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Arts & Culture

Mario Vargas Llosa Wins the Nobel

October 7, 2010 | by

Photograph by Sophie Bassouls.

The Nobel Prize committee announced this morning that Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa has won the 2010 award for literature, praising him “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat.”

In the fall of 1990, The Paris Review published an astonishing interview with Vargas Llosa. Then a friend to both Neruda and García Márquez, he expressed an abiding belief in the need for a literature that dissolves politics into its narrative fabric and offers imaginative solutions to economic and social problems. Writers, Vargas Llosa felt, should not seek to distance themselves from the political sphere:

I think it’s crucial that writers show—because like all artists, they sense this more strongly than anyone—the importance of freedom for the society as well as for the individual. Justice, which we all wish to rule, should never become disassociated from freedom; and we must never accept the notion that freedom should at certain times be sacrificed in the name of social justice or national security, as totalitarians from the extreme left and reactionaries from the extreme right would have us do. Writers know this because every day they sense the degree to which freedom is necessary for creation, for life itself.

Hardly imagining, as an adolescent, that he would be able to devote himself to writing full time—“too much of a luxury for a Latin American,” he explained, “especially a Peruvian”—Vargas Llosa planned to pursue a career in law or journalism. We’re grateful that he reconsidered.



  1. Clayton Peacock | October 7, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Given what I’ve read of Vargas Llosa’s politics since the announcement, this a pretty scary excerpt.

    While I’d agree freedom should never be ceded to totalitarian societies, the solution Vargas Llosa proposes equates freedom with free markets. Freedom is a right of all species, not just us profiteering beasts.

    See the Barry Lopez interview with Caitlin Roper, above, and his quote re: birds and the New World in the comments. The politics of Vargas Llosa, which evidently he’d like to weave into the fabric of imagination, are the same still pooling in the body burden of the Gulf’s birds, no matter those blue sea pictures in the NYT.

  2. Milanrei | October 11, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Vargas Llosa is a fanatic. If you consider yourself an intellectual and an advocate of freedom, then why you don’t criticized those who really have the power. He criticize only those who are easy to criticize, his fellows from from Cuba and Venezuela. Europe and United States never commit errors in MVL mind. Besides that, I think the Conversation in the cathedral is worth the Nobel by himself.

  3. Attar | October 13, 2010 at 1:30 am

    i was so impressed with his personal life. he has taken his own choice, which may seem strange to his fellow writers in his country ….

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