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Mario Vargas Llosa Wins Nobel Literature Prize

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Mario Vargas Llosa Wins Nobel Literature Prize


Mario Vargas Llosa Wins Nobel Literature Prize

Mario Vargas Llosa Wins Nobel Literature Prize

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa has won the 2010 Nobel Prize in literature. He was honored "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat."


News has come this morning of this year's winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. It is Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa. The Swedish Academy cited the writer for his, quote, "trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat."

Vargos Llosa is known for his pointed attacks on the corruption and hypocrisy of Peruvian society - in particular, the military. His interest in politics even led him, in 1990, to run - unsuccessfully - for president. Joining us to talk about this new laureate is NPR's Lynn Neary.

Good morning.

LYNN NEARY: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: How long has it been since a Latin American writer has won this prize?

NEARY: Well, as I think you know, Renee, in recent years, the Swedish Academy has been considered to be very Eurocentric in its choices for the literature prize. So it has been a while. It was 1990 when Octavio Paz from Mexico won the award. Also, Gabriel Garcia Marquez won it in 1982.

Now, Garcia Marquez and Vargas Llosa were both part of the boom in Latin American writing that took place in the 1960s. Vargas Llosa was the youngest of this group writers, which also included such greats as Carlos Fuentes. And like many of these writers, Vargas Llosa left Peru as a young man. He lived and he worked in Europe. And it was after this time abroad that he published his first really big novel: "The Time of the Hero."

MONTAGNE: And that novel was based on his own experience.

NEARY: Yes. It was based on his time at a military school. It's an interesting story. He grew up in Bolivia with his mother and grandparents, and they encouraged his writing. But when his father in Peru found out that his son wanted to be a poet, he was horrified and sent him to this military school, thinking, well, maybe this will bring him to his senses. Instead, it sharpened his pen and has fostered a lifelong distrust of the military. So when that book was published, it was burned in the courtyard of that school. It was also awarded a literary prize, and it established Vargas Llosa as a writer.

MONTAGNE: Talk to us about the kind of writer he is, his style.

NEARY: Well, you know, he could be very political. He could also be intensely personal. He's said to combine the realism of the 19th century novel with the techniques of the 20th century. He was known for multilayered storytelling, looking at it from different perspectives. He explores the corruption of contemporary Peru in novels such as "The Greenhouse" and "Conversation in the Cathedral."

He also could be very funny. "Captain Pantoja and the Special Service" is a black comedy about the military. And one of his most popular novels is also very humorous and also autobiographical. That's "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter." And it was based on his marriage to his aunt, who was 10 years older than he.

Vargas Llosa also dabbled in erotic literature in his 1990 book "In Praise of the Stepmother." But his writing was always intertwined with politics. Two of his best-known works, "War at the End of the World" and "The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta" were overtly political. And in an interview with NPR in 2001, he spoke about the link between politics and literature.

Mr. MARIO VARGAS LLOSA (Author): If there is no freedom in our society and you are a writer, you cannot say this is not my problem, because it is your problem. If you are a writer and there is no freedom, your vocation is threatened, you know. You have to do something.

MONTAGNE: So his politics, they did evolve over the years.

NEARY: Well, yeah. He came of age in Latin America at a time of revolution, so not surprisingly, he was a member of a faction of the Peruvian Communist Party. He believed in the Cuban Revolution. But eventually, he moved right and he ran as president in 1990 as a member of - a candidate for the center-right coalition. Of course, he lost. However, he has remained very active and involved in Peruvian life as a writer, and politically, as well.

MONTAGNE: Thank you, Lynn Neary. NPR's Lynn Neary, this year's winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature is Mario Vargas Llosa.


While we were waiting to find out who won the Nobel Prize in Literature, we asked you on our Facebook page to submit your own nominations. Who would you like to see win? Hundreds of you responded.

MONTAGNE: Carrie Vaughn(ph) of Ohio was among many people who nominated the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami.

INSKEEP: Another favorite was Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian author of "The Alchemist."

MONTAGNE: And Craig Morris of Georgia was one of the many who said Thomas Pynchon deserves the prize. His novels include, of course, "Gravity's Rainbow" and "Against the Day."

INSKEEP: Now, Lee Dittman(ph) writes in to say that the prize should be awarded to him, on spec. He says, quote, "I'll use the prize money to write something of lasting value."

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: And Joe Valente(ph) writes: I nominate the guy who wrote the instruction manual for my phone. A greater work of fiction has never existed.

INSKEEP: This, however, is the truth. You can follow MORNING EDITION on Facebook and on Twitter. We're @morningedition and @nprinskeep.

(Soundbite of music)


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