An imagined dialogue between Saramago and Vargas Llosa

By Dora A. Ayora Talavera | @DoraAyora

It is elections´ season in Mexico, full of occurrences, “coming and goings”. They make me imagin a dialogue between José Saramago and Mario Vargas Llosa through their writings: Essay about Lucidity and The Truth of Lies.

I imagine a conversation that has lasted for a while, they have interchanged some ideas and the dialogue is in its climax. Vargas Llosa is arguing something like this: “but a successful fiction, incarnate the subjectivity of an age, that is the reason that novels in contrast with history, lie, they communicate some elusive and evanescent thrust, that escapes from the scientific descriptors of reality”.

Saramago responds very joyfully: My novel Essay about Lucidity is a good example of this, it tells that in a nameless city – It is very important that the city does not have a name – during local elections, the majority of the population decide individually exercise their right to vote, in a very unexpected way.

Without restraint, Vargas Llosa respond: dear friend! There is cases like your novel where “the difference between an historical truth and a literary truth disappear and it merged in a hybrid that fill up history of unreality and hollow out fiction of mystery, initiative and nonconformity to the established”.

Saramago: How much literary truth there is described at the end of the first chapter… “midnight passing and scrutiny finished. Valid votes were almost twenty five percent, divided in this way: right party, thirteen percent, middle party, nine percent and left party, two and a half percent. Very little invalid votes and abstentions. The rest, more than sixty percent, was in blanc”.

Vargas Llosa: Of course “the power of persuasion of the good writer – like you my dear friend – and the credulity of the reader what give to the unreality a precarious reality”.

Saramago: My readers have been avoiding in a pamphlet included in my novel “readers: All the occurrences described in this book, are product solely of the powerful imagination of the Novel Prize of literature winner. Reality has the rude tenacity to imitate the facts narrated in it”

Vargas Llosa: but you, my dear friend have transcended that “strict system of censoring that is used to make literature fantasize into the rigid limits, so that their subjective truths do not contradict and shade official stories.

Saramago: when the president of the polling booth fourteen, tells my novel, calls to the “Ministry to know what is happening, he has to recognise: I am very worried, something really weird is happening here, it has been more than an hour since we open the booth and until now there is no elector voting, there is no soul…”

Vargas Llosa: that call of the president and what happen after it, makes me think that, when “a State, in its eagerness to control and decide everything, snatches the human being their right to invent and believe whatever lie they want, it abolishes a very important part of social life”

Saramago: “the government interprets this civic example of my characters, as a revolutionary gesture, capable to undermine the foundations of a degenerated democracy, and they believe that it can be the product of an international conspiracy or unknown extremist groups…”

This conversation can be longer, but I need stop and point the lesson out that it teaches me: a novel, though fiction, is a good example of bravery. It is an extraordinary sign of social consciousness, responsibility, and commitment with an actual democracy practiced with freedom, not voting for unelectable candidates; do not resign to choose among candidates that were imposed. I can only recognise that Vargas Llosa is right: “actual life, true life, has never been and won’t be enough to fulfill human desires. Fiction compensates our tragic condition: to desire and to dream always more that we can reach”. Though on the other side, Could fiction become reality?

Note: All the fragments quoted are textual cites from the books Essay about Lucidity by José Saramago and The Truth of lies by Mario Vargas Llosa, both published by Alfaguara

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