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Mario Vargas Llosa 

Nobel Prize for Literature

October 2010 - The Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa today won the 2010 Nobel prize for literature out of other Nobel prize nominees, crowning a career in which he helped spark the global boom in South American literature, launched a failed presidential bid, and maintained a 30-year feud with the man he now joins as a Nobel laureate, Gabriel García Márquez.

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Cited by the Swedish Academy for:

Cited by the Swedish Academy for "his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat", the 10 million SEK (£1 million) award is the culmination of a literary life that began in 1963 with the publication of his novel The Time of the Hero, and includes further books such as Conversation in the Cathedral (1969), Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1977) and The Feast of the Goat (2000).

"I am very surprised, I did not expect this," Vargas Llosa told Spanish National Radio, saying that he thought it was a joke when he received the call informing him of his selection from among the Nobel Prize nominees.

"It had been years since my name was even mentioned," he added. "It has certainly been a total surprise, a very pleasant surprise, but a surprise nonetheless."

Andreas Campomar, Uruguayan Journalist:

Mario Vargas Llosa, Peru, one of the Nobel Prize nominees...
Mario Vargas Llosa Nobel Prize Literature
...wins the Nobel Prize for Literature
According to the Uruguayan publisher and journalist, Andreas Campomar, the award is "not before time".

"It's something he should have won ages ago," said Campomar, who described himself as "so chuffed for" the author. "I feared that his time might have passed."

Campomar acknowleged that a political journey which saw the writer move from supporting the regime of Fidel Castro to running for president on a right-wing platform of reform had made him a "polarizing figure", but suggested that the award would be celebrated by many in South America as a way of "putting Latin American literature back on the map".

"First and foremost, he's a great man of letters," he continued. "He has a formidable style, but as with most Latin American writers, at the bottom of all his work, as well as power, and the abuse of power, is the question of cultural identity - what it means to be a European in this Amerindian continent."

Mario Vargas Llosa - Biography

The early years of Mario Vargas Llosa

Born in 1936 in the provincial city of Arequipa, Vargas Llosa began working as a crime reporter for the Lima newspaper La Crónica at the age of 15.

He eloped with his aunt by marriage, Julia Urquidi, in 1955, when he was 19 and she 32, a development saluted by his father as a "virile act".

He moved to Paris in 1959 and from there to London and Barcelona, working as a Spanish teacher, broadcaster and journalist and as a visiting professor in universities in Europe and America, before returning to Peru in 1975.

The intermediate years of Mario Vargas Llosa - 1959-1975

He returned to his homeland in fiction far earlier, however.

The Leonicio Prado military academy  where he went to school inspired Time of the Hero , the novel that made his name. A vibrant, violent evocation of Peruvian society under military rule, it tells the story of a murder which is covered up to protect the school's reputation. The book was ceremonially burned in the grounds of the academy, and its author barred from the grounds.

Mario Vargas Llosa
Mario Vargas Llosa Nobel Prize Literature
Novelist, Essayist, & Politician
Peru  1985
The third novelby Mario Vargas Llosa, Conversation in the Cathedral (1969), traces the role of a minister in the murder of a notorious figure in the Peruvian underworld.

The author and critic Jay Parini, a friend of Vargas Llosa's for some years, called the novel "a consummate portrait of Peru under the malign dictatorship of Manuel Odria. One got to know Peruvian society from such a variety of angles, and the novel is so vivid on the page, fresh and real."

He is, Parini suggested, "surely one of the least controversial of writers to get the prize. His industry and intelligence are models of their kind. He is a bright spirit, brave and ebullient, and his novels and stories will last."

Vargas Llosa's first marriage ended in divorce in 1964. A year later, he married Patricia Llosa, and wrote a study of his friend Gabriel García Márquez, who became godfather to Vargas Llosa's son.

The friendship ended in 1976, after a brawl in a Mexican cinema, though Vargas Llosa allowed an excerpt from his study of Márquez to be published as part of a celebratory edition of One Hundred Years of Solitude, to mark the 40th anniversary of its publication in 2007.


The Political Years of Mario Vargas Llosa

A succession of novels, short stories and plays cemented his literary reputation, but as his fame grew he became increasingly involved in politics, moving steadily away from the Marxism of his early years.

As his profile rose he began hosting a talk show on Peruvian television, and backed the conservative government of Fernando Belaunde Terry from 1980-1985, turning down an invitation in 1984 to become Terry's prime minister.

In 1987 he led protests against a plan to nationalise the Peruvian financial system, drawing 120,000 people to a rally, and launching his own presidential campaign. After three years of death threats and abusive phone calls, however, he was defeated in the second round by the eventual victor, Alberto Fujimori.

Vargas Llosa left the country within hours of a defeat he blamed on a "dirty war", taking up Spanish citizenship in 1993. "I didn't lie," he explained. "I said we needed radical reforms and social sacrifices, and in the beginning it worked. But then came the dirty war, presenting my reforms as something that would destroy jobs. It was very effective, especially with the poorest of society. In Latin America we prefer promises to reality."

Most Recent Masterpiece

The Feast of the Goat (2002), widely viewed as his most recent masterpiece, returns to dictatorship, offering a portrait of Rafael L Trujillo Molina, who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 until 1961.

Vargas Llosa draws him as an incontinent hyper-villain, ruled by the outbursts of a body and mind that are out of his control. The novel circles around Trujillo's attempt to have sex with the 14-year-old daughter of his chief minister, and his assassination two weeks later.

He has described it as a "realist treatment of a human being who became a monster", adding that he is distrustful of "the idea that you can build a paradise here in history. That idea of a perfect society lies behind monsters like the Taliban. When you want paradise you produce first extraordinary idealism. But at some time, you produce hell."


I agree with Senor Campomar that Mario Vargas Llosa is one of the world's great writers - and one of my many favorite authors - who, among all of the Nobel Prize nominees, should have won this award years ago.

His novel The War of the End of the World (1984) is another excellent novel which some reviewers said put Llosa in the same league as Tolstoy and Stendahl. The novel is based on an historical uprising in the Brazilian backlands that almost reversed the history of the South American continent.

This article is by Guardian staff writer and sub-editor for books Richard Lea.

Has Peru had other Nobel Prize nominees? Who? When? Ask here!

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