events archive

Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society

A discussion of Mario Vargas Llosa's book of essays.

7:00pm, Monday 7 December 2015, London

The Nobel-prize winning novelist, Mario Vargas Llosa is a liberal. Liberalism, he says, is “an open, evolving doctrine that yields to reality”. In his Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society, he explores a wide range of issues, looking at the advances and retreats of culture over the past century. He doesn’t offer a single coherent argument, but rather ponders the problems raised by, for example, the tensions between freedom and morality, and whether these tensions can be resolved through literature and the arts. His sometimes contradictory observations reveal the difficulty of coming to grips with these issues.

The publication in English of this collection provides a useful opportunity to revisit some of the issues that Angus Kennedy discussed in in his book, Being Cultured, discussed at a previous Arts & Society Forum. Angus will return to the forum to introduce a discussion on Llosa’s essays. In particular, he will consider how we might understand the possibility of a relationship in the arts, between the ideal, the contemporary and the traditional.

Is there a hard line to be drawn between high and low culture, historic and contemporary art - where one has to choose between one or the other? Has the spectacle overwhelmed the possibility of great art, or does it present the possibility of the great in contemporary art? Or is the very idea of great art, high culture redundant?


Angus Kennedy
author, Being Cultured: in defence of discrimination