Jorge Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa was born in Arequipa, Peru, in March of 1936. As a child, he endured an unstable family life, his mother compensating for his having been abandoned by his father. The family moved to Bolivia and later to Piura, a city in northern Peru that would later figure importantly in The Green House and in Captain Pantoja and the Special Service. Eventually, they moved to Lima, where Vargas Llosa was enrolled in the Leoncio Prado Military Academy. The trauma related to his schooling at this military institution found its later expression in Vargas Llosa’s first novel, The Time of the Hero.
In 1951, Vargas Llosa began to work for the newspaper La crónica; he would later employ his insight into the journalistic life in Conversation in the Cathedral, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, and The War of the End of the World. He studied at the San Miguel School in Piura, and the student strike that he organized there is reflected with unusual immediacy in his short story “Los jefes” (“The Leaders”). He participated more seriously in the literary milieu, collaborating on newspapers and literary magazines, and he, Luis Loayza, and Abelardo Oquendo edited the journals Cuadernos de composición and Literatura. He married Julia Urquidi and saved the delicious parody of his own romance for Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter.
The short story “El desafío” (“The Challenge”) earned for Vargas Llosa a trip to France in 1958. A scholarship to the University of Madrid gave him the opportunity to study the novel of chivalry, prototype of the modern novel, a form that has continued to interest him. After his collection The Cubs, and Other Stories was published in Barcelona in 1959, Vargas Llosa returned to Paris. He completed the first draft of The Time of the Hero while he was working at Berlitz, at Agence France-Presse, and at the French Radio-Television Network (ORTF). His work for the ORTF provided the necessary entrée to the many Latin American writers in Paris, where Vargas Llosa met Julio Cortázar, Jorge Luis Borges, and Carlos Fuentes; it also took him to Cuba, where he met Carlos Barral, whose publishing house in Barcelona would...
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