Book world unites to salute 'speaker of truth and power'

The literary world was united in praise yesterday for Mario Vargas Llosa, the first South American winner of the Nobel literature prize since the Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 1982.

The Swedish Academy said it honoured the Peruvian author 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".

The writer was told he had won the prize by telephone in New York, where he is teaching at Princeton University. "I am very surprised, I did not expect this," he told Spanish radio. "It had been years since my name was even mentioned."

Garcia Marquez, a former friend with whom Vargas Llosa had recently made peace after a feud in the Seventies, apparently tweeted: "cuentas iguales" ["now we're even" in Spanish].

John Freeman, editor of Granta, said: "In literary terms it's fantastic... Vargas Llosa's speaking of truth to power and the way that he seriously investigates the manner in which military dictatorships work... is singular."

Fellow Nobel laureate and Princeton faculty member Toni Morrison praised his selection as a "brilliant choice".

Jonathan Galassi, head of Vargas Llosa's US publisher, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, called him "one of the world's greatest writers – an eloquent, unequalled champion of human freedom".

Factfile

* Mario Vargas Llosa was born on 28 March 1936 in Arequipa, Peru, to middle-class parents.

* Aged 14, he attended a military academy in Lima.

Worked as a journalist before going to Spain to study literature.

* Became a leading figure in the 1960s Latin American literary boom.

* Essential novels: The Time of the Hero (1963); Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1977); The War of the End of the World (1981); The Feast of the Goat (2000); The Bad Girl (2006).

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