Many of us will remember with pleasure Mario Vargas Llosa's visit to Scotland on a Neil Gunn fellowship some 20 years ago.
On that occasion, he stimulated and entertained us with his public talks and reflections on life and literature. I myself had the pleasure of doing some media interviews with him, and have followed his subsequent career with interest, so it is a matter of astonishment and regret to find him expressing such banal and contradictory views on Scotland's current attempts to rediscover her nationhood.
Vargas Llosa was himself a candidate for the presidency of Peru in 1990, when he lost to the later disgraced Alberto Fujimori. I do not recall that it was any part of his campaign to advocate the suppression of Peruvian nationality, to propose the integration of his country with Bolivia, Ecuador or Colombia, much less to put forward some visionary scheme for unifying Spanish-speaking South America to create one supra-national state. He operated within the political, cultural and intellectual confines of existing Peruvian nationality.
So why should he accept the nationality of his own land but be "saddened" by the possibility of Scotland attaining comparable status? If he believes that "nationalism appeals to the tribe", what steps has he ever made to deplore not individual policies pursued by members of his own tribe (his term) but the very existence of that people, or tribe? Do we have the makings of an Orwellian slogan – existing nationalism good, new nationalism bad? I have not yet been able to read his most recent novel on Roger Casement, who was an Irish nationalist, but I wonder if he regards him as ipso facto a villain because a nationalist? Does he view Bolivar or Garibaldi in the same light? Or is Alex Salmond a villain of wholly new type?
If he were to examine new nationalisms in modern Europe, he might find his fears over the possibility of this force leading to war allayed. How could a country of some five million souls be a danger to anyone in Europe, even if it wanted to be? Does the rediscovery of selfhood in Lithuania or Slovenia represent a risk to peace? Vargas Llosa lived in Barcelona for a time. Does he find Catalan nationalism fearsome? Why is he stuck with a sub-Marxist view of nations when he has long since jettisoned the Marxism of his youth?
And what conceivable reason can he have for believing Scottish nationhood would lead to a "provincial vision"? He is himself a cosmopolitan whose generous international outlook is in no way diminished by his Peruvian citizenship. One of his most remarkable novels, The War of the End of the World was set in Brazil and his protagonist was a Scotsman with a millenarian vision. Many here hope a Scotland freed of its stifling dependency on London would rediscover a cosmopolitan culture that was never entirely lost. I also hope that Mario Vargas Llosa will follow Scotland's quest for nationhood with more informed interest.
Professor Joe Farrell,
7 Endfield Avenue, Glasgow.
You have chosen, puzzlingly, to give front-page coverage to Mario Vargas Llosa's views on the prospect of Scottish independence (Saturday, June 9). I read the news item eagerly, fascinated to discover if, at last, that killer idea or concept delivering a fatal blow to the independence movement would be revealed by this eminent Nobel prize-winning Peruvian/Spanish author.
But no. All we had was that same tired old attempt to equate an independent Scotland with narrow tribalism, or (and?) with versions of nationalistic, militant, racist or ideological expansionism, the things that actually have, in his words, "produced the most brutal and cruel wars in history".
What a lamentable ignorance he displays about this part of the world today, and what an insult to the Scottish National Party, the Scottish Green Party, the Scottish Socialist Party and, more importantly, to the Scottish people, he has (hopefully unwittingly) delivered.
One wonders what this eminent man wants. A world government? No nations? For that is the logical conclusion of his argument. Does he want Peru or Spain to cease to be self-governing? Does he think the United Kingdom should merge with a larger political union in case British people become too insular and (ahem!) warlike?
Surely it is about time this scary nationalism canard was put to rest. The debate has moved on from this, for goodness' sake.
Arthur F Jones,
23 MacPhie Road, Dumbarton.
It is truly sad such a distinguished writer as Mario Vargas Llosa has displayed such a basic lack of understanding of Scotland and its people, with his negative and ill-informed reaction to the prospect of Scottish independence.
It would be interesting to know if Vargas Llosa approves of nuclear weapons, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the idea that a political party could govern Scotland with only one, or possibly even not one, representative from Scotland in the UK Parliament.
Vargas Llosa should bear in mind that every other country in Europe, apart from Wales, is independent, and that small, democratic nations tend not to start catastrophic wars which bring death and misery to millions, fostering terrorism and threatening world peace. Weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq, but they can be found in Scotland, and Scotland has no say in the matter.
Mario Vargas Llosa declares independence would give Scotland "a provincial vision". It is exactly because we are currently "provincial" that we need to establish our political independence. As Winnie Ewing famously said: "Stop the world. Scotland wants to get on."
99 Grampian Road, Stirling.
Mario Vargas Llosa is a good salesman. He has got people to see himself as some sort of saint who tackles bleeding-heart subjects. In reality, he has hit a vein of gold that he has exploited for his own enrichment. He is, after all, a professional writer, nothing more. What stupidity he displays when he says: "The idea that to be born in a given place has a value in itself is ridiculous."
To the mere ant, to the wolf, bear, lion and to people across the globe, there is "the home turf", and – as they say – there's no place like home. Everyone is entitled to feel special coming from where they do (and they do). Equally, they must allow those from elsewhere the right to feel the same pride about their own heimat.
Because Llosa has turned his back on his place of origin doesn't mean another eight billion people feel the same. Perhaps he thinks the Spanish Empire should rule Peru and the rest of that region.
Let us remember he lives in Spain now. He stood for election in his own country for the presidency and was all but laughed out of sight, so there is a man in a huff with his own nation.
Thomas R Burgess,
53 St Catherine's Square, Perth.
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