Mario Vargas Llosa (74), celebrated Peruvian-Spanish author and one of the most renowned novelists of his generation, has won the Nobel Prize for Literature "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat".
After the award was announced, Peter Englund, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy said that Mr. Llosa was "one of the great Latin American storytellers — a master of dialogue who has been searching for the elusive concept known as the total novel, and who believes in the power of fiction to improve the world."
While Mr. Llosa is known for his prolific writing that included comedies and murder mysteries, his most powerful novels have contained commentary on historical and political conditions in his native Peru and other parts of Latin America. The "monumental" work that Conversation in the Cathedral (1969) represents for example, was deeply concerned with the ravaging of Peruvian politics and government under the dictatorship of Manuel A. Odría in the 1950s.
Mr. Llosa’s first major international breakthrough came in 1963, with the publication of the novel The Time of the Hero. However, the book – which drew upon his military school experiences – also raised a controversy back in Peru and "a thousand copies were burnt publicly by officers" of the school.
His other profoundly influential novel was The Feast of the Goat (2000). This major work was again a political thriller and was loosely based on the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic between 1930 and 1961. Other well known works include Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1977), The War of the End of the World, (1981) and, more recently, Death in the Andes (1993).
This last novel — focussing on deaths associated with the militant Shining Path group – also reflected some of Mr. Llosa’s concern for the plight of the downtrodden. In Death in the Andes, Mr. Llosa situated violence "in the context of an older world where life is brutal and in a society which is on the very fringe of the modern world".
Born in Arequipa, Peru, Mr. Llosa grew up with his mother in Bolivia after his parents were divorced. However, after his family moved back to Peru in 1946, his parents were reunited and they settled in Lima. Mr. Llosa attended both a Catholic school in Lima as well as Leoncio Prado Military Academy – the place that gave him material for The Time of the Hero – following which he studied law and literature in Madrid.
He embarked on a career in languages and journalism after marrying Julia Urquidi in 1955, for which he moved to Paris. In 1965, Mr. Llosa married Patricia Llosa after divorcing his first wife. Moving back to Lima in 1974, he was soon elected to the Peruvian Academy, following which he lectured and taught at numerous universities in the U.S., Latin America and Europe.
In a one-off direct involvement in politics, Mr. Llosa unsuccessfully ran for the Peruvian Presidency in 1990, representing the FREDEMO alliance. In recent years, he was said to have lived in Barcelona, Madrid, Lima, Paris and London.