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Peruvian Vargas Llosa Wins Nobel For Literature


Mario Vargas Llosa

Mario Vargas Llosa

Mario Vargas Llosa, one of the leading writers of the Spanish-speaking world, has been awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in literature.

Vargas Llosa's more than 30 novels, essays, and plays explore complex themes dealing with oppression and Latin America's troubled history.

"It's very gratifying to receive this prize," said the author, "and from the very first moment I heard about it, I thought they're not rewarding just me, but they are also rewarding the language in which I write and the region from where I come."

A prominent theme throughout much of Vargas Llosa's work is rebellion and the fight against oppressive forces.

The Swedish Academy said it was honoring him for creating a "cartography of structures of power" and for his "trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat."

Break From The Left

The 74-year-old author is one of the signature representatives of the literary movement known as the Latin American Boom, which burst on the scene in the 1960s, with its modernist style and political themes. Vargas Llosa's work gained prominence and became widely translated abroad following publication of "The Green House," and "Conversation in the Cathedral." He won the Cervantes Prize, the most prominent award in the Spanish-speaking world, in 1995.

Initially a supporter of the Cuban Revolution, Vargas Llosa gradually abandoned his leftist beliefs, becoming a strong advocate of individual liberties.

In 1976, Vargas Llosa famously punched legendary Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the face at an event in Mexico City, publicly ending their friendship.

Vargas Llosa ran for president of Peru in 1990 as a candidate of the center-right coalition Frente Democratico, a political group he helped form. He was trounced by Alberto Fujimori, who was later accused of human rights violations committed during his presidency. He left Peru in 1993, in part because of his frustration with Fujimori's leadership.

Having an outspoken, politically center-right writer win the Nobel Prize could be considered unusual, as some claim the prizes often go to leftist figures.

"He believes in improving the world," said Nobel Permanent Secretary Peter Englund, speaking today in an interview on the Nobel Prize website. "He believes in fiction and the power of fiction to improve the world. And if that's not an ideal direction, I don't know [what is]."

The author himself admitted to be stunned by the decision, which he said he learned about only shortly before the rest of the world did.

"I received a call from Stockholm from a gentleman who told me that he was the secretary-general of the Swedish Academy and that he wanted to inform me that I had received the Nobel Prize in literature and that in 40 minutes this will be public," said Vargas Llosa. "So I still have not recovered from the surprise, you know. It was a fantastic surprise but I am feeling very happy, of course."

'Masterful' Writing

Vargas Llosa took Spanish citizenship after leaving Peru-- a contentious move that upset many in his home country-- and was the first Latin American writer to be elected to Spain's Royal Academy of Language the following year. He currently lives in Madrid, though he is currently teaching at Princeton University in the United States.

Vargas Llosa was born in 1936 in Arequipa, Peru, and was raised by his mother and grandfather in the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia. He worked as a language teacher and then as a journalist for the international news wire Agence France Presse before launching his career as an author.

Englund described Vargas Llosa's writing as "masterful."

"He is basically a storyteller, a narrator, but he is also a very, very special storyteller that has evolved the literary ways of telling stories," said the Nobel secretary. "They are often very complex in composition, his books. He is masterful when it comes to dialogue, shifting time planes or shifting persons, always going for the big picture."

The prize of 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.5 million) was the fourth of this year's Nobel prizes to be announced.

The prize in the field of medicine was awarded on October 4, physics was awarded on October 5, and the chemistry award was given on October 6.

The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on October 8 and the economics award on October 11.

* In an earlier version of this piece, we reported that Garcia Marquez tweeted: "Now we are even." In fact, the tweet was from a spoof account and not from Garcia Marquez. Our apologies.

compiled from agency reports
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