Friday, October 8, 2010

A universal Peruvian

October 7, 2010

It had seemed inevitable that Mario Vargas Llosa was condemned to join the list of great writers never to receive the Nobel prize, while many of lesser talent but more fashionable views were honoured. So this year’s award is welcome, if overdue, recognition for the most accomplished living Latin American novelist and writer.

In its citation, the committee commends Mr Vargas Llosa for “his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat.” These themes are treated most powerfully in what are perhaps his two finest novels, written more than three decades apart. Conversation in the Cathedral, an early work of astonishing maturity, is set in Peru in the 1950s during a military dictatorship. The Feast of the Goat, published in 2000, explores the cruel regime of General Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. While novels about dictators are a staple of Latin American literature, Mr Vargas Llosa took the genre beyond political denunciation, crafting subtle studies of the psychology of absolute power and its corruption of human integrity. These are themes he returns to in his latest book, El Sueño del Celta (The Dream of the Celt), a novel about Roger Casement, an Anglo-Irish diplomat and early crusader for human rights, which will be published in Spanish in November.


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