Two literature-related items grabbed my attention this week. First was the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Mario Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian novelist who is also one of the best known classical liberals in the world. Vargas Llosa’s proposals for free-market reforms in Latin America have had a big impact; although he lost his bid for Peru’s presidency in the early 1990s, the country later implemented several of his ideas. He is also one of the biggest thorns in the side of Venezuela’s would-be dictator, Hugo Chavez. (Ian Vasquez provides more information here.) This Washington Post article acknowledges that Vargas Llosa may have received the Nobel Prize years ago had it not been for his individualism; the selection committee, like the field of literature in general, has a pronounced leftward tilt.
Leftism in literature is one of the themes Professor Paul Cantor (University of Virginia) discusses in this interview by Reason TV to discuss the recent volume of essays Literature and the Economics of Liberty, which he edited. Cantor is a keen observer of popular culture (see his book Gilligan Unbound, which discusses several groundbreaking television series, including The X-Files), and whenever I see him at Mises Institute events, he always seems to be up to the minute (much more so than I) on what students are reading and watching in their spare time. In the interview, Cantor states that the field of literary criticism is nearly bankrupt of ideas and is in the process of destroying itself, but that the study and enjoyment of literature is still a worthwhile endeavor.