Vargas Llosa, the last survivor of the Latin American boom

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Madrid (AFP) – The Hispanic-Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa, Nobel Prize Winner for Literature in 2010, elected this Thursday a member of the French Academy, is the last representative of the golden generation of Latin American literature.

A universal writer based on the complex Peruvian reality, Vargas Llosa was part of the so-called Latin American ‘boom’ along with other greats such as the Colombian Gabriel García Márquez, the Argentine Julio Cortázar or the Mexicans Carlos Fuentes and Juan Rulfo.

Admired for his description of social realities in literary masterpieces such as “The City and the Dogs” or “The Goat Party”, on the political level his liberal positions have aroused hostility in an intellectual milieu that tends mostly to the left. .

“Latin Americans are dreamers by nature and we have trouble differentiating the real world and fiction. That is why we have such good musicians, poets, painters and writers, and also such horrible and mediocre rulers,” he said shortly before receiving the Nobel in 2010.

Born in the southern Peruvian city of Arequipa on March 28, 1936 in a middle-class family, he was educated by his mother and his maternal grandparents in Cochabamba (Bolivia) and later in Peru.

After his studies at the Military Academy of Lima, he obtained a degree in Letters and took his first steps in journalism at a very young age.

He settled in Paris in 1959, where he married his political aunt Julia Urquidi, 10 years older (who would later inspire “La Tía Julia y el Escridor”) and worked in various professions: translator, Spanish teacher and journalist for Agence France -Presse.

Years later, he broke up with Urquidi and married his first cousin and niece of his ex-wife, Patricia Llosa, with whom he had three children and fifty years of relationship.

Vargas Llosa divorced Patricia after starting in 2015, at the age of 80, an affair with a well-known personality from the Madrid world, Isabel Preysler (ex-wife of singer Julio Iglesias).

Prolific literary career

His long literary career began in 1959, when he published his first book of short stories, ‘Los jefes’, with which he won the Leopoldo Alas Prize. But he gained notoriety with the publication of the novel ‘The city and the dogs’, in 1963, followed three years later by ‘The green house’. His prestige was consolidated with his novel ‘Conversation in the Cathedral’ (1969).

They were later followed by ‘Pantaleón and the Visitors’,’ Aunt Julia and the Writer ‘,’ The War at the End of the World ‘,’ Who Killed Palomino Molero? ‘,’ Lituma in the Andes’ and ‘The Fish in the Water ‘(memories of his electoral campaign),’ La fiesta del Chivo ‘or’ El Sueño del Celta ‘, published shortly before receiving the Nobel Prize.

Already then, the Peruvian author warned that he wanted to continue writing until the last day of his life and he kept his word with the publication of works such as ‘The discrete hero’ or ‘Hard times’, on the turbulent recent history of Guatemala that earned him the Francisco Umbral Novel Award.

With his work translated into 30 languages, Vargas Llosa has been awarded the Cervantes, Príncipe de Asturias de las Letras, Biblioteca Breve, the Spanish Critics Prize, the National Novel Prize of Peru and the Rómulo Gallegos Prize.

Laureate writer … controversial in politics

If his literary legacy is unquestionable, his political legacy is controversial.

Politically he was seduced by Fidel Castro, but in 1971 he broke with the Castro revolution in the case of the poet Heberto Padilla, forced by the regime to make a “self-criticism”.

He was a candidate for the presidency of Peru in 1990. He was a favorite until the then unknown agronomist Alberto Fujimori appeared, who was finally elected. His participation in Peruvian politics since then has been marginal.

He had a close friendship with the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez that ended abruptly in a confusing incident that both have preferred not to touch. “That the biographers take care of this issue,” Vargas Llosa once said.

The fullness that Vargas Llosa recognizes in his literary life contrasts with the frustrations he has experienced in his political life. After his political failure, he returned to literature, from where – according to what he said – he should never have come out.

But he does not remain oblivious to the evolution of world politics, attacking in recent years against populism, “the disease of democracy”, where he includes from Chavismo and Castroism, to the extreme right and the radical European left or nationalism Catalan independentist.

Vargas Llosa obtained Spanish nationality in 1993.

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Vargas Llosa, the last survivor of the Latin American boom