The OF Blog: Mario Vargas Llosa wins the Nobel Prize in Literature

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Mario Vargas Llosa wins the Nobel Prize in Literature

I learned this morning that Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature.  Frankly, I was surprised, not because I don't admire his works (I am a fan), but because I had pretty much given up hope that he would be chosen, especially since he entered politics as a neo-liberal, center-right voice and the Nobel committee seems to have a bias against those who are not at least center-left in their politics.  So it was with a mixture of pleasure and surprise that I read the news.

For those who have not read Vargas Llosa, he is one of the younger members of the celebrated "Boom Generation" of Latin American writers.  But I would hesitate to conflate his works with those of Carpentier, Rulfo, Fuentes, or García Márquez.  For one, his works are less fantastical in content than the others.  But this is not to say that his works don't contain elements of "heightened realism."  Influenced by William Faulkner (Vargas Llosa repeatedly has said that Faulkner was his main influence) in how he utilizes scene and character development, several of his best-known works, such as The War of the End of the World, contain a sense of intensity and apocalyptic fervor that makes his works feel otherworldly at times, even when there is nothing overtly supernatural about the settings or situations.

Vargas Llosa frequently takes the side of the average person, whether it be Peruvian soldiers in some of his earlier novels or the characters that conspire in Conversations in a Cathedral, and it is the voice that he lends to the "voiceless" that make several of his works compelling reads.  His prose is sharp, to the point, yet also containing an elegance that I fear might not be translated adequately into other languages.  I am currently reading his 1985 murder-mystery, ¿Quién mató a Palomino Molero?, and I am finding myself, halfway through this 190 page novel, marveling over how adroitly Vargas Llosa sets the mood.  This is some heavy-hitting prose and unless it takes a major turn for the worse, it might be worthy to be on the same shelf as his best-known and lauded works.

Perhaps this Nobel reception will lead to several readers of this blog to at least consider reading some of his works.  Vargas Llosa is a very talented writer, one whose humane approach to characters who suffer inhumane treatment at the hands of junta leaders and dictators.  Their stories are moving and hopefully others will enjoy them as much as I have in the original Spanish.


Daniel Ausema said...

I loved his El Hablador when I read it about a decade ago. I doesn't seem to be among his best known works, but I found it to be very satisfying.

Gabriele C. said...

Now that's finally a Nobel Prize winner I can agree with.

Hélène said...

I read La ciudad y los perros. A hard book but I liked it.

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