Biography and History

Mario Vargas Llosa was born in Arequipa, Peru, on March 28, 1936. He attended the University of San Marcos in Lima and the University of Madrid, where he obtained the doctorate in 1959. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010.

Writer, journalist, critic and teacher, he has taught at the Queen Mary College and King's College of the University of London, Washington State University (Pullman), the University of Puerto Rico (Río Piedras), at Columbia, Harvard, Princeton and Georgetown Universities and at The City University of New York. He was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, D.C. He has been the recipient of many literary prizes, among which are the Premio Biblioteca Breve, Seix Barral (1962), Premio Internacional de Literatura Rómulo Gallegos (1967), Premio Nacional de la Novela (1967), Premio del Instituto Italo Latinoamericano (Italy, 1982), and the Ritz Paris Hemingway Award (1985). Vargas Llosa was a journalist with La Industria , Piura, Peru, with Radio Panamericana and La Crónica , both of Lima and with Agence France-Presse and the French Radio-Television Network in Paris. He has hosted the Peruvian television program “The Tower of Babel,” and he writes a newspaper column, “Piedra de Toque” [Touchstone] for El País (Madrid, Spain) which is syndicated throughout Latin America.

Mario Vargas Llosa became actively involved in Peruvian politics at the national level when he and others founded a civic organization called Movimiento Libertad [Liberty Movement] in 1987. The Movement was created, in part, to protest the attempt of President Alan García to nationalize the Peruvian banking system; and its members played a key role in the formation of Frente Democrático (FREDEMO) [Democratic Front], a coalition of political parties which became an official party in August, 1989. After being nominated as FREDEMO's first presidential candidate in 1989, Vargas Llosa resigned his candidacy in June of that year. He was then persuaded to return to the presidential race after receiving over 3,000 letters from the general public urging his return to the campaign. There were two rounds of presidential elections in Peru in 1990: the first held on April 8, and the second held on June 10. Vargas Llosa won the first round of elections with 27.6% of the vote (Cambio 90 candidate Alberto Fujimori received 24.6% and the APRA candidate Luis Alva Castro received 19.1% of the vote). In the second round, Mario Vargas Llosa received 33.9% of the vote; he lost the election to Alberto Fujimori, who received 56.5% of the vote. *

In 1994, Vargas Llosa became the first Latin American voted member of the Real Academia Española de la Lengua (Spain), and he won the Premio Miguel de Cervantes (Spain). He has taught at Queen Mary College and King's College of the University of London, Cambridge University, and at various universities in the U.S., including Princeton (1992-1993, 2010), Harvard (1992-1993), Georgetown, and Syracuse.

* Leslie Bethell. ed. The Cambridge History of Latin America. Volume VIII. Latin America Since 1930: Spanish South America (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 507.

Source: From the finding aid for C0641


  • Novelists, Peruvian..