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Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Alarcón’

First Impressions

January 23, 2012 | by

Translated by Daniel Alarcón.

In the months before the end of my last year of high school, I began working in the afternoons at a small printing press. My mother was not opposed. I was friendly with the owner as well as his wife, an enormous and attractive woman who visited my house now and then so my mother could cut her hair or dye it in whatever color current style demanded. I learned the publishing trade with the enthusiasm of one who hoped to see his own poems in print one day. For the time being, I was only in charge of placing letters of lead type, and I was always careful not to get them out of order, so that I wouldn’t have to place them all again, line by line, as tended to happen whenever Señora Leonor, the owner’s wife, came by the print shop. Her presence was always a bit unsettling to me, and she was well aware of this. I suspect she had always known it, even before I did, ever since I was a child, when I didn’t understand the transitory pleasure that came from brushing against her legs or her hips on the pretext of playing with my little cars, before I was sent out to the patio, leaving Señora Leonor and that smile that would electrify me years later in her husband’s print shop. If her visits were sporadic, it only made the effect more disconcerting: an unease that I tried to pour into my adolescent poems, to be transferred later onto an old plank of wood in the composition box that I kept hidden beneath the other work of the day—that is, if my shame didn’t force me to undo it all. Read More »


Dispatch from Stockholm: Bad Fiction

December 10, 2010 | by

Mario Vargas Llosa photographed earlier this year.

The world press surrounds him, chases him, wears him down. And by now, Mario Vargas Llosa has begun to feel the secondary effects of this immense happiness—a happiness for which even he has been unable to find an appropriate adjective. The celebration has been defined by an overwhelmingly busy schedule, the most emotional plaudits, the harsh Swedish winter, and the vertigo of being in the public eye minute by minute in the Twitter age. Vargas Llosa is mostly silent, careful not to strain his voice, and hopeful that the pain he’s felt in his leg for the past forty-eight hours will soon pass.

This morning, I found him eating cereal for breakfast at Stockholm’s Grand Hôtel, and he told his daughter Morgana that the pain hadn’t yet gone away. The novelist had even asked the Nobel organizers to let him stop by a clinic on the way to the opening of an exhibit about his life and work at the Cervantes Institute. What had happened?

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Dispatch from Stockholm

December 8, 2010 | by

Mario Vargas Llosa photographed earlier this year, after the Nobel Prize announcement. For most people, Vilela writes, winning the Nobel is like being canonized.

When Mario Vargas Llosa got the call, his first thought was that it was an emergency of some kind. It was around five in the morning in New York, the same hour as in Lima, where most of his family lives—which is why he was alarmed. He’d risen a few moments earlier and, at that hour when the city sleeps, was sitting down to read. It was part of his routine while he was teaching at Princeton for a semester. His wife, Patricia, handed him the phone, and a voice said it was the Swedish Academy. Vargas Llosa first thought it might be a joke, like the one the heartless friends of the Italian writer Alberto Moravia had pulled on him: They awarded him the Nobel in jest, with a call just like this one. And Moravia celebrated, as if he’d actually won. Vargas Llosa hesitated. The voice assured him he had actually won the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature, and then the call ended. Those were strange moments—a controlled euphoria, a surprising well of emotion, skepticism. The phone rang again, and the same voice announced that the news would be made official in fourteen minutes, that he should be prepared.

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Mario Vargas Llosa: A Portrait in Miniature

December 6, 2010 | by

Photograph by Shannon Stapleton.

It had rained earlier, and the streets of Manhattan were slick. The traffic lights shone off the pavement, and in the front seat Mario Vargas Llosa discussed the delicate Ivoirian political situation with a taxi driver from Abidjan. I sat in the back seat with Mario’s wife, Patricia, struggling to carry on a polite back-and-forth with her, while simultaneously listening to the discussion going on up front. Patricia and I discussed Mario’s upcoming travel schedule. I mentioned I’d once heard him speak in Madrid, and she nodded, a little bored by me. In truth, I was a little bored by me, too. Perhaps she could intuit that I would’ve preferred to join Mario. It must have been obvious enough. Thick plastic partitions separate the front from the back of New York City taxicabs, and the effect was like watching Mario on an old fuzzy television set, the volume low. I could hear his muffled voice, but only make out a few words: questions about this warring faction or that one, the fragility of the negotiated peace, the coming elections. I wanted to interject—I’ve also been to Ivory Coast!—and this was technically true: I once spent a night in the Abidjan bus station, protected by a knife-wielding tough named Michel, who insisted on locking us inside for own safety—but there was no room for me or my story in this conversation, and so I said nothing. My French is crudely utilitarian, fine for reading a newspaper, say, but not for enjoying a novel by Flaubert, and I’m too embarrassed by my accent to fall into casual conversation with a West African taxi driver; I could only get the sense of the dialogue between Mario and the man from Abidjan, the spirit of it—enough to feel that in the course of a short uptown ride, they’d become almost intimate. We passed 72nd Street, and they shared a joke. Who told it: Mario or the driver? Behind thick plastic, both laughed heartily. Block after rain-soaked block, I sat in silence, straining to hear.

This week, Vargas Llosa will accept the Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm. Join us as Sergio Vilela trails Vargas Llosa through the Swedish city, writing in with dispatches translated by Alarcón.


An Editor Abroad: San Francisco

October 8, 2010 | by

While on the California leg of his tour, Lorin has been writing dispatches for the special Frankfurt Book Fair edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Here is today’s dispatch, sent from San Francisco:
Here in San Francisco I spent the evening giving a talk at City Lights with Oscar Villalon, the decomissioned book editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. Later the conversation migrated across the street to the back room at Tosca’s, where the general manager of City Lights, Paul Yamazaki, played host to a crowd that included writers Daniel Alarcón, Josh Jelly Shapiro, and Shawn Vandor; Graywolf editor Ethan Nosowsky; and private investigator David Sullivan—who really is a private investigator ...
Read the rest of Lorin’s write-up here.