Images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat…

Some odd resonances around the globe this week, from Peru to Palestine via Banna Strand. Today, Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa was named as the recipient of this year’s Nobel prize for literature. Vargas Llosa has travelled a pretty scenic route from supporting Fidel Castro, to an unsuccessful presidental campaign in 1990, a Cervantes Prize in 1995 and, latterly, a comfy chair among the Peruvian centre-right. In the announcement of the award, the committee cited

his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat

His next novel, El Sueño del Celta, is due out, in it’s Spanish edition, in November (so I’m not even going to pretend to have read it). The title means ‘The Dream of the Celt’ and it is based on the life of Roger Casement. Casement’s campaigning took him into the Amazon where he highlighted abuses of the Putumayo Indians, following the previous work that earned him the nickname Congo Casement. Today, Casement’s work would probably have seen him in the mix for a peace prize, although in the 1900s it was pretty much an award for achievements in maintaining a balance of power and international diplomacy.

His campaigning isn’t a million miles away from what an Irish Nobel laureate has been at this week, although the Israelis, rather than taking a Nobel Peace Prize on her CV as suggesting she might be able to contribute something positive, have seen fit to decide to deport Mairead Maguire instead. Surely another image of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat? 

Well, probably not. Given that she was visiting Israel to highlight the work of Israeli and Palestinian women peace builders, does deporting her not seem more of an interesting comment on Israeli government attitudes to the cartography of structures of power, to coin a current phrase?

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  • Rory Carr

    I would suggest that Vargas Llosa’s move to the centre-right was equally as important as his literary output in winning him this award. It is equally true that his support for Castro would not have been unhelpful in making him an attractive candidate for the Lenin Komsomol Literary Prize, the Soviet “Nobel” back in the day, however, for whatever reasons (perhaps now apparent) he missed out on that award..

    It is a rare bird indeed who has ever claimed both these prizes and the one noted who springs to mind also happened to be a former Chief-of-Staff of the I.R.A., Séan McBride, who was awarded the the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974 and the Lenin Peace Prize for 1975-76. Not for his stewardship of the I.R.A, alas, however commendable (or otherwise) you may have considered that to have been, but rather for his work as an international jurist, particularly in Africa which work included acting as UN Commissioner for Namibia and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. He also drafted the constitutions of the Organisation of African Unity and of the newly independent Afican nation of Ghana.

    Indeed, as recipients of Nobel Awards, Ireland punches well above its weight – here’s the list:

    1923 – for Literature William Butler Yeats

    1925 – for Literature George Bernard Shaw

    1951 – for Physics Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton *

    1969 – for Literature Samuel Beckett

    1974 – for Peace Seán MacBride

    1976 – for Peace Betty Williams

    1976 – for Peace Mairead Corrigan

    1995 – for Literature Seamus Heaney

    1998 – for Peace David Trimble

    1998 – for Peace John Hume

    a bit top heavy on “peace” and “literature” some might argue (without much opposition admittedly) and the “peace” awards were and remain contentious but that’s par for the course with this award – remember Kissinger and Le Duc Tho in 1973, Sadat and Begin in 1978 and the grossly obvious political award to Lech Walesa in 1983 ?

  • Alan Maskey

    I was going to say this was political but then seeing Casement mentioned, had to back peddle because of my own politics. The Nobel Peace and Lit prizes are political awards. This is true of all the Irish except for Sir Walton and cricket player Beckett.McBride was a good stick and Yeats was a good poet but totally political.

  • You had to be under 33 to get a Lenin Komsomol Prize and Vargas Llosa was probably a relatively late bloomer in that respect. Even Pablo Neruda didn’t do the Nobel/Lenin double.

  • Framer

    John says Vargas’s “next novel, El Sueño del Celta, is due out, in its Spanish edition, in November…The title means ‘The Dream of the Celt’ and it is based on the life of Roger Casement.”

    Mario Llosa Vargas was researching his book a year ago in Ballymena where Casement was schooled (at Ballymena Academy) and boarded in his holidays with the Young family at Galgorm Castle and in Ballycastle.

    Rose Young a later Gaelic scholar had a degree of influence over him. She was one of a large number of female Protestant nationalists in the area from big houses. They like Casement were of the non-marrying sort.