Congratulations to Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, who has just been awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature for "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat," according to the Swedish Academy. Vargas Llosa is one of those rare literary creatures who has not only helped to define the aesthetic stylistic innovation of his period but directly influence its events.
The author of over 30 books - and very nearly the president of Peru - Vargas Llosa is one of the preeminent public intellectuals of the post-war era and one of the great libertarian heroes of the age at least since his highly public criticism of the Castro regime starting in the early 1970s. An outspoken critic of authoritarian regimes on the right and the left, who else but Vargas Llosa would have called for the legalization of drugs while addressing the American Enterprise Institute's annual dinner a few years back? He has been a consistent voice against repression wherever he finds it and an eloquent champion of freedom in all its manifestations. His insistence that all aspects of liberty - political, economic, and cultural - are inextricably linked is as powerful as it is rare among writers of his stature.
For more on the award, go here.
Reason is proud to have published two essays by Vargas Llosa.
1995's "The Children of Columbus: From violent conquest to common culture," is a meditation on the legacy of Spanish and European rule in the Americas. Here's a snippet:
Our age may be one of tremendous events, but it is also one of intellectual confusion. It is an age that has witnessed the collapse of the bloodiest regimes in history, and the eruption of liberty in societies where it never existed before, or where it was but a pale, elusive fire. But it has also witnessed the perversion of common sense and the assailment of values and reason by ideology. Ideology has become the lay religion of our time, and its dogmas, stereotypes, commonplaces, and excommunications continue to contaminate the intelligentsia of the Western world. The condemnations, the discomfort, and the silence of so many intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic concerning the Quincentenary [of Columbus' landing in the New World] can be explained by the fear of praising the moral or material achievements of our democracies, and thereby losing the "politically correct" credentials so necessary for success in the cultural establishment of the First and Third Worlds. The Second World, the Soviet Union and its satellites, failed and collapsed precisely because ideology had moved beyond the musings of individuals to become the reason of state. Prominent intellectuals continue to cast a shadow of doubt and skepticism on liberty and democracy, but this is an aberration. Liberty is nothing to be ashamed of. It ought to be cherished with the fervor of those who have lost it, or have just regained it. Like the young people of the former East Germany who in 1989 tore down the wall in Berlin, one of the tasks for men and women of the new generation is to tear down the ideological walls of the prison houses of thought and culture still prevalent in so many free nations.
And here is an excerpt from 2001's "Global Pillage or Global Village?: Why we must create a universal culture of liberty":
Some governments are embarrassed to confess that [they have benefited from deregulating their economies], and others -- including some real Tartuffes -- cover their bases by spewing out volleys of rhetoric against neoliberalism. Nevertheless, they have no other recourse than to privatize businesses, liberalize prices, open markets, attempt to control inflation, and try to integrate their economies into international markets. They have come to learn -- the hard way -- that in today's economic environment, the country that does not follow those guidelines commits suicide. Or, in less terrifying terms: That country condemns itself to poverty, decay, and even disintegration. Many sectors of the Latin American left have evolved from being bitter enemies of economic liberty to embracing the wise confession of Václav Havel: "Though my heart may be left of center, I have always known that the only economic system that works is a market economy....This is the only natural economy, the only kind that makes sense, the only one that can lead to prosperity, because it is the only one that reflects the nature of life itself."
For Reason commentary on Vargas Llosa, his influence, and many of his works, go here.