wimmer is best known for her translation of Roberto Bolaño's The Savage Detectives and 2666. She has also translated Pedro Juan Gutiérrez's Dirty Havana Trilogy. + + + Chapman: How did you first discover Mario Vargas Llosa's work? Edith Grossman: I first discovered his work in graduate school, when I was reading works of the Latin American Boom—Vargas Llosa, Fuentes, García Márquez, Rulfo, Cortázar, and so forth. Chapman: How did you come to translate his books in the United States? Grossman: I was approached by FSG to translate Death in the Andes, the first book of his I worked on. I had met him a few times before that in New York, at talks and readings.