Peruvian writer/politician Mario Vargas Llosa wins Nobel Prize in Literature

mario-vargas-llosaImage Credit: Jacques Demarthon/AFP/Getty ImagesThe Swedish Academy wandered outside of its usual European base to select Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa as the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature today, according to the official Nobel website. From the publication of his first novel, 1963’s The Time of the Hero, based on his experiences at a Peruvian military academy, Vargas Llosa was recognized as a leading figure in the Latin American Boom that emerged in the second half of the 20th century. He went on to write essays, nonfiction, and fiction in a wide variety of genres and styles. In its statement, the Swedish Academy said it presented the award to Vargas Llosa “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat.”

The 74-year-old writer is the first South American to win the Nobel since Colombian magic-realist innovator Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 1982 (Mexico’s Octavio Paz won the prize in 1990). Like Paz and many other Latin American authors, Vargas Llosa has dabbled in politics over the years. He even ran, unsuccessfully, for the the Peruvian presidency in 1990. Initially a supporter of Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba, he later withdrew his support as his political views drifted gradually to the right over the years.

The political and social climate of South America has remained a familiar theme of Vargas Llosa’s fiction. 1965’s The Green House, widely considered among his best works, is a nonchronological account of unrest in Peru centered on the desert brothel of the title. The bitter 1969 novel Conversations in the Cathedral embeds a critique of the dictatorship of Peruvian president Manuel Odria in the story of one man’s search for the truth about his minister father’s role in the murder of a notorious underworld figure. And in the 2000 novel The Feast of the Goat (published in the U.S. in 2002), Vargas Llosa makes a startlingly unsympathetic, Shakespeare-worthy villain of Rafael Trujillo, the real-life military despot who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930-61.

Many Americans may know Vargas Llosa best for his 1977 comic novel, Aunt Julia and the Screenwriter, which was adapted into American director Jon Amiel’s widely praised movie Tune in Tomorrow, starring Peter Falk as a larger-than-life creator of radio soap operas who manipulates the May-December relationship of a young aspiring writer (Keanu Reeves) and his older, twice-divorced aunt by marriage (Barbara Hershey). (EW’s Owen Gleiberman said the film “crackles with romantic heat.”)

What do you think of the Swedish Academy’s selection? What’s your favorite book of Vargas Llosa? And if he’s new to you, do you plan to pick up any of his works now that he’s been Nobel-blessed?

Comments (17 total) Add your comment
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  • Arnaud

    Elogio de la Marastra is THE most erotic novel I ever read !…
    and Pantaleon y las Visitadoras is hilarious !!!

  • Johann Stein

    Well done!

  • Sufi66

    Philip Roth gets slighted again. Moral of the story: don’t mention sex in any of your books.

    • bugsie

      You obviuosly haven’t read Vargas Llosa….or Garcia Marquez.

      • andrew

        or Toni Morrison… or Doris Lessing…

  • Brett

    Good choice. And the moral of the story is not to avoid mentioning sex in any of your books, but to remember to mentions things BESIDES sex in your books, also.

  • Brett

    Oops. “to mention things….”

  • Olgalucia

    Bravo, he deserves it!

    • Ellen

      Tried logging in, but no luck. I have the cooairmftinn email that I’m awaiting account approval, but I’ll just try to resubmit. I’ve been through the FAQ a thousand times and completely spaced that answer to my question. Sorry for the spam! Thanks for the quick response though.

  • nennie

    “The Time of the Hero” was required reading in English Literature at St. Michael’s College in Vermont. I can’t praise my professor enough for turning us on to this talented and wonderful writer of his time.

  • Eduardo

    one of the best of Peru

  • Raquel

    Good choice. But I would still like to see Phillip Roth get the prize someday soon.

    • Destraik

      Gracias, Tiburcio!Loriluz, gracias por el nocemtario y por tan generosamente reconocer lo del estereotipo, estereotipos que todos manejamos para hacer el mundo me1s llevadero y menos incierto. El problema es cuando se salen de proporcif3n y se convierten en armas ideolf3gicas.Usted mencionf3 lo del mesianismo ( bfSe han fijado que cuando los grandes escritores se ponen viejitos , les da por el mesianismo? ). No fui yo. Pero no entiendo su argumento. La ideologeda es la cereza del pastel narcisisista , y sin embargo, las mujeres que yo cito tienen posturas ideolf3gicas . Ahed me perded. Pero lo que en realidad no entiendo es porque9 los grandes escritores hombres son patriarcales, mesianistas, porque subliman su falta de actividad sexual, y por otro lado, este1n las grandes mujeres escritoras con posturas de tesis, de conviccif3n etica y de vida las cuales rara vez comportan mesianismo. (Reitero, si lee los escritos de Simone Weil, este1n llenos de alusiones mesie1nicas de una gran sociedad-comunidad igualitaria. Ella era un filf3sofa muy medstica por lo deme1s.) Por un lado, los hombres este1n sexualizados como animalitos territoriales, y las mujeres son todo e9tica y vida. Aunque Usted haya reconocido que usa estereotipos de la masculinidad, esta divisif3n entre mujeres y hombres sigue siendo muy estereotipada. Lo que le entended es que las mujeres son todo conviccif3n y abnegacif3n, y los hombres solo obedecen a sus gf3nadas, a una ansiedad de dominio dada seguro por el declive de sexo, frustracif3n, y exceso de testosterona. Creo que lo me1s probable es que tanto grandes mujeres y hombres escritores adquieren, para la sociedad, una autoridad moral a partir de su creatividad y conocimiento del drama humano, que solo la literatura y no la filosofeda puede dar, y que por lo tanto se creen facultados para opinar sobre poledtica y el estado de la sociedad. Por ejemplo, a Garceda Me1rquez lo queredan agarrar de mediador entre las FARC y el gobierno colombiano. Una gran escritora como Christa Wolf, lo mejor que ha salido de Alemania en la segunda mitad de siglo, la reconocen como la consciencia credtica de una Alemania neoliberal, donde gente como Habermas y la teoreda credtica oficial se vendieron hace rato al consenso de Washington.Como diredan en Boston o Minneapolis, you know better. 0 likes

  • Raquel

    Good choice. But I would still like to see Phillip Roth win the prize soon.

  • InsidePeru

    A talented writer and thinker, Vargas is deserving of this award.

  • mary

    I’ve heard Roth (and Oates) as potential North American front runners (for what that’s worth…) But whaddabout Alice Munro?? She’s great and well renowned (“our Chekhov”), but I never seem to hear Nobel buzz for her. With the maybe exception of Atwood or Pynchon (I know, what a cliche, but I really like him) I would want her to get it over any other North American writer. Where’s her love??

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