Mario Vargas Llosa Wins Nobel

The Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, whose deeply political work vividly examines the perils of power and corruption in Latin America, won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday… Announcing the award in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy praised Mr. Vargas Llosa “for his cartography of the structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat.” (

In my senior year at Georgetown University I had the good fortune of sudying with Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa. I was already a fan of his fiction, and the opportunity to meet with this wise, gentile man of letters for several hours each week to ruminate on his favorite jewels in the Latin American literature crown was arguably the highlight of my four undergraduate years. I also had the good fortune of translating a nonfiction essay for Mario Vargas Llosa for publication in The Georgetown Journal. I offer this background to underpin the depth of my pride and excitement when Mario Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

With his typical grace and commitment to literature Vargas Llosa has focused on teaching Borges at Princeton and avoided the pomp inevitably accompanying his laureatship. He acknowledged the sometime comic results of winning the Nobel Prize including a solicitation to invest the approximately $1.5 million into an ice cream venture!

But Vargas Llosa prefers Borges to ice cream. I remember this from my days in the classroom with him, so it’s ironic that he’s currently teaching the work of his Argentine hero who never won a Nobel.

Our great writers have all been prolix… Borges is the opposite—all concision, economy, and precision. He is the only writer in the Spanish language who has almost as many ideas as he has words. He’s one of the great writers of our time. (Paris Review)

This reverence for Borges endures, and it’s not altogether unlike the admiration I have for Vargas Llosa. And not just for his writing, but also for his grace. But this for another day…