Mario Vargas Llosa - Peru's Nobel Prize Winner by:Gary Sargent
Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa has long been regarded as one of the most acclaimed writers, playwrights, essayists and literary critics in Latin America. Recently this reputation was confirmed by the prestigious 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature. This makes him one of two Latin Americans to have won the prize, alongside Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Born in Arequipa, Peru, Vargas Llosa stays true to his roots. Most of his novels take place in Peru and follow the traditional Peruvian fiction regarding social protest that exposes political corruption, violence and racial prejudices. Despite dealing with such passionate and personal topics, he is known for maintaining a lack of preaching or having to reconcile ideological propaganda with artistic aims.
After being born in Arequipa, Peru in 1936, Vargas Llosa moved to Bolivia after his parents separated, with his mother and maternal grandparents. The family returned to live in northern Peru in 1946 and then moved to Lima, Peru. He first attended military school and then studied literature and law in Lima, and afterwards Spain. During this time, he wrote several books on literary criticism as well as fiction and started to become a famous writer whose ambitious goal was to rejuvenate the Latin American novel.
During the 1960s, the country of Peru suffered from problems in the publishing industry and many Peruvian writers suffered as well. Vargas Llosa moved to France and was a Spanish teacher, journalist and broadcaster in the early 1960s. During the late 1960s, he served as an adjunct professor at many European and American universities.
It was in 1962, however, that Vargas Llosa primarily became known as a novelist with the book, "The Time of the Hero", which takes place at one of the military academies where he had been a student. It won immediate international recognition although it was considered controversial in his own country where 1000 copies were publicly burned by Peruvian military officials.
Since then, he has written over thirty novels, plays and essays including "Conversation in the Cathedral" and the "The Green House". He was awarded the Cervantes Prize, the Hispanic world's most distinguished literary honor in 1995.
In addition to novels, Vargas Llosa has published a great deal of criticism and literary and political journalism. He has been a writer with an international following and has written for The New York Times, Le Monde, The Times Literary Supplement, El Pas, and other well-known newspapers. The book, "Diary of Iraq", published in 2003, is a collection of his articles for El Pas magazine about the war in Iraq. In 2005 he travelled to Israel and Palestine with his daughter to record his impressions in the book "Israel/Palestine: Peace or War". The Jewish community in South America had mixed reactions.
Entering the political arena, he ran to become president of Peru in 1990 but lost to Alberto Fujimori. In 1994, he was the first Latin American writer to be elected to the Spanish Academy and he took his seat there in 1996.
If you are planning a vacation to Peru or would like to get to know the country better, be sure to check out some of Mario Vargas Llosa's varied works for a unique and intimate view of the Peruvian psychology. It might help explain some of the strange things you encounter when travelling!
About the author
Gary Sargent is the Managing Director of the tour companies Escaped to Peru and has lived in South America since 1998. Gary is passionate about Peruvian life, people, customs and places. Visit Gary's website for more Peru travel advice or to book your next Peru vacation at http://www.escapedtoperu.com/