Mario Vargas Llosa is one of the most acclaimed writers in the Spanish-speaking world but he also braved the violence and political divisions of his homeland to run for president. He has written more than 30 novels, plays and essays, including Conversation in the Cathedral and The Green House.
Vargas Llosa travelled to Banna Strand, in Co Kerry, to research El Sueno del Celta (The Dream of the Celt), due to be published in Spanish next month.
In 1995, he was awarded the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world’s most distinguished literary honour.
The Swedish Academy said it honoured the 74-year-old author for mapping the “structures of power and (for) his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat”.
The academy’s permanent secretary, Peter Englund, called Vargas Llosa “a divinely gifted story-teller”.
“His books are often very complex in composition, having different perspectives, different voices and different time places,” Englund said.
Vargas Llosa is the first South American winner of the prestigious 10 million kronor (€1.07 million) Nobel Prize in literature since it was awarded to Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 1982.
After the announcement, Garcia Marquez tweeted: “cuentas iguales,” — a poetic way of saying “now we’re equals” in Spanish.
In the previous six years, the academy had rewarded five Europeans and one Turk with the literature Nobel, sparking criticism that it was too euro-centric. Last year’s award went to German writer Herta Mueller.
Vargas Llosa emerged as a leader among the so-called Boom or New Wave of Latin American writers, bursting onto the literary scene in 1963 with his groundbreaking debut The Time of the Hero (La Ciudad de los Perros), which builds on his experiences at the Peruvian military academy Leoncio Prado.
The book won the Spanish Critics Award and the ire of Peru’s military. One thousand copies were later burned by military authorities, with some generals calling the book false and Vargas Llosa a communist.
In 1990, he ran for the presidency in Peru but lost the election to Alberto Fujimori. In 1994, he was the first Latin American writer to be elected to the Spanish Academy, where he took his seat in 1996.
He earned some of the Western world’s most prestigious literary medals for his works, which were translated into 31 languages, including Chinese, Croatian, Hebrew and Arabic.
The Nobel Prize in literature, however, always eluded him, although he was a frequent contender.
The 2010 Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded on Monday to British professor Robert Edwards for fertility research that led to the first test tube baby.
Two Russian-born scientists won the physics prize and the chemistry award went to two Japanese and one American researcher who designed techniques to bind together carbon atoms.
The peace prize will be announced today and the economics prize on Monday.