The Peruvian author was awake, preparing for a Monday class at
His wife Patricia walked over, an anxious look on her face, and handed the 74-year-old novelist the telephone.
“News at this hour tends to be bad,” Vargas Llosa says he thought.
The man on the line — “a voice I couldn’t understand very well” — said he was the secretary-general of the
The man called back and delivered the news: In 14
minutes, the Academy would open its famous white doors and announce to
the world that Vargas Llosa was the recipient of the Nobel Prize for
“I thought it was a joke,” Vargas Llosa recalled Thursday afternoon at a packed news conference at
An Italian novelist friend was the victim of such a
prank years ago, Vargas Llosa explained. “I told my wife, ‘We need to
wait until this is confirmed to call our children.'”
In awarding the Nobel to the author of some of the most celebrated literature in
the Academy praised “his cartography of structures of power and his
trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat.”
In elegant and clear prose, Vargas Llosa has chronicled the machinations of power and the powerful in
Whether writing about a dictator in
— the “goat” in his acclaimed novel “The Feast of the Goat” — or about
the mysterious woman who consumes a man’s life in “The Bad Girl,”
Vargas Llosa masterfully captured the essence of modern times and what
drives people to their fates.
The Nobel recognition had for decades eluded Vargas Llosa.
Many of his friends thought Vargas Llosa had been
snubbed for the prize because of his early denunciation of the Fidel
Castro regime in the 1970s, when most of the intellectual left
continued to support Castro despite his jailing of poet
Others thought his run for the presidency in
“For many years I was sure that I was not a
candidate, and that if I had been, I had been sidelined,” Vargas Llosa
So thought his friends, who shared Vargas Llosa’s “great joy.”
“This time, the Swedish were on the money: Mario is the most important living writer in the Spanish language,” writer
In 1990, Vargas Llosa ran for the presidency of
Disappointed by Peruvians’ approval of Fujimori’s rule, he obtained Spanish citizenship and lived between homes in
“His decision to move from being a writer and a political analyst to a political actor is rooted in the crisis that
Vargas Llosa participated in the
“Every time we have presented him he has had a phenomenal welcome from the public. Every venue has been at full capacity,” said
Vargas Llosa received an honorary degree from
“Vargas Llosa”s books are really shrewd and
sophisticated political analysis,” said Gamarra, whose university
office was next to Vargas Llosa’s. “He moved from his origins as an
analyst on the left of center to the most intellectually coherent
perspective on the right in the world today; profoundly democratic but
firmly on the right.”
Gamarra pointed to Vargas Llosa’s column in
“His criticisms of Chavez and Castro are not
knee-jerk,” Gamarra said. “They are intellectual indictments with a
profoundly theoretical base.”
“Although it’s not the spirit of the prize, in practical terms it’s
also an award for Cubans and Venezuelans fighting for freedom. … It’s
a great day because it’s a recognition of an uncommon body of work and
because the recipient is a tireless defender of freedom.”
He added: “The family is very happy because now we
never again have to give explanations or apologies as to why they
wouldn’t give him the prize year after year.”
At the news conference Thursday at Instituto Cervantes, a center dedicated to the promotion of the Spanish language in
“When I started to write Spanish was practically ignored by the rest of the world,” he said.
He spoke of his humble beginnings in publishing when a group of doctors in
“At that time it was very difficult for a writer of short stories to find a publisher,” he said.
He also affirmed his identity, despite his Spanish
citizenship and years living abroad: “I am Peruvian,” Vargas Llosa
said, then added, Flaubert-style: “
gave me refuge. But I am grateful to my country for what I am — a
writer. It gave me the experiences that are the basis of my writing.”
The novelist, who is spending this semester in
as the 2010 Distinguished Visitor in the Latin American studies
program, said he expected literature’s most prestigious prize — which
He planned to turn in his Sunday column to El Pais, even if hastily written, on time Friday.
“I thought that these months I was going to spend in
(c) 2010, The Miami Herald.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.