GOAL FOR LATIN AMERICA: Mario Vargas Llosa Scores a NobelLatin American Herald Tribune] STOCKHOLM — Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, one of the most widely read and acclaimed writers in the Spanish-speaking world, was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in literature Thursday in recognition of his complete body of work.
The Swedish Academy said it was honoring the 74-year-old novelist, journalist and essayist “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat.”
The author of acclaimed novels such as “La ciudad de los perros” (The Time of the Hero), “Conversacion en la catedral” (Conversation in the Cathedral) and “La guerra del fin del mundo” (The War of the End of the World) is the first Latin American writer to win the Nobel Prize in literature since Mexico’s Octavio Paz in 1990.
In announcing the decision to a crowd of reporters, the president of the Nobel literature prize jury, Peter Englund, described Vargas Llosa as “a divinely gifted storyteller” and said his works are “very complex in composition, having different perspectives, different voices and different time places.”
Englund, who credited Vargas Llosa with helping “evolve the art of narration,” said the author was “very, very happy and very moved” at having received the award, which is accompanied by a $1.5 million cash prize.
Vargas Llosa is currently living in New York, where he is giving classes at nearby Princeton University.
“He had woken up at 5:00 in the morning to give a class, when he received our call at 6:45 while working intensely,” Englund said.
Vargas Llosa, an important innovator of the realist novel who has also distinguished himself through his political commentary and art and film criticism, was born in 1936 in Arequipa, Peru.
He had his international breakthrough as an author with “La ciudad de los perros,” in which he described the brutal and bullying atmosphere at a military school he attended as a teenager.
The work gained him notoriety in his homeland, with officers at the school publicly burning copies of the work and labeling him a communist.
Another of his most famous works – the comic novel “La tia Julia y el escribidor” (Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter) – was also inspired by personal experience, in that case his first marriage at the age of 19 to the sister-in-law of his uncle, 33-year-old Julia Urquidi.
An initial supporter of communism and the Cuban Revolution, Vargas Llosa gradually moved to the right and tried his hand at politics, leading a movement in 1987 that blocked the plans by then-President Alan Garcia (who is now in his second term in office) to nationalize Peru’s banks.
Vargas Llosa then ran for president three years later at the head of the center-right Democratic Front coalition, losing to Alberto Fujimori.
The writer became embroiled in controversy in 1976 when he punched his former close friend, leftist and fellow leader of the so-called Latin American literary boom of the 1960s and 1970s, Colombia’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez, at a theater in Mexico City.
It remains unclear to this day whether the fight was politically motivated or not.
Vargas Llosa, who became a Spanish citizen in 1993 and is the first Latin American to be a member of the Royal Spanish Academy, has won numerous literary awards during his illustrious career, including the Cervantes Prize – the Spanish-speaking world’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize in literature – in 1994.
In recent years, he had become convinced that his political leanings would prevent him from ever being awarded the Nobel Prize in literature and he expressed surprise after learning of the honor.
“I thought I had been completely forgotten by the Swedish Academy. I didn’t even know the prize was awarded this month,” Vargas Llosa told Swedish news agency TT on Thursday.
The 2010 Nobel Prize announcements began this week, with Britain’s Robert G. Edwards being awarded the medicine prize on Monday for fertility research and the physics prize going to Russians Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov.
On Wednesday, the chemistry prize was awarded to American Richard Heck and Japan’s Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki.
Still to be awarded are the peace prize, to be announced Friday in Oslo, and the economics prize, to be announced on Monday in Sweden.
The awards will be handed out on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish inventor and industrialist Alfred Nobel.
Since 1901, 102 Nobel Prizes in literature have been awarded. The last American to win the prize was Toni Morrison, in 1993.