Literary Corner Cafe

Friday, October 8, 2010

Peru's Mario Vargas Llosa Wins Nobel Prize for Literature

Peruvian novelist, Mario Vargas Llosa won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature on October 7th. Vargas Llosa, who won the Cervantes Prize in 1995, once ran for president of Peru, but was defeated by Alberto Fujimori. Vargas Llosa is now seventy-four and has written more than thirty novels, plays, and essays, including the highly acclaimed Conversation in the Cathedral, The War of the End of the World, and The Feast of the Goat.

The prize for literature has come under fire in recent years as being too “Eurocentric.” In the past six years, five Europeans have won the prize and one Turk (Orhun Pamuk). Last year’s prize went to the German writer, Herta Mueller.

Vargas Llosa is the first South American writer to win since Colombia’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez won in 1982 and the first Spanish language writer to win since Mexico’s Octavio Paz in 1990.

The Academy praised Vargas Llosa, saying he won, in part, because he mapped the “structures of power and (for) his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat.” Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the Academy called Vargas Llosa a “divinely gifted storyteller” and said his “…books are often very complex in composition, having different perspectives, different voices and different time places. He is also doing it in a new way, he has helped evolve the art of the narration.”

Vargas Llosa, on learning he’d won literature’s most coveted prize said, “I am very grateful to the Swedish Academy. It is totally unexpected, a real surprise. I think it is, for any writer, a great encouragement, a recognition of a world. (This award is) an enormous act of justice that in truth, we have been waiting for since our youth. I thought that the Academy was not recognizing me but all Latin American literature.”

Vargas Llosa has already won many of the Western world’s most prestigious literary awards, and his work, which is almost universally admired in Latin America, has been translated into thirty-one languages.

Toni Morrison, also a Nobel winner and a faculty member at Princeton University, where Vargas Llosa is currently teaching a semester, called his win a “brilliant choice.”

While Vargas Llosa has always drawn inspiration and material from his native Peru, after he lost his bid for president to Fujimori, he took Spanish citizenship and lived primarily in Madrid and London, though he has always maintained an apartment in Peru’s capital of Lima. He never wanted to be a politician, he said, but felt it was an “obligation for a writer to participate in public debate. I became a candidate because of various circumstances in my country. We had terrorism, we had civil war, we had high inflation.” (It should be noted that Fujimori fled to Japan in 2000 amid numerous findings of corruption in his government.)

Congratulations to Mario Vargas Llosa. The Nobel has been a long time coming, but as with most good things, it seems it was well worth the wait.

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