Jorge Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa, First Marquis of Vargas Llosa (born Arequipa, Peru, March 28, 1936) is a Peruvian-Spanish writer, politician, journalist, essayist, and recipient of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature. Vargas Llosa is one of Latin America’s most significant novelists and essayists, and one of the leading writers of his generation. Some critics consider him to have had a larger international impact and worldwide audience than any other writer of the Latin American Boom. Upon announcing the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy said it had been given to Vargas Llosa “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat”.
Vargas Llosa rose to fame in the 1960s with novels such as The Time of the Hero (La ciudad y los perros, literally The City and the Dogs, 1963/1966), The Green House (La casa verde, 1965/1968), and the monumental Conversation in the Cathedral (Conversación en la catedral, 1969/1975). He writes prolifically across an array of literary genres, including literary criticism and journalism. His novels include comedies, murder mysteries, historical novels, and political thrillers. Several, such as Captain Pantoja and the Special Service (1973/1978) and Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1977/1982), have been adapted as feature films. Many of Vargas Llosa’s works are influenced by the writer’s perception of Peruvian society and his own experiences as a native Peruvian. Increasingly, however, he has expanded his range, and tackled themes that arise from other parts of the world. In his essays, Vargas Llosa has made many criticisms of nationalism in different parts of the world, among others in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. Another change over the course of his career has been a shift from a style and approach associated with literary modernism, to a sometimes playful postmodernism.
Like many Latin American writers, Vargas Llosa has been politically active throughout his career; over the course of his life, he has gradually moved from the political left towards liberalism or neoliberalism, a definitively more conservative political position. While he initially supported the Cuban revolutionary government of Fidel Castro, Vargas Llosa later became disenchanted with the policies of the Cuban President. He ran for the Peruvian presidency in 1990 with the center-right Frente Democrático (FREDEMO) coalition, advocating neoliberal reforms, but lost the election to Alberto Fujimori. In 1990, he coined a phrase that circled the globe, declaring on Mexican television, “Mexico is the perfect dictatorship”, a statement which became an adage during the following decade.
Mario Vargas Llosa is considered a major Latin American writer, alongside other authors such as Octavio Paz, Julio Cortázar, Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez and Carlos Fuentes. Vargas Llosa is also noted for his substantial contribution to journalism, an accomplishment characteristic of few other Latin American writers. He is recognized among those who have most consciously promoted literature in general, and more specifically the novel itself, as avenues for meaningful commentary about life. He has won numerous awards for his writing, from the 1959 Premio Leopoldo Alas and the 1962 Premio Biblioteca Breve to the 1993 Premio Planeta (for Death in the Andes), the Jerusalem Prize in 1995, and the 2002 PEN/Nabokov Award. The literary critic Harold Bloom has included his novel The War of the End of the World in his list of essential literary works in the Western Canon. An important distinction he has received is the 1994 Miguel de Cervantes Prize, considered the most important accolade in Spanish-language literature and awarded to authors whose “work has contributed to enrich, in a notable way, the literary patrimony of the Spanish language.”
Major Awards and Honors
Nobel Prize for Literature
Premio Cervantes (Hispanic Literature)
Premios Príncipe de Asturias (Spain)
- 1986: Premio en Letras
(tied with Rafael Lapesa Melgar)
Premio Internacional Rómulo Gallegos (Hispanic Literature)
- 1967: “The Green House”
Premio Planeta (Spain)
- 1993: Winner – “Death in the Andes”
Real Academia Española de la Lengua
- 1994: Member
Order of El Sol del Perú
- 2001: Great Cross with Diamonds
Premios Nacionales de Novela del Perú
Academia Peruana de la Lengua
- 1977: Member
Carlos Fuentes International Prize for Literary Creation in the Spanish Language (Mexico)
Orden Mexicana del Águila Azteca (Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle)
- 2011: Insignia
Ordre National des Arts and Letters (France)
- 1987: Officer
- 1993: Commander
Légion d’Honneur (France)
- 1985: Chevalier
Jerusalem Prize (Israel)
Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels (Peace Prize of the German Book Trade)
Freedom Prize (Switzerland)
Premio Internazionale Viareggio-Versilia (Italy)
Premio Grinzane Cavour (Italy)
- 1986: Best Foreign Fiction – “The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta”
- 2004: International Award
National Book Critics Circle Award (USA)
- 1967: Criticism – “Making Waves”
American Library Association (ALA)
- 2012: Booklist Editors’ Choice Award: Fiction – “The Dream of the Celt”
Columbia University (New York City)
- 2006: Maria Moors Cabot Journalism Prize
Ovid Prize (Romania)
- La ciudad y los perros (1963)
(The Time of the Hero; The City and the Dogs)
- La casa verde (1966)
(The Green House)
- Conversación en la catedral (1969)
(Conversation in the Cathedral)
- Pantaleón y las visitadoras (1973)
(Captain Pantoja and the Special Service)
– 1976: Screen realization, directed by Vargas Llosa.
- La tía Julia y el escribidor (1977)
(Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter)
- Obras escogidas (1978)
- La guerra del fin del mundo (1981)
(The War of the End of the World)
- Historia de Mayta (1984)
(The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta)
- ¿Quién mató a Palomino Molero? (1986)
(Who Killed Palomino Molero?)
- El hablador (1987)
- Elogio de la madrasta (1988)
(In Praise of the Stepmother)
- Lituma en los Andes (1993)
(Death in the Andes)
- Los cuadernos de Don Rigoberto (1997)
(The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto)
- La fiesta del chivo (2000)
(The Feast of the Goat)
- El paraíso en la otra esquina (2003)
(The Way to Paradise)
- La Tentación de lo Imposible (2004)
- Travesuras de la niña mala (2006)
(Mischiefs of the Bad Girl)
- El sueño del celta ( 2010)
(The Dream of the Celt)
- El héroe discreto (2013)
(The Discreet Hero)
- Cinco esquinas (2016)
- Tiempos Recicos (2019)
Short Story Collections
- Los jefes (1959)<
- Los cachorros (1967)
– Jointly published with Los jefes in English as The Cubs and Other Stories.
- Seven Stories from Spanish America (1968)
– Editor, with Gordon Brotherston.
- Día Domingo (1971)
- So Very English: A Serpent’s Tail Companion (1992)
- Obra reunida: narrativa breve (1999)
- La Huída del inca (1952)
(The Escape of The Inca)
- La señorita de Tacna (1981)
(The Young Lady from Tacna)
- Kathie y el hipopótamo (1984)
(Kathie and the Hippopotamus)
- La Chunga (1986)
- Three Plays (1990)
- El loco de los balcones (1993)
- Ojos bonitos, cuadros feos (1996)
– Radio play.
- Obra reunida: teatro (2001)
- Odiseo y Penélope (2007)
- Al pie del Támesis (2008)
- Las mil y una noches (2010)
- Un corazón bajo la sotana (1989)
Translation of Arthur Rimbaud’s Un Coeur sous une soutane (1924).
Essays, Treatises, Interviews, Memoirs
- El desafío (1957)
- Bases para una interpretación de Rubén Darío (1958)
– Graduation thesis; San Marcos University, Lima, Peru.
- La novela en América Latina; diálogo (1968)
– With Gabriel García Márquez.
- Carta de batalla por Tirant lo Blanc (1969)
– Prologue to Joanot Martorell’s novel.
- La literatura en la revolución y la revolución en la literatura (1970)
– With Julio Cortázar and Oscar Collazos.
- Gabriel García Márquez: historia de un deicidio (1971)
(García Márquez: Story of a God-killer)
- Historia secreta de una novela (1972)
- El combate imaginario: La carta de la batalla de Joanot Martorell (1973)
– With M. de Riquer.
- La novela y el problema de la expresión literaria en Perú (1974)
- La orgía perpetua: Flaubert y Madame Bovary (1975)
(The Perpetual Orgy: Flaubert and Madame Bovary)
- Art, Authenticity and Latin American Culture (1981)
- Entre Sartre y Camus (1981)
- La suntuosa abundancia (1984)
– About Fernando Botero.
- La cultura de la libertad; La libertad de la cultura (1985)
- Contra viento y marea (1983 – 1990)
(Against Wind and Tide)
- Diálogo sobre la novela latinoamericana (1988)
- Diálogo con Vargas Llosa (1989)
– With Ricardo A. Setti.
- The Storyteller (1989)
- La verdad de las mentiras (1990)
(Fiction: The Power of Lies)
- A Writer’s Reality (1991)
(La realidad de un escritor)
- Un hombre triste y feroz (1992)
– About George Grosz.
- El pez en el agua (1993)
(A Fish in the Water)
- Georg Grosz and Mario Llosa (1993)
- Desafíos a la libertad (1994)
- The Madness of Things Peruvian: Democracy under Siege (1994)
- La utopía arcaica: Jose María Arguedas y las ficciones del indigenismo (1996)
(Archaic Utopia: José Maria Argueda and the Fictions of Indigenism)
- Making Waves (1996)
– Selection of essays from Contra Viento y Marea.
- Una historia no oficial (1997)
- Cartas a un joven novelista (1997)
(Letters to a Young Novelist)
- Nationalismus als neue Bedrohung (2000)
– Selection of political essays (published only in German).
- El lenguaje de la pasión (2001)
(The Language of Passion: Selected Commentary)
- Literatura y política (2001)
- Un demi-siècle avec Borges (2004)
- La tentación de lo imposible (2004)
(The Temptation of the Impossible)
- Israel/Palestina: paz o guerra santa (2006)
- El pregón de Sevilla (2007)
– On bullfighting and the Feria de Sevilla, a festival held in April of each year in Seville, Spain.
- El viaje a la ficción: El mundo de Juan Carlos Onetti (2009)
- Touchstones (2011)
– Essays on literature, art and politics.
- La civilización del espectáculo (2012)
- In Praise of Reading and Fiction (2012)
– The Nobel lecture.
- Mi trayectora intelectual (2014)
(My Intellectual Journey)
- Notes on the Death of Culture (2015)
- Sabers and Utopias (2018)
- La llamada de la tribu (2018)
(The Call of the Tribe)
Photography and Visual Arts
- Claudio Bravo: Paintings and Drawings (1997)
– Introduction; with Paul Bowles and Hugo Valcarce.
- Andes (2001)
– With Pablo Corral Vega (Photographer).
- Martin Chambi: Photographs, 1920-1950 (2003)
– Foreword by Vargas Llosa.
A Favorite Quote
“Memory is a snare, pure and simple; it alters, it subtly rearranges the past to fit the present.”
- Mario Vargas Llosa’s official website (in Spanish)
- Mario Vargas Llosa’s Nobel Prize biography
- Mario Vargas Llosa’s interview with the Paris Review (The Art of Fiction, No. 120)
- Mario Vargas Llosa’s biography at the Kirjasto Authors’ Calendar
- Mario Vargas Llosa at Britannica.com
- Reviews and blog posts related to Mario Vargas Llosa on this blog, Lioness at Large