Peruvian Writer Vargas Llosa Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

BY Tom LeGro  October 7, 2010 at 11:44 AM EDT

Mario Vargas Llosa

Mario Vargas Llosa. Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images.

The 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat.”

Vargas Llosa, who is spending the fall at Princeton as a visiting professor, has written more than 30 novels, plays and essays, including “Conversation in the Cathedral” and “The Green House.” In 1995, he won the Cervantes Prize, the highest literary honor for contributions to Spanish literature.

“I am very surprised, I did not expect this,” Vargas Llosa told Spanish National Radio.

Vargas Llosa’s debut novel, “The Time of the Hero,” shook the literary world in 1963. It describes his rough experiences at a Peruvian military academy, and though the book won several awards, 1,000 copies of the novel were later burned by military authorities.

Vargas Llosa is the first South American winner of the Nobel Prize in literature since 1982, when it was won by his long-time rival and contemporary, Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

In 1976, he also possibly became the first and only writer to punch Marquez in the face.

Born in 1936, Vargas Llosa began working as a crime reporter for the Lima newspaper at the age of 15. In 1955, he eloped with his aunt, 13 years his senior. They stayed married for eight years. Later, he moved to Europe as a young man, working as a Spanish teacher, journalist and professor, before returning to Peru in 1975. In 1990, he ran for the presidency and he remains a political activist.

Read excerpts of “The Green House” here.

In 2002, the Guardian profiled Vargas Llosa, “the precocious star of the 1960s ‘boom’ in Latin American fiction.”

Gerald Marzorati, writing for the New York Times Magazine in 1989, looked at Vargas Llosa’s presidential run and described him “as a Latin American Balzac.”

This entry is cross-posted on Art Beat.