Mario Vargas Llosa Wins the Nobel


Arts & Culture

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.