Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian writer whose more than 30 novels, plays, and essays have been translated into many languages and who is renowned among the greatest in the Spanish-speaking world, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature on October 7 by the Swedish Academy in Stockholm.
The good news comes as a welcome change. A police revolt in Ecuador, which jeopardized President Correa’s life; new charges that Hugo Chavez’s government harbors terrorists, this time from a Spanish judge in light of the assertion by two captured Basque terrorists that they were trained in Venezuela; and reports about the plight of half a million Cubans who will soon be fired from their government jobs and expected to survive in the non-existent private sector, took up much of the news in and about Latin America this week.
As we celebrate Vargas Llosa’s latest triumph in the world of letters, let us recall the previous winners of this prize from Latin America. The first Latin American to receive the Nobel in Literature was Gabriela Mistral in 1945. Her country, Chile, holds the distinction of being the only one in the region with two great poets so recognized: Pablo Neruda won in 1971.
Twenty years have gone by since Octavio Paz of Mexico was awarded the Nobel in 1990. The Guatemalan writer Miguel Ángel Asturias in 1967 and Gabriel García Márquez, of Colombia, in 1982 complete this distinguished roster.
Vargas Llosa, who this semester is teaching Latin American studies at Princeton University, was born in 1936 in Arequipa, Peru. As a child he read adventure novels, including those by Jules Verne and decided that he wanted to be a writer. After studying law and literature in Lima in the 1950s he began writing for newspapers, later lived in Paris, Madrid and London, and a decade later became internationally known upon the publication of his first novel, La ciudad y los perros (titled “The Time of the Hero” in the English translation) in 1963.
His sixteenth novel, El tiempo del celta, will be published before the end of this year. Vargas Llosa, who has a regular column in the Spanish daily El País, will add the Nobel Prize in Literature to many other awards, including the Premio Príncipe de Asturias a las Letras (1986) and the Premio Cervantes (1994), both from Spain.