- Associated Press - Thursday, October 7, 2010

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.

Books by Mario Vargas Llosa are displayed at a public library in Lima, Peru. The Swedish Academy said it honored the 74-year-old author "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat." (Associated Press)
Books by Mario Vargas Llosa are displayed at a public library in ... more >

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.

Story Continues →