Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, whose deeply political work vividly examines the perils of power and corruption in Latin America, won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday.
Announcing the award in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy praised Vargas Llosa “for his cartography of the structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat.”
Vargas Llosa, 74, is one of the most celebrated writers of the Spanish-speaking world, an anti-totalitarian intellectual whose work covers the range of human experience, whether it is ideology or eros. He is frequently mentioned with contemporary Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who won the literature Nobel in 1982, the last South American to do so. Vargas Llosa has written more than 30 works of nonfiction, plays and novels, including “The Feast of the Goat” and “The War of the End of the World.”
The prize is the first for a writer in the Spanish language in two decades, after Octavio Paz of Mexico won in 1990. It renews attention on the Latin American writers who gained renown in the 1960s, like Julio Cortazar of Argentina and Carlos Fuentes of Mexico, who formed the region’s “boom generation.”
During a news conference at theInstituto Cervantes in Manhattanon Thursday, Vargas Llosa, an elegant, dashing figure with silvery hair, appeared in front of a crowd of giddy journalists, mostly Spanish-speaking, and Alejandro Toledo, the former president of Peru, who sat in the front row. Vargas Llosa is spending the semester in the United States, teaching Latin American studies at Princeton.
Answering questions in English, Spanish and a bit of French, Vargas Llosa called the Nobel a recognition of the importance of Latin American literature and of the Spanish language, which has acquired “a sort of citizenship in the world,” he said.
When Vargas Llosa was young and went to Europe for the first time, he said, “Latin America seemed to be a land where there were only dictators, revolutionaries, catastrophes. Now we know that Latin America can produce also artists, musicians, painters, thinkers and novelists.”
The announcement of the prize was greeted largely with enthusiasm in Latin America, where Vargas Llosa is widely admired for his literary greatness but is a divisive figure because of his conservative politics. He has frequently criticized leftist governments in the region, including those of Cuba and Venezuela.
In Peru, members of Congress took to the floor to praise him. Felipe Calderon, Mexico’s president, wrote in a Twitter message that the prize was cause for “Latin American pride.”