I just received the news that Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa has been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature by the Swedish Academy. Though Vargas Llosa is my favorite writer, like most other Cubans I was introduced to his work late (in the 1990s). Since his writing was prohibited on the island after the early ‘70s.
I grew up shrouded in the myth Vargas Llosa, invariably depicted in the Cuban media as someone on the extreme right “who has always been an enemy of Cuba.”
The departure of almost all my friends to Spain in the ‘90s provided me with a source of information that enabled me to occasionally read his weekly column in the newspaper “El Pais.”
My first great surprise when reading his articles was that I couldn’t find the “right wing enemy of the poor” that had been described; to the contrary, I discovered a judicious intellectual who from the early ‘70s had decided to break with the out-of-step Latin American left. Moreover, it was this same political bloc that, despite its enormous effort, was never able to quarantine this writer’s enormous talent, as they had managed to do to Cuban writer Cabrera Infante in his first years of exile in London.
Through Vargas Llosa I have learned things as indispensable as the fact that the most beautiful women in America are Colombians, and that I would give what I didn’t have for such a “visitor” to knock at my door. I learned that dictators are the types you should get as far away from as possible, regardless of whether they’re named Odria or Trujillo; and also that happiness doesn’t exist, at least not in the way expressed by his characters Flora Tristan or Paul Gauguin; but nor does unhappiness exist. All this concealed wisdom can be found in that children’s game in Vargas Llosa’s Paraíso en la otra esquina.
When the writer received the news of the award he didn’t want to believe it. At first he thought it was a joke, but just to be sure he turned on the television and the news was confirmed. This was an honor that he has deserved for a long time, but now it will finally wind up in his hands.
Not doubting that Vargas Llosa is the best writer of the Latin American boom, the Swedish Academy explained that he is receiving it “for his cartography of the structures of power and his sharp reflection of the resistance of the individual, of their rebellion and of their defeat.” It’s worth clarifying that if some entity has gained prestige with this award, it is in fact the Swedish Academy, because this time the bestowing of the Nobel Prize for literature raises no doubts.
This is the humble congratulations of an admiring Cuban, to he who is entering eternity for once and for all, the greatest living writer in the Spanish language: Jorge Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa.