The Swedish Academy announced this morning that Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa will be the 2010 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. In a statement on its website, the academy said they decided to award Llosa for his “cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat.”
The prize is obviously an incredible honor in and of itself, but Keith Johnson at The Wall Street Journal explains how it would have come in handy in a way one would probably never expect. The story begins with Johnson and Vargas Llosa riding in a convoy through Iraq near the Jordanian border, as it turns out the Vargas Llosa’s daughter was a freelancing photographer during the Iraq war. When the party got held up by patrols due to a problem with Johnson’s visa, Vargas Llosa tried to use his stature as a writer of eminence to secure safe passage. But he wasn’t quite decorated enough for the officials, Johnson wrote.
Vargas Llosa tried to pull rank, for all of us.
“Do you know who I am?” he asked a Jordanian lieutenant colonel in desert fatigues running the border post. “Three times I have been short-listed for the Nobel Prize,” he said.
“But you didn’t win it, did you?” he asked. “Don’t worry, even for someone like you, we can make arrangements,” he added.
In the end, those arrangements amounted to hours more waiting under the punishing sun, with Vargas Llosa increasingly irate and looking for air conditioning, and me increasingly contrite.
Now that his Nobel is secure, Vargas Llosa hopefully won’t have as much trouble crossing borders. The one-time Nobel favorite Cormac McCarthy, however, doesn’t have the same luxuries afforded to those who win — though he does know a thing or two about borders.