Thursday, October 07, 2010

Nobel For Mario

Hey, so Mario Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize for Literature today. Don't know if you've read him, but I was a big fan of his as an undergraduate. I loved his early stories and novels. He was a big influence on my early writing efforts. I haven't been as much of fan recently, but I'm still happy to hear of his Nobel win.

I wrote about him not too long ago, a short piece in The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books, edited by J. Peder Zane. Here's what I wrote:

Appreciation of The Green House, by Mario Vargas Llosa

I remember wandering through the world literature section of my university library, feeling a bit lost, recognizing few names. On the recommendation of my writing instructor I was searching for a Peruvian novelist named Mario Vargas Llosa. I found a coverless edition of
The Green House, one with no blurbs, no review quotes, no author photo or biography. The surprises found inside, then, were complete and unforgettable.

The Green House Vargas Llosa began to explore the ongoing battle that started the moment European culture collided with that of the Americas. The novel is populated by all segments of Peruvian society: people of Latin origins, Indians indigenous to the country, immigrants cast ashore on Peru for myriad reasons, from nuns and Fathers to prostitutes and pimps. There’s even a Brazilian rubber-baron-warlord-leper of Japanese ancestry. It ranges from the depths of the rain forest to windblown desert outposts. It’s a novel in which crimes are committed without remorse, conveyed with the brutal honesty of an author confronting the duplicitous exploitation tainting his nation.

This is rendered in prose as varied as its cast: inner monologue, assimilated dialogue, objective third person or an omniscient point of view, with multiple time lines, concurrent plots and scenes repeated in layering montage. Honestly, it’s rarely an easy read. One can see the influence of Faulkner, of Sartre and Flaubert, but the manner in which Vargas Llosa transmuted Western influences to enrich his tale remains remarkable.

And – I wondered – if this Peruvian writer could do this what else might be happening out there? By inspiring that question
The Green House drew me into a much more complete world of literature. I’ve been grateful to Vargas Llosa ever since.

Here's a brief Reuters article, if you want some biographical info. (

And here's a longer Huffington Post piece. (

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