Mario Vargas Llosa Biography

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Mario Vargas Llosa Biography

Mario Vargas Llosa was born in Peru and is considered one of Latin America’s greatest writers. His first novel, The Time of the Hero, is based on his harrowing time at Leoncio Prado Military Academy where his father sent him as a teenager. Highly influenced by the philosopher Jean Paul Sartre and the writer William Faulkner, Llosa is known for his way of alternating dialogue to show different realities. The main theme he explored in his work was an individual’s struggle to find freedom in an oppressive society. His third novel, Conversation in the Cathedral, is considered his masterpiece. It was written in a two-volume edition and deconstructs Peru during the 1950s when the country was essentially a dictatorship.

Facts and Trivia

  • Llosa was originally married to his uncle’s sister-in-law, Julia Urquidi, who was ten years older than him. His second wife, who he is separated from, Patricia Llosa, is his first cousin.
  • Llosa wrote a book about celebrated author Gabriel García Márquez, with whom he was once friends. There was great demand for the book, and it sold out. Llosa has refused to reprint it, and it was never translated into English.
  • Llosa wrote Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter about his first marriage. His ex-wife wrote What Little Vargas Didn’t Say as a rebuttal.
  • Llosa has experimented with many genres including comedy, murder mystery, and political thriller.
  • His cousin Luis Llosa is a director and filmed the adaptation of Vargas Llosa’s The Feast of the Goat.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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Peru’s leading contemporary novelist, Jorge Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa (VAHR-gahs YOH-sah), is regarded as one of the creators (along with such writers as Julio Cortázar, Gabriel García Márquez, and Carlos Fuentes) of the new Latin American novel. Born in the town of Arequipa in southern Peru, Mario Vargas Llosa was the son of Ernesto Vargas Maldonado and Dora Llosa Ureta. His parents were divorced before he was born, and he was taken by his mother to live at Cochabama, Bolivia, with her parents, who spoiled him. When he was nine, he and his mother left for Piura, in northwestern Peru; however, a year later, his parents remarried, and they moved the family to Lima.

The pampered and sensitive boy found himself no longer the center of attention. At the Catholic school he attended in Lima, he was younger than most of his classmates and was consequently ridiculed. At home, his artistic activities had to be kept from his father, who (like many Peruvians) regarded writing as no work for a man. For Vargas Llosa, literature became an escape and, as he later described it, a way of justifying his existence. Intending to “make a man of him,” Vargas Llosa’s father sent his son to a military academy in Lima, the Leoncio Prado. The machismo and brutality he encountered there proved highly traumatic for the young man.

This experience ended in 1952, when Vargas Llosa returned to Piura for his final year of secondary school. In Piura he worked part-time on the newspaper La Industria and wrote a play called “La huida” (the escape). Returning to Lima, Vargas Llosa studied for his degree in literature at the University of San Marcos, while being employed as a journalist with Radio Panamericana and the newspaper La Crónica. In 1955 he married Julia Urquidi, a Bolivian; the marriage ended in divorce. In 1965 he married his first cousin Patricia Llosa, with whom he had two sons and a daughter.

Vargas Llosa made a brief visit to Paris in 1958 and won a prize in a short-story competition sponsored by La Revue française . The winning story, “El desafío” (the challenge), was published in his first book of short stories. The book won for Vargas Llosa the Premio Leopoldo Alas award in Spain, where it was published in 1959. That same year the author traveled to the University of Madrid on a scholarship but decided to move on to Paris without completing his doctoral dissertation. He lived there for seven years, working as a Berlitz teacher, as a journalist,...

(The entire section is 1,942 words.)