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