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Mario Vargas Llosa: Latin America’s Outstanding Novelist

Mario Vargas Llosa, who is considered one of Latin America’s greatest novelists, was born into a middle-class family in Peru in 1936. He was brought up by his mother and always thought that his father had died, until in 1946 when he appeared and wanted to take Llosa away; indeed, they both went to Lima (Chang-Rodríguez & Riobó, 2020). Llosa’s mother had lied to him about his father’s death to conceal the tortuous separation they had earlier, soon before Llosa was born. Llosa’s mother accompanied them to Lima, and they had to shift from the pampering by grandparents and the feminine environment to face the father’s strict orders. According to Hart (2018), moving to Lima marked a significant turnaround for Mario Vargas Llosa. The once sensitive and pampered boy was no longer given the attention he was used to. At Lima, his father took him to a catholic school where he was constantly ridiculed as he was the youngest there, but the experience shaped his path towards being a Nobel Prize winner. Although Llosa grew into a renowned novelist, his background and academic journey were full of obstacles.

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Llosa’s father sent him to a military academy, Leoncio Prado, as a teenager, intending to harden him to a man. Vargas Llosa had a harrowing time there, prompting him to base his first book, The Time of the Hero, on his military academy experiences. Besides, because of his father’s authoritarianism, Vargas Llosa was determined to condemn any systems restraining personal freedom and inhibiting individual initiative (Hart, 2018). He completed his military experience in 1952 and went back to Piura to complete his secondary school studies while working part-time for the La Industria newspaper (Chang-Rodríguez & Riobó, 2020). He later returned to Lima and studied literature at the University of San Marcos. While taking his degree in this university, Vargas Llosa worked as a writer for La Crónica newspaper and as a journalist with Radio Panamericana (Wheetley, 2016). He married a Bolivian, Julia Urquidi, in 1959, and four years later, they moved to Paris, where Vargas Llosa became a teacher while working part-time as a journalist for the national television service of France and Agence-France-Presse.

While working as a journalist and language teacher, he did not forget his passion for writing. In 1963, Vargas Llosa released the novel La Ciudad y Los Perros, whose significant themes centered on military academy experiences (Hart, 2018). It became controversial, and in less than a year after its publication, officers from Leoncio Prado publicly burned over a thousand copies of the book. In this book, Llosa depicted the military academy as a place that perverts idealism and intentionally corrupts its students’ innocence, which angered the Peruvian army authorities.

Vargas Llosa divorced his wife in 1964 and married his cousin, Patricia, in 1965. In 1974, Vargas Llosa returned to Lima after having lived intermittently between Paris, London, and Barcelona. In 1975, he was elected a lecturer in the Peruvian Academy after lecturing in many other universities in Europe, including the University of London, as a lecturer in Latin American literature, USA, and South America (Hart, 2018). He developed a political interest and ran for the presidency in Peru under the ticket of FREDEMO, but he lost. Much of his works were founded on the protest against human exploitation and infringement of peoples’ rights and freedoms, and an example is The Green House. Since 1990, Vargas Llosa has been actively writing for various newspapers, such as the Spanish daily newspaper El País (Hart, 2018). He continues to give his political, social, and cultural opinion. His most popular works include The Feast of the Goat (2001, Conversation in the Cathedral (1975), and The War of the End of the World (1984) (Chang-Rodríguez & Riobó, 2020). Llosa remains one of the most significant novelists Latin America has ever had.


Chang-Rodríguez, R., & Riobó, C. (2020). Talking books with Mario Vargas Llosa: A retrospective. New Hispanisms.

Hart, S. M. (2018). The Cambridge companion to Latin American poetry. Cambridge Companions to Litera.

Wheetley, A. (2016). The remarkable life and work of Mario Vargas Llosa. Books Tell You Why. Web.

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