“The referendum is not going to take place and it’s absurd nonsense.” Mario Vargas Llosa was very clear when asked about Catalonia during a talk about his book Conversación en Princeton (or, Conversation at Princeton) this Wednesday at the Casa de América in Madrid.
For the Nobel Prize winner, the referendum is “an anachronism that has nothing to do with the reality of our time, and which is not for the construction of nationalities, but on the contrary, for the fading of nationalities within large common organizations like Europe,” which he considers “one of the great democratic creations.”
The writer, who presented his book accompanied by Princeton professor Rubén Gallo before an auditorium full of students, recalled the Barcelona of the late 1970s, where he lived for five years. He made clear that, 40 years later, he no longer recognizes the city that became “a bridge” where Spanish and Latin American writers would congregate. “There was the feeling that we had to give the dictatorship those last pushes to bring about democracy. That was the great dream, the great ambition,” Vargas Llosa explained. “Nationalism was completely marginalized, I did not meet a single nationalist in five years – it sounds like a joke, but it isn’t.”
Catalan nationalists “were reactionary old people whom you did not have to take too seriously”
According to the author, in the 1970s many of his Catalan friends held the idea that nationalism “was something old-fashioned and anachronistic” – something he said he still believed – and also that Catalan nationalists “were reactionary old people whom you did not have to take too seriously because they lived in the past.”
Returning to the present day, Vargas Llosa described independence as “a disease that has grown regrettably in Catalonia.” “My hope is that the government has enough energy to prevent a coup d’état – which is what is really being hatched – from taking place,” he said. Then, while smiling and addressing the journalist who asked him about Catalonia, he settled the issue by saying: “And now let’s talk about literature and history.”
English version by Debora Almeida.