The award of the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature to Mario Vargas Llosa marks the Academy's recognition of one of Latin America's most celebrated authors, one who is not only a great storyteller but also a remarkable essayist, playwright, journalist, cultural commentator, and man of letters. A public intellectual who believes in the necessity of a writer's engagement with the important issues of the day, Mr. Vargas Llosa has been an outspoken political activist, who, like Vaclav Havel, once ran for the office of President in his country, Peru. Although he lost narrowly and later left active politics, his firm belief in the power of the pen to shape politics and culture underlies the bulk of his writing. According to the Nobel citation, he was being honoured “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat.” Mr. Vargas Llosa, the first South American writer to win the Nobel since the great Gabriela Garcia Marquez was given the Prize in 1982, has written more than 30 novels, plays, and essays. Among the most acclaimed are Conversation in the Cathedral, The Green House, The Feast of the Goat and the brilliant semi-autobiographical work, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. His journalism and critical writings have been compiled into compelling anthologies that reflect what a literary critic calls a “fascination with the human craving for freedom and the liberation conferred by art and imagination.”
Critics have also written of Mr. Vargas Llosa's persistent desire to demonstrate to the reading world “the important place of fiction and literature in the life of nations.” And as he wrote in a magazine essay, “without it, the critical mind, which is the real engine of historical change and the best protector of liberty, would suffer an irreparable loss.” While storytelling is largely the way through which he engages with this world, Mr. Vargas Llosa's concerns are very real; his complex narrative structures and the philosophical underpinnings of the issues he raises are very current, whether it is about the struggles of Peru or of the wider world. His political views, however, changed over the years and he moved from the left to a centrist-right position, campaigning for the presidency of Peru as a proponent of a market economy and free trade. He later left Peru for seven years, explaining in an interview that his ideal was “to become a citizen of the world” and that “if there is for me a fundamental idea of civilisation, it is this.” While his importance in the cultural life of his country has not diminished in any way, in winning the Nobel the writer has obviously achieved his dream of becoming a true world citizen.