Stockholm: Peruvian-born writer and one-time presidential candidate Mario Vargas Llosa, a chronicler of the struggle against authority in Latin America, won the 2010 Nobel prize for literature on Thursday.
The awarding committee said in a statement Vargas Llosa received the award “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat”.
Vargas Llosa, who has both Spanish and Peruvian citizenship, made his international breakthrough with the novel The Time of the Hero in 1966. He is the first Latin American winner for literature since Mexico’s Octavio Paz won in 1990.
‘Big surprise’: Mario Vargas Llosa, winner of the 2010 Literature Nobel. Shannon Stapleton/Reuters
His works build on his experiences of life in Peru in the late 1940s and the 1950s. Vargas Llosa ran for president of Peru in 1990 but lost to Alberto Fujimori, who ultimately had to flee the country and was subsequently convicted of various crimes.
Vargas Llosa was quoted on the website of Peruvian newspaper El Comercio as being taken aback by the news. “It was a big surprise. At first I thought it was a joke,” the site quoted him as saying.
Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Nobel committee, said he had telephoned Vargas Llosa, who was in the US.
“He’s actually having a two-month stint there in Princeton teaching, so I was sort of embarrassed for phoning him so early. But he had been up since 5 o’clock preparing a lecture for Princeton. He was elated. He was very, very moved.”
Englund bubbled over in his praise of the writer, who will receive 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.50 million).
“He has a number of masterpieces in narration because essentially he’s a narrator, he’s a storyteller. My goodness, what a storyteller!”
Englund characterized Vargas Llosa as one of the great authors in the Spanish-speaking world. “He is one of the persons behind the Latin-American literary boom of the ’60s and ’70s, and he has continued to work and expand.”
Vargas Llosa is also at the centre of one of the literary world’s most famous feuds.
In 1976, Vargas Llosa punched his friend and fellow writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez in public.
The two ceased speaking to each other and for decades the reason behind the fight has been a mystery. A photographer who captured Garcia Marquez, and his black eye, wrote about the incident in 2007 and suggested it concerned Vargas Llosa’s wife.