The Nobel Prize in Literature Goes to Mario Vargas Llosa

October 7, 2010 | 7 books mentioned 3

Surprising the oddsmakers, the 2010 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature is the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa. Unlike several recent winners, Vargas Llosa’s work is quite well-known in the States.

He was included in our round up this week of Latin American hopefuls, which noted that “He’s a journalist, playwright, columnist, critic, and politician (he ran for president of Peru in 1990), but most of all he’s a novelist.” That blend of political activism and literary merit often speaks to the Nobel judges, though Vargas Llosa decades ago broke with the leftist political movement in Latin America to take more of a moderate stance (this is a bit of a departure for the Nobel judges who have frequently preferred to honor writers who are vocally far to the left of center). He’s also very much a member of the “Latin American Boom” era, which saw other writers from the region like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Julio Cortázar rise to international prominence in the 1960s and 1970s.


Vargas Llosa has penned a few dozen books. Among the most well-known, particularly to American readers, are Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, The Feast of the Goat, The Bad Girl (which Gregory Rodriguez called in these pages “a fun and ultimately redemptive story of obsession, made me squirm for hours.”), The War of the End of the World, and Death in the Andes. His early novel The Green House won him his first major prizes and put him on the literary map.

The aforementioned piece by our contributor Jesse Tangen-Mills includes The Time of the Hero as a good starting point and non-fiction Letters to a Young Novelist alongside The War of the End of the World as other favorites.

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.


  1. Great to see Vargas Llosa recognized in this way. I especially admire Death in the Andes and In Praise of the Stepmother. A terrific novelist.

  2. Am I the only person on earth who finds Vargas Llosa’s novels incredibly BORING? Flat characters, by-the-numbers plots, vanilla prose…

    I’ve tried The War at the End of the World, Feast of the Goat, and Conversation in the Cathedral. Never made it past page 150 — and I rarely abandon books. I did enjoy his political memoir, though.

    Once again, so many more talented writers passed over…Milan Kundera, Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, Ondaatje…

  3. You can’t really generalize about Vargas Llosa that way: he has written in a broad range of styles, taking an equally broad range of novelistic approaches, from old-fashioned Franzen-style realism to highly experimental work that plays with all kinds of formal elements.

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