Total writer

Second Edit

The Nobel Prize for literature has returned to Latin America after nearly three decades with the award for this year going to Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa. Llosa is one of the most acclaimed Spanish writers from the continent and arguably of the same eminence as Colombian novelist Gabriel Marcia Marquez who won the Nobel Prize in 1982. Marquez, if mischievously, acknowledged the honour for Llosa with a response which said “now we are equals”. The comment from the literary world would be the question why Llosa was passed up for the honour all these years when even little known authors like Herta Muller and JMG le Clezio have won it. A bias towards European writers has been clear in the past but for once this year the award has gone to a worthy and deserving writer.

The Swedish Academy has stated that the award was given to Llosa for his “cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat”. He was among the writers, with Marquez, who made the Latin American literary spring of the second half of the last century real for the world readers. Like others of his generation he is a great story-teller, rooted very much in the milieu of the world’s poor hinterland, but with the uncanny ability to turn the local into a universal experience. By mixing the real and the unreal, the comic and the tragic, the traditional and the modern, he was able to create new landscapes of imagination, more intense than the real world. The themes in more than 30 novels and plays have ranged from personal experience to history to freedom and the fight against moral degradation. Through the decades his style and imagination have also evolved, as it happens with all writers who live their times ardently and find newer ways of responding to them.

Like many of his peers in Latin America, Llosa is a versatile writer and person. He has written novels, plays, film and literary criticism and essays, and has also been a journalist, a teacher and a politician. He is intensely political and has run for the presidency of his country which he narrowly lost. The politics also evolved, from the leftist convictions of his younger days to right-of-centre neo-liberal views. A writer who wanted to become a total person, just as, in the Academy’s words, he tried to write the total novel.

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