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A provocative essay collection that finds the Nobel laureate taking on the decline of intellectual life
In the past, culture was a kind of vital consciousness that constantly rejuvenated and revivified everyday reality. Now it is largely a mechanism of distraction and entertainment. Notes on the Death of Culture is an examination and indictment of this transformation—penned by none other than Mario Vargas Llosa, who is not only one of our finest novelists but one of the keenest social critics at work today.
Taking his cues from T. S. Eliot—whose essay "Notes Toward a Definition of Culture" is a touchstone precisely because the culture Eliot aimed to describe has since vanished—Vargas Llosa traces a decline whose ill effects have only just begun to be felt. He mourns, in particular, the figure of the intellectual: for most of the twentieth century, men and women of letters drove political, aesthetic, and moral conversations; today they have all but disappeared from public debate.
But Vargas Llosa stubbornly refuses to fade into the background. He is not content to merely sign a petition; he will not bite his tongue. A necessary gadfly, the Nobel laureate Vargas Llosa, here vividly translated by John King, provides a tough but essential critique of our time and culture.
Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010 “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat.” He has also won the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world’s most distinguished literary honor. His many works include The Feast of the Goat, The Bad Girl, and Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. John King is a professor of Latin American cultural history at the University of Warwick, England. He is the coeditor, with Efraín Kristal, of The Cambridge Companion to Mario Vargas Llosa, and he has edited and translated several volumes of Vargas Llosa’s essays, including Making Waves (FSG, 1996) and Touchstones (FSG, 2007).