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Mario Vargas Llosa

Mario Vargas LlosaAKA Jorge Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa

Born: 28-Mar-1936
Birthplace: Arequipa, Peru

Gender: Male
Religion: Agnostic [1]
Race or Ethnicity: Hispanic
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Novelist, Playwright
Party Affiliation: See Note [2]

Nationality: Peru
Executive summary: Acclaimed Peruvian author

Mario Vargas Llosa was born in the southern Peruvian city of Arequipa in 1936, but his parents divorced before his birth. He spent his first ten years in Bolivia, living with his mother and grandparents, before his parents remarried each other and the family resettled in Peru. His mother always encouraged Vargas Llosa as it became clear that he wanted to be a writer, but his father was aghast when he read some of his early poetry, and feared that it would sap his son's virility or possibly make him gay. After fierce arguments over this, young Vargas Llosa was sent to military school, where his father hoped to break him of his literary dreams.

His novel The Time of the Hero (1963) was inspired by his time at Leoncio Prado Military Academy, telling the story of a murder investigation blocked by fervent and hypocritical adherence to the school's code of honor. It was clearly an allegorical attack on both the academy and the larger Peruvian culture, and military leaders in Peru condemned the novel, publicly burning hundreds of copies in the academy's courtyard. Vargas Llosa could not have asked for better publicity — the book-burning sealed his celebrity, made the novel an acclaimed best-seller, and set the stage for a very successful career, provided only that he continued to create compelling literature. And he certainly did.

Vargas Llosa is a master of dialogue and shifting perspective, whose novels and stories include comedies and tragedies, historical novels, murder mysteries, and political thrillers. His writings frequently carry political, spiritual, or simply bawdy overtones, and offer controversial critiques of the racial, class, and economic hierarchy in contemporary Latin America. He has won virtually every major literary prize, culminating in the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010.

The Green House (1966) delves into prostitution in the city and in the wilds, and the ways in which native girls are forced into such a life. Conversation in the Cathedral (1969) explores the moral depravity of life in Peru during the nation's dictatorship of the 1950s. The dark comedy Captain Pantoja and the Special Service (1973) tells of a military officer assigned to bring the service of prostitutes to soldiers in a remote jungle. The autobiographical Aunt Julia and The Scriptwriter (1977) deals with a young soap opera writer who marries his aunt, as Vargas Llosa himself did. In Praise of the Stepmother (1981) presents the odd but alluring tale of a father and son's competition for the romantic affections of the father's new wife. Condemned by prudes as "pornography", Stepmother is only fleetingly erotic, but it is perhaps the author's most popular work, and among his best.

As a young man Vargas Llosa cheered for the Cuban revolution and was among the leaders of Cahuide, an underground and illegal group of communists during an era when the Communist Party was outlawed in Peru. Decades later, though, his political perspective altered — he became one of Fidel Castro's most outspoken international critics, and in 1990 he ran for President of Peru on a conservative ticket, losing to the now-notorious Alberto Fujimori. During his political run, predictably, Fujimori's campaign ads and rhetoric used carefully-selected salacious excerpts from Vargas Llosa's novels to smear the author as some kind of a pervert.

He was a close acquaintance of fellow Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez, but after a famous brawl in 1976 both writers made it clear for decades that they were not on speaking terms. In 1997, in a public jibe at García Márquez, Vargas Llosa publicly released snapshots taken in the aftermath of their fist-fight, including an image of García Márquez with a blackened eye and bruised face and Vargas Llosa grinning. In 2007, though, Vargas Llosa wrote a new and laudatory preface to García Márquez's classic A Hundred Years of Solitude.

Several of Vargas Llosa's novels have been adapted as motion pictures, mostly in Spanish, but Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter was filmed in English as the featherweight romantic comedy Tune in Tomorrow in 1990, with Barbara Hershey and Keanu Reeves.

[1] "I am not an atheist. I am an agnostic, which is different. An atheist is a believer and I am not a believer. I am an agnostic, that is, I am a person that declares his perplexity about transcendentalism. That's what I am."

[2] Ran for President in 1990 as a member of Fredemo (Democratic Front).

Wife: Julia Urquidi (his aunt, m. 1955, div. 1964)
Wife: Patricia Llosa (m. 1965, 3 children)
Son: Alvaro (writer)
Son: Gonzalo
Daughter: Morgana
Son: Gabriel

    High School: Leoncio Prado Military Academy, Lima, Peru (attended, 1950-52)
    High School: Colegio San Miguel de Piura, Piura, Peru (1952)
National University of San Marcos (attended, 1955-57)
    University: PhD Literature, Complutense University of Madrid (1959)

    Leopoldo Alas Prize 1959
    Peruvian National Prize 1967
    Rómulo Gallegos Prize 1967
    Prince of Asturias Prize 1986
    Cervantes Prize 1994
    Jerusalem Prize 1995
    Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels 1996
    Nobel Prize for Literature 2010
    Agence France Presse Reporter (early 1960s)
    La Industria Reporter (1950s)
    International PEN Past President
    Real Academia Española
    Bolivian Ancestry Maternal
    Peruvian Ancestry Paternal
    Naturalized Spanish Citizen

Official Website:

Author of books:
Los Ríos Profundos (Deep Rivers) (1957, novel)
Los Jefes (The Cubs and Other Stories) (1959, short stories)
La Ciudad y los Perros (The Time of the Hero) (1963, novel)
La Casa Verde (The Green House) (1966, novel)
Obras Escogidas (Making Waves) (1967, short stories)
Conversación en la Catedral (Conversation in the Cathedral) (1969, novel)
Panteleón y las Visitadoras (Captain Pantoja and the Special Service) (1973, novel)
La Orgía Perpetua (The Perpetual Orgy) (1975, non-fiction)
La tía Julia y el Escribidor (Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter) (1977, novel)
La Guerra del Fin del Mundo (The War of the End of the World) (1981, novel)
Historia de Mayta (The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta) (1984, novel)
¿Quién mató a Palomino Molero? (Who Killed Palomino Molero?) (1986, novel)
El hablador (The Storyteller) (1987, novel)
Elegio de la Madrastra (In Praise of the Stepmother) (1988, novel)
La Verdad de las Menitras (A Writer's Reality) (1990, essays)
Lituma en los Andes (Death in the Andes) (1993, novel)
El Pez en el Agua (A Fish in the Water) (1993, memoir)
La Tentación de lo Imposible (The Temptation of the Impossible) (1996, non-fiction)
Cartas a un Joven Novelista (Letters to a Young Novelist) (1997, novel)
Los Cuadernos de Don Rigoberto (The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto) (1997, novel)
La Fiesta del Chivo (The Feast of the Goat) (2000, novel)
El Lenguaje de la Pasión (The Language of Passion) (2000, essays)
El Paraíso en la Ootra Esquina (The Way to Paradise) (2003, novel)
Travesuras de la Niná Mala (The Bad Girl) (2005, novel)
Touchstones (2007, collected essays, translated to English)
Wellsprings (2008, collected essays, translated to English)

Wrote plays:
La Senorita de Tacna (The Young Lady from Tacna) (1981)
Kathie y el Hipopótamo (Kathie and the Hippopotamus) (1983)
La Chunga (1986)
El loco de los balcones (Madmen of the Balconies) (1993)

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