Mario Vargas Llosa, the newest winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, has never found much honor in boundaries.
"Literature shouldn't be secluded, provincial or regional," the Peruvian author said in New York after Thursday's announcement in Sweden. "It should be universal, even if it has deep roots in one place."
The 74-year-old author and political activist, a charter member of the Latin American literary boom of the 1960s, has for decades been regarded as one of the world's greatest and most adventurous writers, an unpredictable and provocative mixer of literature and social consciousness in both his work and his life.
Artists are born dissenters — often, but not always, of the left. Like such recent Nobelists as Herta Mueller and Doris Lessing, Vargas Llosa is a dissenter from communism, a former party member who ran for president of Peru in 1990 as an advocate of privatization and remains a critic of leftist leaders such as Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
The author of more than 30 novels, plays and works of nonfiction, he is known for his expansive language, his alertness to the profound and the profane, and his fierce and dark disdain for tyranny. His books are not without magical touches, but he is more grounded, more a "realist" than fellow Nobel laureate and South American Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
"Vargas Llosa's style is a kind of baroque style — long sentences, complicated sentences. The writer in English closest to his style is William Faulkner, who influenced so many of the Latin American writers," says Edith Grossman, the English-language translator for novels by Vargas Llosa and Garcia Marquez.
"He has a great range of styles and a great range of subjects, from comedies of manners to really profound political analysis. He is thought of as very political, but The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto (Los Cuadernos de Don Rigoberto) is immensely funny and I don't think there's a political word in it."
In 1995, Vargas Llosa won the Cervantes Prize, the most distinguished literary honor in Spanish. He is the first South American winner of the $1.5 million Nobel Prize in literature since Colombia's Garcia Marquez in 1982, and the first Spanish-language writer to win since Mexico's Octavio Paz in 1990.
His best-known works include Conversation in the Cathedral and The Green House.
Vargas Llosa's work covers personal and historical territory, especially political violence and oppression. The War of the End of the World dramatizes the War of Canudos, the 19th century standoff between the Brazilian military and rebellious settlers. He satirized the Peruvian armed forces in Captain Pantoja and the Special Service and took on Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo in Feast of the Goat.
The Swedish Academy said it honored Vargas Llosa for mapping the "structures of power" and for his "trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat." Its permanent secretary, Peter Englund, called him "a divinely gifted storyteller."
"His books are often very complex in composition, having different perspectives, different voices and different time places," Englund said. "He is also doing it in a new way. He has helped evolve the art of the narration."
Vargas Llosa's work has been translated into more than 30 languages. Unlike the works of the vast majority of foreign-language writers, his books are widely available in English. As of Thursday afternoon, two of his books were in the top 50 on Amazon.com's bestseller list and were out of stock: The Feast of the Goat and The War of the End of the World.