I’ve devoted a few blogs to the notion that literature is a gateway to truth and human understanding. (Blog 8/14/15) Regrettably, books of history, biography and science sell better than fiction because too many believe the latter is frivolous and unworthy of a serious mind. Mario Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian novelist and Nobel Laureate (2010), suffers the uncertainties of life in a country that swings between democracy and dictatorship. He writes this eloquent defense of fiction. I have never turned my blog over to another writer. Here, I make an exception:
Literature’s unrealities, literature’s lies, are a precious vehicle for the knowledge of the most hidden of human realities. The truth that it reveals are not always flattering; and sometimes the images of ourselves that emerges in the mirror of novels and poems is the image of a monster. Yet the worst in these pages is not the blood, the humiliation, the abject love of torture; the worst is the discovery of this violence and this excess is not foreign to us, that they are a profound part of humanity. These monsters eager for transgression are hidden in the most intimate recesses of our being; and from the shadow where they live they seek a propitious occasion to manifest themselves, to impose the rule of unbridled desire that destroys rationality, community and even existence. And it is not science that first ventured into these tenebrous places in the human mind, and discovered the destructive and self-destructive potential that also shapes it. It was literature that made this discovery. A world without literature would be partly blind to these terrible depths, which we urgently need to see.
(“Why Literature?” by Mario Vargas Llosa, The New Republic, July/August 2015, pg. 2)