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To the Best of Our Knowledge: Writing Democracy Radio/TV Program

To the Best of Our Knowledge: Writing Democracy

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Publisher's Summary

In this hour, Mario Vargas Llosa is one of the godfathers of Latin American fiction. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010. He also once ran for president of his native country, Peru. Politics and literature are the driving forces in his life. And, they often come together. For instance, one of his most recent novels is The Feast of the Goat - the story of Rafael Trujillo, the infamous dictator of the Dominican Republic. Vargas Llosa tells Steve Paulson why he found the subject so compelling and what became of his own political ambitions.

Then, the politician and the playwright Vaclav Havel was known first as the romantic poet in blue jeans, the dissident Czech playwright who was thrown in jail for his anti-communist plays, and who emerged to inspire the so-called Velvet Revolution that overthrew the Soviet Union. Havel was elected President of the Czech Republic and served from 1993 to 2003. Near the end of his time in office, Steve Paulson spoke with him about the role of writers and artists in a democracy.

Next, some of the largest demonstrations in American history took place just a few blocks from our studios, in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. Republican Governor Scott Walker had proposed cutting pensions and benefits for thousands of public employees. For days, hundreds of thousands of peaceful protestors occupied the State Capitol. They ate there. The slept there. And they wrote there. Among them was sleep-in activist and blogger, Christie Taylor.

After that, V.S. Naipaul won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001. A Trinidadian-British citizen, he’s known for his novels focusing on the legacy of the British Empire’s colonialism. Among them, the modern classic called A Bend in the River. Steve Paulson talks with him.

Following that, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian novelist whose book Half of a Yellow Sun is set during the period of civil violence surrounding the creation of Biafra. She tells Jim Fleming that only now are Nigerians willing to face up to their recent history.

And finally, who’s the best model of the politically engaged writer? Journalist Christopher Hitchens nominates George Orwell, author of Animal Farm and 1984. In his book Why Orwell Matters. Hitchens says that Orwell got it right about imperialism, fascism and communism. Hitchens tells Steve Paulson that Orwell opposed all of them at a time when most intellectuals ignored the contradictions of the Left. [Broadcast Date: November 16, 2011]

Listen to:

  • A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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    (P) and ©2011 Wisconsin Public Radio

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