Dispatch from Stockholm: Bad Fiction


Arts & Culture

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?

It seems that on Monday Vargas Llosa climbed onto a chair in his hotel room, following the instructions of a bold photographer. In one unlucky moment, the writer lost his balance and fell to the floor.

That instant must have felt apocalyptic for the man behind the camera. Vargas Llosa is vigorous and dynamic, but he is not a young man, and a fall like that for any seventy-four-year-old is a serious matter. The very idea of the life of a Nobel Laureate ending with such a farcical accident was both startling and unreal, like a bad piece of fiction.

Translated from Spanish by Daniel Alarcón.

See also: “Mario Vargas Llosa: A Portrait in Miniature.”

See also: “Dispatch from Stockholm.”