NEW YORK TIMES ~ Books
By JULIE BOSMAN and SIMON ROMERO
Times Topics: Mario Vargas Llosa | Nobel Prizes
Announcing the award in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy praised Mr. Vargas Llosa “for his cartography of the structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat.”
Mr. Vargas Llosa, 74, is one of the most celebrated writers of the Spanish-speaking world, frequently mentioned with his contemporary Gabriel García Márquez, who won the literature Nobel in 1982, the last South American to do so. He has written more than 30 novels, plays and essays, including “The Feast of the Goat” and “The War of the End of the World.”
In selecting Mr. Vargas Llosa, the Swedish Academy has once again made a choice that is infused with politics. Recent winners include Herta Muller, the Romanian-born German novelist, last year, Orhan Pamuk of Turkey in 2007 and Harold Pinter of Britain in 2005.
In 1990, Mr. Vargas Llosa ran for the presidency of Peru and has been an outspoken activist in his native country. The news that he had won the prize reached him at 5 a.m., when he was hard at work in his apartment in New York, preparing to set out on a walk in Central Park, he told a radio station in Peru. Initially, he thought it was a prank.
“It was a grand surprise,” he said. “It’s a good way to start a New York day.”
He is currently spending the semester in the United States, teaching Latin American studies at Princeton University.
The prize is the first for a writer in the Spanish language in two decades, after Mexico’s Octavio Paz won the Nobel in 1990, and focuses new attention on the Latin American writers who gained renown in the 1960s, like Julio Cortazar of Argentina and Carlos Fuentes of Mexico, who formed the region’s literary “boom generation.”
In an interview with The Times in 2002, Mr. Vargas Llosa said that it was the novelist’s obligation to question real life. “I don’t think there is a great fiction that is not an essential contradiction of the world as it is,” he said. “The Inquisition forbade the novel for 300 years in Latin America. I think they understood very well the seditious consequence that fiction can have on the human spirit.’”
Beyond his own political activities, Mr. Vargas Llosa has explored in his novels how politics feels to ordinary people.
“They’re not only fantastic novels that read beautifully,” Ruben Gallo, a professor of Spanish-American literature at Princeton University, said on Thursday. “He’s one of the authors who in the 20th century has written the most eloquently and the most poignantly about the intersection between culture and politics in Latin America.”