Peruvian writer wins Nobel
Vargas Llosa bucks leftist ideology
By Karl Ritter and Malin Rising
Updated: 3:29 p.m. on Thursday, October 7, 2010
Source : The washington times
STOCKHOLM | Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa won the 2010 Nobel Prize for literature on Thursday as the academy honored one of the Spanish-speaking world's most acclaimed authors and an activist who once ran for Peru's presidency and famously denounced leftist writers and dictators.
Mr. Vargas Llosa, 74, 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 most distinguished literary honor in Spanish.
He is the first South American winner of the prestigious $1.5 million Nobel literature prize since Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez won in 1982 and the first Spanish-language writer to win since Mexico's Octavio Paz in 1990.
"I am very grateful to the Swedish Academy. It is totally unexpected, a real surprise," Mr. Vargas Llosa told reporters in New York. "I think it is, for any writer, a great encouragement, a recognition of a world."
The Swedish Academy said it honored Mr. Vargas Llosa for mapping the "structures of power and [for] his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat." Its permanent secretary, Peter Englund, called him "a divinely gifted storyteller" whose writing touched the reader.
Peruvian President Alan Garcia praised Mr. Vargas Llosa for his "eminent intelligence" and "libertarian and democratic spirit."
"[This award is] an enormous act of justice that in truth we have been waiting for since our youth," Mr. Garcia said.
In the past six years, the academy had rewarded five Europeans and one Turk with the literature Nobel, sparking criticism that it was too Eurocentric and/or anti-American. Last year's award went to Herta Mueller, a little-known German writer.
The Swedish Academy also has been accused of favoring left-leaning writers, although the 16-member panel says its decisions are made on literary merit alone.
"I thought that the academy was not recognizing me but all Latin American literature," said Mr. Vargas Llosa, who had been mentioned as a Nobel candidate for many years.
He has won some of the Western world's most prestigious literary medals, and his works have been translated into 31 languages, including Chinese, Croatian, Hebrew and Arabic.
His writing is almost universally admired in Latin America, but his shift from leftist ideology toward an embrace of free-market capitalism has put him at odds with much of the hemisphere's intellectual elite.
Mr. Vargas Llosa has feuded with leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and often tosses barbs at Cuba's Fidel Castro. He irritated his centrist friend Mr. Paz by playfully describing Mexico's political system — which was dominated at the time by a single party — as "the perfect dictatorship."
In a famous 1976 incident in Mexico City, Mr. Vargas Llosa punched out former friend Garcia Marquez, whom he later would ridicule as "Castro's courtesan." It was never clear whether the fight was over politics or a personal dispute, and the two reportedly have not spoken in decades.
There was no official reaction to the award from Mr. Garcia Marquez, who rarely speaks to the media.
Mr. Vargas Llosa has lectured and taught at a number of universities in the U.S., South America and Europe, and was spending this semester at Princeton University.
Fellow Nobel laureate and Princeton faculty member Toni Morrison praised his selection as a "brilliant choice."
Jonathan Galassi, head of Mr. Vargas Llosa's U.S. publisher, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, called him "one of the world's greatest writers — an eloquent, unequaled champion of human freedom."
Mr. Vargas Llosa emerged as a leader among the so-called "Boom" or "New Wave" of Latin American writers, bursting onto the literary scene in 1963 with his groundbreaking debut novel, "The Time of the Hero" (La Ciudad y los Perros), which builds on his experiences at the Peruvian military academy Leoncio Prado.
The book won the Spanish Critics Award and the ire of Peru's military. Military authorities later burned 1,000 copies of the novel. Some generals called the book false and Mr. Vargas Llosa a communist.
In the 1970s, he denounced Mr. Castro's Cuba and slowly turned his political trajectory toward free-market conservatism. Mr. Vargas Llosa drew his inspiration mostly from his Peruvian homeland, but preferred to live abroad in near self-imposed exile for years at a time.
In 1990, he ran for the presidency in Peru on a pro-business ticket during the height of the bloody Maoist Shining Path insurgency but lost badly in a runoff to a virtually unknown academic, Alberto Fujimori.
On Thursday, Mr. Vargas Llosa said he never wanted to be a politician 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," he said. "We had terrorism, we had civil war, we had high inflation."
Disheartened by the broad public approval for Mr. Fujimori's iron-fisted rule, Mr. Vargas Llosa again left his homeland and took Spanish citizenship, living in Madrid and London. He maintained a penthouse apartment in the Peruvian capital of Lima overlooking its Pacific coast, but tended to keep a low profile during visits home long after Mr. Fujimori fled to Japan in 2000, toppled by vast corruption in his government.
In 1994, Mr. Vargas Llosa became the first Latin American writer to be elected to the Spanish Academy, where he took his seat in 1996.
"Spain has been very generous with me," Mr. Vargas Llosa said in a radio interview in Peru. "I wrote and published my first stories there."
The peace prize will be announced Friday and the economics prize Monday.
The Swedish Academy's Peter Englund said Vargas Llosa was "a divinely gifted story-teller," whose writing touched the reader.
End Quote Mario Vargas Llosa
I don't think the Nobel Prize will change my writing”
Mr Englund added that the writer was in New York and was told by telephone that he had won the prize.
Vargas Llosa is currently teaching at Princeton University.
"I will try to survive the Nobel Prize," he joked during a news conference later on Thursday. "It was a total surprise."
But he said the honour would not affect his craft. "I don't think the Nobel Prize will change my writing, my style, my themes," he said.
Previously, the author had told the BBC's Latin American service that "a writer shouldn't think about the Nobel prize as it is bad for one's writing".
Born in the town of Arequipa, Vargas Llosa took Spanish nationality in 1993 - three years after an unsuccessful bid for the Peruvian presidency.
The author had long been mentioned as a possible Nobel candidate - he has won some of the Western world's most prestigious literary medals including the Cervantes Prize in 1995 - the Spanish-speaking world's most distinguished literary honour.
His works have also been translated into 31 languages, including Chinese, Croatian, Hebrew and Arabic.Burnt copies
The writer's international breakthrough came with the 1960s novel The Time of The Hero which built on his experiences at the Peruvian military academy, Leoncio Prado.
The book was considered controversial in his homeland and 1,000 copies were burnt publicly by officers from the academy.
His best-known works include Conversation In The Cathedral, The War of the End of the World and The Feast of the Goat.
Several books were made into movies including the 1990 Hollywood film Tune in Tomorrow, based on his novel Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, which starred Barbara Hershey, Peter Falk and Keanu Reeves.
The author once had a great friendship with Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, about whom he wrote his doctoral thesis in 1971.
But their relationship turned into one of literature's greatest feuds after Vargas Llosa punched Garcia Marquez at a theatre in Mexico City in 1976, leaving him with a black eye.
The pair have never disclosed the reason for their dispute, although witnesses have suggested they fell out over a conversation between Garcia Marquez and Vargas Llosa's wife.
In the intervening years, the authors fell out politically, too, with the Peruvian publicly criticising Garcia Marquez's friendship with Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Relations appeared to thaw in 2007, however, when Vargas Llosa provided the foreword to the 40th anniversary edition of Garcia Marquez's classic work, A Hundred Years of Solitude.
After the Nobel announcement on Thursday, Garcia Marquez - himself a Nobel laureate - tweeted: "Cuentas iguales" ("Now we're even").
Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa wins Nobel Prize in literature
Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian writer and literary giant in the Spanish-speaking world, was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy announced Thursday.
Vargas Llosa, 74, whose body of work includes more than 30 novels, essays and plays is the first South American writer to win the coveted prize since Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian storyteller who is much better known than Vargas Llosa. Marquez won in 1982.
In part because of the spotlight Marquez drew to South American literature, Vargas Llosa's best-selling work has been widely translated in English, French, Swedish and German.
Like many Nobel laureates, Vargas Llosa has written works that his country's authorities didn't appreciate. "The Time of the Hero," released in 1963, described some of his harsh experiences in a military academy and the officials of the school burnt 1,000 copies.
In their tribute to Vargas Llosa, the Swedish Academy cited a theme of "individual's resistance" in announcing the honor.
The prize was given, the officials said in a statement, "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat."
Some of his best-known works include "The Green House," "Conversation in the Cathedral," "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter," "A Fish in the Water: a Memoir," "The Feast of the Goat" and "The Storyteller." He has been praised for his unblemished examination of hypocrisy, most often training an eye on Peruvian society. But he has also produced humorous work and detective stories.
Vargas Llosa, who was born in Arequipa, Peru, spent some of his early years in Bolivia but his family returned to Peru in 1946.
His ambitions to be a writer were opposed by his father, who sent him to the military school.
Leaving Peru for a while, Vargas Llosa has also worked as a language teacher and journalist in France. When he returned, he became heavily involved in the country's politics and in 1990 became a candidate for president. He lost in a run-off election and, then returned to writing.
His other honors include winning the Cervantes Prize in 1995, the highest literary honor in the Spanish-speaking world.
Vargas Llosa is teaching this semester at Princeton University.
The announcement continues the drought for American writers. No American has won the literature prize since novelist Toni Morrison in 1993.
By Mike McPhate | October 7, 2010
A commentor's note in the washington post:Posted by: doritabella | October 7, 2010
Excerpts from the Nobel literature prize citation
Thursday, October 7, 2010; 7:41 AM
-- Excerpts from the Swedish Academy's citation awarding the 2010 Nobel Prize in literature 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."
Mario Vargas Llosa was born on March 28, 1936, in Arequipa, Peru, to Ernesto Vargas Maldonado and Dora Llosa Ureta. After his parents divorced, he grew up with his mother and grandfather in the city of Cochabamba in Bolivia. The family moved to Piura, Peru, in 1946 where his grandfather held an appointment as a civil servant. His parents were reunited in 1947 and settled in Lima. Mario Vargas Llosa went to a Catholic school in Lima. Later his father sent him to the military school, Leoncio Prado. After graduating from Colegio Nacional San Miguel in Piura, Mario Vargas Llosa studied law and literature in Lima and Madrid. In 1955, he married Julia Urquidi. In 1959, he moved to Paris where he worked as a language teacher and as a journalist for Agence France-Presse and the national television service of France. As an author, he had an international breakthrough with the novel La ciudad y los perros (1963; The Time of the Hero, 1966). This novel, which builds on experiences from Leoncio Prado, was considered controversial in his home land. A thousand copies were burnt publicly by officers from Leoncio Prado.
In 1964 Mario Vargas Llosa divorced Julia Urquidi. The following year, he married his cousin, Patricia Llosa. After having lived alternately in Paris, Lima, London and Barcelona, he returned to Lima in 1974. In 1975 he was elected to the Peruvian Academy. He has lectured and taught at a number of universities in the USA, South America and Europe. In 1990, he ran for the Presidency representing the FREDEMO alliance in Peru, but lost the election. In 1994 he was elected to the Spanish Academy, where he took his seat in 1996. In recent years he has lived in Barcelona, Madrid, Lima, Paris and London. His well known works include "Conversacion en la catedral" (1969; "Conversation in the Cathedral," 1975), "La guerra del fin del mundo" (1981; "The War of the End of the World," 1984) and "La fiesta del chivo" (2000; "The Feast of the Goat," 2001). He is also a noted journalist and essayist.
Winners of Nobel Prize in literature since 1960
Thursday, October 7, 2010; 7:10 AM
-- Winners of the Nobel Prize in literature since 1960:
- 2010: Mario Vargas Llosa, Peru.
- 2009: Herta Mueller, Germany.
- 2008: Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, France.
- 2007: Doris Lessing, Britain.
- 2006: Orhan Pamuk, Turkey.
- 2005: Harold Pinter, Britain.
- 2004: Elfriede Jelinek, Austria.
- 2003: J.M. Coetzee, South Africa.
- 2002: Imre Kertesz, Hungary.
- 2001: V.S. Naipaul, Trinidad-born Briton.
2000: Gao Xingjian, Chinese-born French.
- 1999: Guenter Grass, Germany.
- 1998: Jose Saramago, Portugal.
- 1997: Dario Fo, Italy.
- 1996: Wislawa Szymborska, Poland.
- 1995: Seamus Heaney, Ireland.
- 1994: Kenzaburo Oe, Japan.
- 1993: Toni Morrison, United States.
- 1992: Derek Walcott, St. Lucia.
- 1991: Nadine Gordimer, South Africa.
- 1990: Octavio Paz, Mexico.
- 1989: Camilo Jose Cela, Spain.
- 1988: Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt.
- 1987: Joseph Brodsky, Russian-born American.
- 1986: Wole Soyinka, Nigeria.
- 1985: Claude Simon, France.
- 1984: Jaroslav Seifert, Czechoslovakia.
- 1983: William Golding, Britain.
- 1982: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombia.
- 1981: Elias Canetti, Bulgarian-born Briton.
- 1980: Czeslaw Milosz, Polish-born American.
- 1979: Odysseus Elytis, Greece.
- 1978: Isaac Bashevis Singer, Polish-born American.
- 1977: Vicente Aleixandre, Spain.
- 1976: Saul Bellow, Canadian-born American.
- 1975: Eugenio Montale, Italy.
- 1974: Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson, Sweden.
- 1973: Patrick White, British-born Australian.
- 1972: Heinrich Boell, West Germany.
- 1971: Pablo Neruda, Chile.
- 1970: Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Russia.
- 1969: Samuel Beckett, Ireland.
- 1968: Yasunari Kawabata, Japan.
- 1967: Miguel A. Asturias, Guatemala.
- 1966: Shmuel Y. Agnon, Polish-born Israeli, and Nelly Sachs, German-born Swede.
- 1965: Mikhail Sholokhov, Russia.
- 1964: Jean-Paul Sartre, France (declined award).
- 1963: Giorgos Seferis, Turkish-born Greek.
- 1962: John Steinbeck, United States.
- 1961: Ivo Andric, Yugoslavia.
1960: Saint-John Perse, Guadeloupe-born French.
ReVIEW: Post critic on Llosa's novel 'The Bad Girl'
THE BAD GIRL
By Mario Vargas Llosa
Translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman
Farrar Straus Giroux. 276 pp. $25
Mario Vargas Llosa's perversely charming new novel isn't among his major books -- it lacks the depth of Conversation in the Cathedral, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter or even the more recent and less successful The Feast of the Goat-- but it is irresistibly entertaining and, like all of its author's work, formidably smart. Its story of romantic and sexual obsession is characteristic of Vargas Llosa, as are its two principal characters: the narrator, Ricardo "Slim" Somocurcio, an amiable man whose ambitions extend no further than "a nice steady job that would let me spend, in the most ordinary way, the rest of my days in Paris," and the woman -- we don't know her real name until a few pages from the end -- whose "indomitable and unpredictable . . . personality" wholly captivates him.
It is commonly assumed that Vargas Llosa's male protagonists are autobiographical, as often is obviously the case, but resemblances between him and Ricardo Somocurcio pretty much end with their mutual admiration of women and vexation over Peruvian culture. Ricardo's lack of drive, on the other hand, scarcely mirrors his creator's powerful ambition. American readers may not fully appreciate what a force Vargas Llosa is in his native Peru, where he spends about a quarter of each year. He enjoys a prominence -- literary, social, cultural, political -- that no American writer could dream of achieving. Not only is he by far Peru's best known writer, of fiction and nonfiction, he also writes a regular, highly influential column for El Comercio, the country's premier newspaper, he was a serious candidate for the presidency in 1990 (he was defeated by the now disgraced Alberto Fujimori), and he is a familiar, adored figure to millions of Peruvians.
In the world at large he is known as one of the leading writers in the Latin American literary "Boom," his acclaim today probably exceeded only by that lavished upon Gabriel Garc¿a M¿rquez. That he has not been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature is nothing short of scandalous, especially in light of the many nonentities to whom the prize has gone in recent years, but this says more about the Swedish Academy than it does about the work of Vargas Llosa. Doubtless the prize went to Garc¿a M¿rquez on merit, but doubtless as well his cozy relationship with Fidel Castro helped his cause; Vargas Llosa by contrast is of a more conservative persuasion, and this the complacently ideological Swedes do not countenance, much less honor.
The Bad Girl will do nothing to improve his lot in Stockholm, but somehow it seems unlikely that this much worries Vargas Llosa. Obviously, the novel was written for the sheer fun of it -- the fun for Vargas Llosa in writing it, the fun for us in reading it. It also obviously was written out of a deep nostalgia for the author's lost youth and for the Lima in which he then lived. He evokes it beautifully:
"In the early years of the 1950s there were still no tall buildings in Miraflores, a neighborhood of one-story houses -- two at the most -- and gardens with their inevitable geraniums, poincianas, laurels, bougainvilleas, and lawns and verandas along which honeysuckle or ivy climbed, with rocking chairs where neighbors waited for nightfall, gossiping or inhaling the scent of the jasmine. In some parks there were ceibo trees thorny with red and pink flowers, and the straight, clean sidewalks were lined with frangipani, jacaranda, and mulberry trees, a note of color along with the flowers in the gardens and the little D'Onofrio ice-cream trucks . . . that drove up and down the streets day and night, announcing their presence with a Klaxon whose slow ululation had the effect on me of a primitive horn, a prehistoric reminiscence. You could still hear birds singing in that Miraflores, where families cut a pine branch when their girls reached marriageable age because if they didn't, the poor things would become old maids like my aunt Alberta."
Into this paradise, during the "fabulous summer" of 1950, comes a 14- or 15-year-old girl who calls herself Lily and claims to be Chilean. Soon enough she is found out as an impostor and expelled from 15-year-old Ricardo's privileged set, but the damage has been done: He is madly in love with her, and her expulsion is "the beginning of real life for me, the life that separates castles in the air, illusions, and fables from harsh reality." She has rejected his declarations of love, but she scarcely vanishes from his life. By the early 1960s he is in Paris, studying (successfully) to become a translator at UNESCO, when she appears as Comrade Arlette, ostensibly to bring Castroite revolution to Peru. She goes off to Cuba, but soon resurfaces as Madame Robert Arnoux, wife of a French diplomat. Ricardo craves her as ardently as ever, even as she blithely dismisses him: "What cheap, sentimental things you say to me, Ricardito." She does permit him to make love to her but vanishes once more, reappearing as Mrs. Richardson, wife of a wealthy Englishman hooked on "the aristocratic passion par excellence: horses."
By now Ricardo has figured out that she has come a long way: "I tried to picture her childhood, being poor in the hell that Peru is for the poor, and her adolescence, perhaps even worse, the countless difficulties, defeats, sacrifices, concessions she must have suffered in Peru, in Cuba, in order to move ahead and reach the place she was now." He understands that she is now "a grown woman, convinced that life was a jungle where only the worst triumphed, and ready to do anything not to be conquered and to keep moving higher." And yet:
"Everything I told her was true: I was still crazy about her. It was enough for me to see her to realize that, despite my knowing that any relationship with the bad girl was doomed to failure, the only thing I really wanted in life with the passion others bring to the pursuit of fortune, glory, success, power, was having her, with all her lies, entanglements, egotism and disappearances. A cheap, sentimental thing, no doubt, but also true that I wouldn't do anything . . . but curse how slowly the hours went by until I could see her again."
Over and over again she tests him, never more so than in a bedroom in Tokyo, "an experience that had left a wound in my memory." He actually manages to persuade himself for a time that he does not love her, but the obsession is too powerful: "I was a hopeless imbecile to still be in love with a madwoman, an adventurer, an unscrupulous female with whom no man, I least of all, could maintain a stable relationship without eventually being stepped on." In time he tells his story to a friend, a woman, who calls it "a marvelous love story," and who later adds, "What luck that girl has, inspiring love like this." There is a moment when Ricardo wonders, "Could this farce more than thirty years old be called a love story, Ricardito?" but in his heart he knows that's just what it is, and Vargas Llosa tells it as such.
Being Vargas Llosa, he takes care of plenty of other business as well. The novel touches on the full sweep of Peruvian history from the 1950s to the Shining Path terrorism, "which would last throughout the eighties and provoke an unprecedented bloodbath in Peruvian history: more than sixty thousand dead and disappeared." He says a lament for the generation of Peruvians before his own "who, when they reached old age, saw their lifelong dream of Peru making progress fade instead of materialize."
He also, having made Ricardo a translator and interpreter, affords himself the opportunity to have a bit of fun. One interpreter remarks: "Our profession is a disguised form of procuring, pimping, or being a go-between," and when Ricardo himself turns to translation, he discovers that, "As I always suspected, literary translations were very poorly paid, the fees much lower than for commercial ones." Probably no one is more amused by this than the redoubtable Edith Grossman, who has translated The Bad Girl with her accustomed skill and grace, making this lovely novel wholly accessible to American readers. ¿
Jonathan Yardley's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The power of Mario Vargas Llosa's words led the political writer to Nobel Prize
Friday, October 8, 2010
Too often, a Nobel morning has a literary critic running for cover or, at the very least, for Google, to learn exactly who, in the capricious eyes of the Swedish Academy, has merited the coveted award. Not so on Thursday. The 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature has gone to a writer whose name is well known to and widely venerated by the global literary community: the deeply intellectual, undeniably talented Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa.
Vargas Llosa has been a perennial candidate for the prize, his name raised year after year as an obvious choice since the 1980s. He might easily have won after the brilliant early novels of his career: "The Time of the Hero," "The Green House," "Conversation in the Cathedral," all published before 1975. But as time passed and he continued to produce an impressively versatile body of work -- "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter," "The Feast of the Goat," "The Bad Girl" -- so, too, did hope that he would be recognized by Stockholm. When asked by an editor several years ago why the prize had eluded him, he replied with a wry smile that he was hardly the politically correct choice.
If that is true, it was certainly not for literary reasons. Vargas Llosa's novels have garnered as much praise from the left as from the right, from serious critics as well as from the masses. In Latin America he is read by consumers of pulp novels as avidly as by scholars. Far less predictable in genre than other Latin Americans who have been singled out for the prize -- Gabriel García Márquez, for instance, or Pablo Neruda -- Vargas Llosa's work can be deadly serious or effervescently funny, his political essays searing, his literary criticism defiantly highbrow. According to the Nobel committee, he has won the award "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat."
For years, the gossip was that Stockholm would never recognize him because his politics were conservative, though many of his positions -- on gay rights, for example -- have been to the left of center. In 1990, he ran for president of Peru as a candidate of the right, in a fiercely contested race against Alberto Fujimori. When he lost in the election, he angered Peruvians by taking Spanish citizenship.
In 1997, when President Fujimori was in the full flower of his regime, Vargas Llosa's book "Making Waves" was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle award for literary criticism. I happened to be on the board of directors of the NBCC at the time. We received a call before the awards ceremony from a Peruvian who wanted to know exactly where Vargas Llosa would be sitting. Flustered to learn that Vargas Llosa would not be in an assigned seat, the caller slammed down the phone. As it turned out, Vargas Llosa was in Europe at the time and could not attend the event at New York University. When I called Vargas Llosa to tell him about the call, he said, "Oh, the Fujimoristas do that to me all the time. They just want to scare the hell out of me." Three years later, he produced his masterwork, "The Feast of the Goat," a blistering account of the last days of Dominican Gen. Rafael Trujillo's evil empire.
For all his bracing work decrying totalitarian strongmen, Vargas Llosa is no radical revolutionary. He has been described as an intransigent neoliberal, a man with unshakable convictions that his country and people need strict economic discipline, membership in the world market and tough austerity measures at home.
It wasn't always so. Vargas Llosa began his career, as did many budding writers of his generation, as an unabashed leftist. A supporter of Fidel Castro, student of Marxism and member of a secret communist cell, he moved to Paris in the early 1960s, where he fell in with a circle that included García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes and Julio Cortázar. But his sentiments quickly changed when the Castro regime imprisoned the outspoken poet Herberto Padilla. As time passed, Vargas Llosa became convinced that socialism and liberty were impossible bedfellows and, by the 1980s, he was saying so unequivocally, in speeches and essays that left no doubt that he had strong political aspirations. But politics, he later admitted, was a thankless, punishing pursuit, "bringing to light the absolute worst in a person."
The two decades since that failed presidential run have been remarkably productive for Vargas Llosa. He has written no fewer than 15 new books and firmly established himself as the most successful and prolific Latin American writer of the past quarter-century. The Nobel is only the most recent laurel in a career that has earned him the Cervantes Prize, the Prince of Asturias Award, the Planeta and countless honors around the globe. But he has always been far more read within the Spanish-speaking world than outside it.
He has titillated his readers by marrying his aunt and then writing about it; marrying his cousin and writing about that, too. In truth, he has written as easily about love as he has about tyranny, as nimbly about rabid dictators as about powerless artists; he has given us "Vargas Llosa light," in delightfully erotic (thinly veiled autobiographical) stories, and "Vargas Llosa dark," in elaborately researched and profoundly illuminating historical novels. In November, he will add yet another of these to his burgeoning opus: "The Celt's Dream," about Sir Roger Casement, the indefatigable battler for civil rights.
But perhaps the most winning aspect of Vargas Llosa's career is his deep and abiding humanity. Generous in friendship, unfailingly curious about the world at large, tireless in his quest to probe the nature of the human animal, he is a model writer for our times. It is such a pleasure for me to write at last: This year, the Nobel Prize in Literature goes to an indisputable winner.
Marie Arana, a former editor of Book World, is the author of "American Chica," "Cellophane" and "Lima Nights."