Mario Vargas Llosa: Biography

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Jorge Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa was born on March 28th, 1936 in Arequipa, Peru. His parents Ernesto Vargas Maldonado and Dora Llosa Ureta, were already separated when he was born. Vargas Lllosa would not know his father until he was 10 years old.

He began his elementary school in Bolivia but left after the fourth grade, continuing his elementary and high school education in Peru. He earned his bachelor degree in literature and philosophy from the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Peru. He worked 7 jobs to make ends meet. In 1959 he won a scholarship to study for a doctorate in philosophy and literature at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Complutense University of Madrid). Upon completion of the PhD program, Vargas Llosa moved to Paris, France to work.

His efforts to embark on a literary career started when he published his first work, a compilation of stories called “Los jefes” (The Chiefs) in 1959. He received the Leopoldo Arias award for this publication.

In 1965 Vargas Llosa traveled to Cuba. Initially a supporter of the Cuban revolution, he participated as a Jury in the Casa de las Americas Awards as well as in the editorial council of the Casa de las Americas magazine, both in Cuba. However, in 1971 he distanced himself from the revolution and became an ardent critic due to the Padilla Affair. Heberto Padilla was a Cuban poet who was incarcerated for speaking out and criticizing the revolution. Vargas Llosa saw this as a direct violation of human rights and conflict with what he thought was the original stated purpose of the revolution.

He has worked and lived in many European cities throughout the years, mainly moving between Paris, London and Barcelona.

In Peru in the early 1980s Vargas Llosa hosted a TV show, later becoming the political leader of the Freedom Movement opposed to statists measures being taken by the president of Peru at the time.

In 1990 he ran as the Presidential candidate for the party Frente Democratico (Democratic Front). After two disputed rounds he lost the election and returned to London to re-embark on his literary career.

Currently, he is a collaborator with the newspaper El Pais in Madrid, Spain and the monthly cultural magazine Letras Libres (which translates to Free Words, published in Mexico and Spain). Vargas Llosa is a visiting professor at Princeton University and the distinguished Templeton Leadership Fellow for the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.

His career includes many awards and distinctions. In 1975 he was named to the Peruvian Academy of Language and in 1994 he was designated a member of the Spanish Royal Academy. In 1976 he was named the president of the International Pen, the worldwide association of writers. He has been a visiting professor of numerous universities around the world including the Queen Mary College and King’s College of the University of London, Cambridge University, Columbia University, Princeton University, Harvard University, Oxford University and Rey Juan Carlos University, among others.

His vast literary works include novels, theater plays, essays and editorials. Some of his books include Los Jefes (1959), Conversacion en la Catedral (1969), La Guerra del fin del Mundo (1981), El Pez en el Agua (memoir of his presidential campaign, 1993), Desafios de la Libertad (translates to Challenges of Freedom, 1994) Making Waves (1996), La Fiesta del Chivo (2000) Dictionnaire amoureux de l’Amérique latine, (2005) and his latest book El Sueño del Celta (2010). This is only a small showcase of his work as he has written and published extensively throughout the last half a century.

In 2010, Mario Vargas Llosa joined Atlas as a Templeton Leadership Fellow and serves as a “public ambassador” to enhance the profile of those think thanks that have won Atlas’s Templeton Freedom Awards. Atlas and Vargas Llosa will work closely to identify the best opportunities for the novelist to visit key international organizations in the Atlas network and promote their work, boost their brand and energize their efforts.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2010 was awarded to Mario Vargas Llosa “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat”.

His works have been translated into more than 40 languages including French, Russian, Danish, Hindu, Malayan and Hebrew among others.

He married Patricia Llosa in 1965 and has 3 children, Alvaro, Gonzalo and Morgana.

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