Yes, folks, I’m talking about those two once-notable authors, Mario Vargas Llosa and Carlos Fuentes, who have both decided to keep their names in the news by turning their pens to machetes in the name of right-wing hackery.
Since it’s currently fashionable in certain circles to bash Chavecito for everything from his impoverished background to his military career to his friendship with Fidel to, yes, his nonwhiteness–well, when talent deserts you, you just gotta turn your hand to something, and why not something fashionable? It’s either that or the bottle of Victory Gin (and I wouldn’t put that past either one of these sour old boys, either. Hey, it worked out fine for Christopher Hitchens–he gets to crapagandize and drink himself insensible with the proceeds.)
Now, Russia doesn’t have a notable journalistic tradition that I’m aware of. (Mind you, Pravda may not be the best thing to go by on this one.) No more than it has a lengthy and illustrious history of parliamentary democracy. But I can see I shall have to visit Tiwy.com more often, because this is one Russia-based news site that strives to get things right.
Case in point: Nil Nikandrov’s excellent piece on the two writers-turned-crapagandists. Nikandrov definitely seems to have Vargas Llosa’s number–and on speed-dial, at that:
Once Llosa tried to sit in the presidential chair of Republic of Peru himself, but he lost the elections and was so grieved that gave up his Peruvian citizenship and became a Spaniard. One can think that his constant attacks on Chavez are provoked by hidden jealousy: this «ordinary lieutenant colonel» used to pass through the trials of national elections and won them with confidence, whereas he, Mario Vargas Llosa, famous all over the world writer, «the Peruvian No.1» of modern times, went on the rocks in the country, which he glorified by his pen.
Actively making his «image» of fighter for freedom and democracy in Latin America, warning the peoples of the continent from «expansion of the Bolivarian revolution by means of petrodollars of Chavez, Llosa pursues one more goal, personal. He, for a long time and without success has a claim for a Nobel prize in literature, and in his 70 odd years strives to get it as a worthy completion of his literary career. The conservative nature of the Nobel prizes committee is well known, hence and a lengthy «turn to the right» of the writer, who used to be considered if not a «leftist» but, at least, a fellow traveller.
The English is a little fractured, but I think you get the picture. Since Vargas Llosa lost an election (to Alberto Fujimori, no less), he flipped Peru the bird and fucked off for Spain. Embittered by his failures in politics both leftish and presidential, he now attacks anyone successful whom he sees as an upstart, particularly if that guy is a non-white leftist. Meanwhile, he also keeps gunning for that Nobel Prize, any which way he can. Strangely, his shots keep missing the target, boomeranging, and hitting him in the foot! Not only is the Nobel eluding him (going, alas, to such notable, unwavering leftists as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nadine Gordimer and Jose Saramago), but so too is all political credibility. Poor Mario, shall we throw another tantrum (and an inkwell to go with it)?
Meanwhile, Carlos Fuentes fares no better:
And now, when again [Vargas Llosa] managed to get points by «exposing creativity on the Chavez topic» there appeared a new obstacle on the road to the prize — this time in the person of another writer, – Mexican Carlos Fuentes. He also regularly criticises Chavez and «in the name of protection of democratic ideals» and in order to appear in international press more often.
The reason is still the same: active demonstration of conservatism, accusation of populism, castrism and communism — are strategically vital for struggling for the prize. Prudent Fuentes succeeded in getting additional points having written a rapturous preface to the book about the antipode of Chavez — Venezuelan oligarch Cisneros (P. Bachelet, «Gustavo Cisneros, World Business Man» Gustavo Cisneros. Un empresario global). Glorification of oligarchs, heroes of neo-liberal super-business — is a Deed with a Capital Letter. Neo-liberal policy brought Latin America an impoverishment, degradation of social programs, aggravation of contradictions, plunder and absorption of weak national economies by transnational companies.
Admirers of Fuentes got angry and bombarded him with letters: how could you do this? One of them, clearly not a chavist, wrote: «Mister Carlos Fuentes, you’d better deal with your own favourite Mexico, which, unfortunately, is situated too close to the United States. Their government condemned our people to poverty and suffering, and, as a result, to illiteracy, loss of historical memory and obedience. Of course, you live very well. You are not obliged to follow the Christian commandment — love your neighbour (Venezuelan or Mexican people) as yourself. Tomorrow you may desire to convince us that Bush or Blair deserve the Nobel peace prize, senor Gustavo Cisneros — the prize in the field of economics, and you, I don’t argue, in the field of literature. But do not forget that among other laureates of the prize there go your predecessors – Jorge Amado, Cesar Vallejo, Julio Cortazar and all those who died but did not sell, pawn their honour and their art in order to become imitators of businessmen».
Ouch. How’d you like to have your honor impugned like that?
Nikandrov pinpoints what’s the matter with both men rather neatly: Perceiving a hard-to-starboard turn in regional politics (a turn steered, with deadly calculation, by Washington, using various proxies throughout Latin America), the two writers, each in his own labyrinth, decided it was better to go along to get along, and write whatever was likely to get praised and published in the English-language media. In other words: neo-con rightist crapaganda. Real democracy, development and the fight against poverty could all go hang; the main thing was to demonstrate that one was “pro-freedom” in the sense that was most pleasing to Washington, even if that “freedom” eventually left bloody footprints all over the rugs of the presidential palace. And heaven forfend that anyone should have a good word to say for Fidel Castro, the elephant in the Latin American living room!
No wonder Vargas Llosa’s presidential bid failed. Such cowardly pandering may get one published, all right, and even rather well paid, but that’s about as far as it goes. If either of them thought that they could pull an Evita and land real power and prestige after prostituting themselves, they were mistaken. Both Vargas Llosa and Fuentes have been passed over for the literary Nobel, notes Nikandrov, and seem likely to remain so. Especially since they have taken up right-wing pamphleteering for fun and profit.
Moral of the story? Opportunism may pay, but only in the short term. In the long run, discerning people will recognize you for the pathetic hack you are, and simply stop reading you altogether. And writerly honor, once lost, is like youth: you can try to fake it all you like, but you can never get it back.