It was just the facts, please, when it came to reading for my father. He loved non-fiction, particularly books and magazines on science and nature. He always questioned me and my sister about what attracted us to fiction. He enjoyed scripted television shows and movies, but he never liked reading short stories and novels. He equated “reading fiction” to “a waste of time.”
Published in book form now, In Praise of Reading and Fiction is Llosa’s tribute to fiction’s power to inspire individuals and whole societies, and to bridge the imaginary distances between different cultures:
Good literature erects bridges between different peoples, and by having us enjoy, suffer, or feel surprise, unites us beneath the languages, beliefs, habits, customs and prejudices that separate us. When the great white whale buries Captain Ahab in the sea, the hearts of readers take fright in exactly the same way in Tokyo, Lima, or Timbuctu. …the shudder is the same in the reader who worships Buddha, Confucius, Christ, Allah, or is an agnostic, wears a jacket and tie, a jalaba, a kimono, or bombachas.”
Just as importantly, the worlds writers and readers imagine in the realm of fiction speak to our aspirations for a better reality:
When we look in fiction for what is missing in life, we are saying, with no need to say it or even to know it, that life as it is does not satisfy our thirst for the absolute—the foundation of the human condition—and should be better.”
From the earliest tales our ancestors spun in firelit caves to the grand epics of literature, Llosa knows we and our world are better because of the stories we tell each other.