Planet Online

John Barnie reviews
Notes on the Death of Culture
by Mario Vargas Llosa

Notes on the Death of Culture

Faber and Faber, £20.00

In Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, published in 1948, T.S. Eliot wrote that he saw ‘no reason why the decay of culture should not proceed much further, and why we may not even anticipate a period, of some duration, of which it will be possible to say that it will have no culture’. The title of Mario Vargas Llosa’s collection of essays, Notes on the Death of Culture, is a deliberate echo of Eliot’s, because, as he says in his introduction, ‘the period Eliot is referring to is the one in which we are now living’.

When Eliot and Vargas Llosa write of culture they mean high culture – a term Vargas Llosa is not afraid to use, and which he defines as ‘a recognition of a shared heritage of ideas, values, works of art, a store of historical, religious and philosophical knowledge in constant evolution, and the exploration of new artistic and literary forms and of research in all areas of knowledge’.

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