Vargas Llosa wins Nobel Prize in Literature

Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa, one of the most acclaimed writers in the Spanish-speaking world, has won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Mario Vargas Llosa, seen in this photo taken at the Peruvian Literature House in Lima, has won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature. ((Karel Navarro/Associated Press))
Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa, one of the most acclaimed writers in the Spanish-speaking world who once ran for president in his homeland, won the 2010 Nobel Prize in literature Thursday.

The Swedish Academy said it honoured the 74-year-old author "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat."

Vargas Llosa has written more than 30 novels, plays and essays, including Conversation in the Cathedral and The Green House. In 1995, he was awarded the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's most distinguished literary honour.

The academy's permanent secretary, Peter Englund, described Vargas Llosa as a "divinely gifted story-teller," whose writing touches the reader.

"He is one of the big authors in the Spanish-speaking world," Englund said.

His international breakthrough came with the 1960s novel The Time of The Hero, which builds on his experiences from the Peruvian military academy Leoncio Prado. The book was considered controversial in his homeland and a thousand copies were burnt publicly by officers from the academy.

Vargas Llosa is the first South American winner of the prestigious 10 million kronor (about $1.5 million Cdn) Nobel Prize in literature since it was awarded to Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 1982.

In the previous six years, the academy rewarded six Europeans, sparking criticism that it was too euro-centric. Last year's award went to German writer Herta Mueller. 

Englund said Vargas Llosa was in New York on Thursday when he was told by telephone that he had won the prize. He is teaching this semester at Princeton University in New Jersey.

"He was very, very happy" Englund said. "And very moved."

Writer, teacher, journalist

Born in Arequipa, Peru, Vargas Llosa grew up with his grandparents in Bolivia after his parents divorced, the academy said. The family moved back to Peru in 1946 and he later went to military school before studying literature and law in Lima and Madrid.

In 1959, he moved to Paris where he worked as a language teacher and as a journalist for Agence France-Presse and the national television service of France. He has lectured and taught at a number of universities in the U.S., South America and Europe.

In 1990, he ran for the presidency but lost the election to Alberto Fujimori. In 1994 he was the first Latin American writer to be elected to the Spanish Academy, where he took his seat in 1996.

The 2010 Nobel Prize announcements began Monday with the medicine award going to British professor Robert Edwards for fertility research that led to the first test tube baby. Two Russian-born scientists won the physics prize and the chemistry award went to two Japanese and American researchers who designed techniques to bind together carbon atoms.

The peace prize will be announced on Friday and economics on Monday, Oct. 11.

The awards were established by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel — the inventor of dynamite — and are presented on Dec. 10, the anniversary of his death in 1896.