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Apparently Mario Vargas Llosa, the acclaimed Peruvian author, still has a thing or two in his bucket list. The Nobel Prize winner, once a passionate presidential candidate, is now embarked in what he calls a “terrifying” adventure — at 78, he is starting out as a stage actor.
“For a fiction writer who has spent his life dreaming stories, suddenly to become a character in a story even for that fleeting time of a play is a truly extraordinary experience," he said last week during a press conference in Madrid, where he resides.
“Going on stage is fascinating as it is terrifying. When you act in a film, you always have the possibility to amend, correct, redo. In the theater you cannot. It's like life — what happens, happens and you have no choice. If you're wrong you're wrong forever,” the author said in an interview with El Pais newspaper.
Vargas Llosa will debut on Jan. 28, with the Spanish Theatre of Madrid, in a stage play he created, “Los Cuentos de la Peste” (“Tales of the Plague”) based on Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron. The play will run until Feb. 1 only.
Vargas Llosa transports himself to Florence in 1348 and gives life to the Duke Ugolino, who decides to be isolated with others in a villa outside the city to avoid the bubonic plague that is decimating the population.
“I loved the idea, I found it very symbolic of what is literature, theater, novels. It is a way of escaping from the reality of oneself, a way of being another, to live other experiences, have extraordinarily unusual fates,” he told El País.
The Peruvian writer, who also holds Spanish citizenship, is one of the leading writers of his generation, also known as the Latin American Boom. Vargas Llosa rose to fame in the 1960s with novels such as “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter,” “The Time of the Hero” (La ciudad y los perros, literally The City and the Dogs) and the monumental “Conversation in the Cathedral” (Conversación en la Catedral).
He always had a passion for the theater, though, and has said that had there been in Lima a significant theatrical movement when he started writing in the early 50s, he would have been a playwright instead. “The theatrical scene back then was very tiny and one risked never seeing his works staged,” he said.
His bold incursion into acting has his family nervous, too. He said his wife is “in panic” and will be 6,000 miles away when the play premieres because she fears he will look “supremely ridiculous.”
But an adventure without risk is not an adventure, he notes.
“It has always saddened me to see those human beings that die in life, lose all illusions, who resign themselves to a sort of wait,” he says.
“The human beings I have admired the most are those who resist to the end and whose death came as an accident that surprises them while active. I would like to die being alive. Many of the things I do, which sometimes are a bit reckless like this one, arise from that need to continue living until the end, exploring everything.”