The Nobel Prize for Literature has of late has been awarded all too often to obscure novelists whose purported resistance to authority and mere fashion consisted of embracing a safe and fashionable brand of academically approved leftism combined with a modest talent. In the process, what Washington Post literary critic Marie Arana called "the capricious eyes of the Swedish Academy" have managed to miss recognizing some writers of arguably greater talent, and certainly greater influence, whose politics were not so correct.
With the announcement that this year's winner is Peru's monumental literary genius — and almost the country's president — Mario Vargas Llosa, some of that neglect may have been rectified. Of Mr. Vargas Llosa's literary accomplishments there is question that from "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter" to "The War of the End of the World," his novels, plays and screenplays are wide-ranging and of very high quality. But his political leanings are far from the fashionable leftism the Swedish Academy usually favors.
Mario Vargas Llosa, 74, began his career as a Marxist, even joining the Peruvian Communist Party for a short time. But as it became obvious that Fidel Castro was presiding over dictatorship rather than liberation (especially his persecution of homosexuals), he became disenchanted and wondered aloud why others, notably Gabriel Garcia Marquez, continued to fawn over the Cuban despot.
Mr. Vargas Llosa later became acquainted with the work of Friedrich Hayek, 1976's Nobel laureate in economics, and Ludwig von Mises. He later credited Hayek, along with Karl Popper and Isaiah Berlin, as a seminal intellectual influence. In much popular jargon this made him a "conservative" or "rightist," a designation he never accepted. Steeped in European intellectual traditions he called himself a "liberal," or what most Americans would recognize as a libertarian.
"I lost hope long ago that the Nobel Committee would ever acknowledge my father," the novelist's son, Alvaro Vargas Llosa, told us in a telephone interview. "It seemed to me, based on the political inclinations of the Academy, based on previous recipients, that my father's politics would not be attractive to Academy members."
Alvaro Vargas Llosa noted that his father has been immensely productive since his adventure in practical politics, running for the presidency of Peru (and losing) in 1990. "Perhaps it is his way of putting all that behind him, of overcoming disappointments and turning them into literature." The younger Vargas Llosa is looking forward to a joyful family reunion in Sweden in December.
REPRINTED FROM THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER.