Mario Vargas Llosa, elected member of the French Academy

Mario Vargas Llosa. / EP

The Spanish-Peruvian Nobel will be the first member of the institution who has not written in the language of Molière

BEATRIZ JUDGE Correspondent. Paris

Thursday, 25 November 2021, 18:41

The writer Mario Vargas Llosa was elected this Thursday a new member of the French Academy, the equivalent in France to the Royal Spanish Academy of the Language. He will occupy the 18th chair, which was vacated after the death in 2019 of the French philosopher Michel Serres.

Vargas Llosa, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010, will be part of the select club of «the immortals», the name given to the guardians of the language of Molière. They are named for the motto ‘To immortality’ that appears on the emblem of the institution, created in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu and which, in reality, refers to the French language, not the academics. The position is for life.

The Peruvian writer, nationalized Spanish, started as a favorite despite not having written any book in French and exceeding the age established in the regulations of this century-old institution (75 years) to be a member.

Vargas Llosa, 85, was elected in the first round by 18 votes in favor of the 22 cast. The journalist Frédéric Vignale got one vote. There were two abstentions and a blank vote, the French Academy specified in a statement. “The occasion deserves a glass of champagne,” wrote his son Álvaro Vargas Llosa on Twitter.

The French-speaking writer lived between 1959 and 1966 in Paris, a city in which, he says, he forged himself as a writer and where he met many Latin American writers, such as Julio Cortázar, Alejo Carpentier, Jorge Edwards and Jorge Luis Borges. , among others.

In the French capital he finished his first novel “The city and the dogs” that he had started in Madrid. In Paris he also wrote “The Green House” and the long story “The puppies” and began his third novel, “Conversation in the cathedral.”

Despite writing in Spanish, Vargas Llosa has recognized on several occasions that his work is highly influenced by French literature, which he devoured from a young age. One of the novels that most marked him was “Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert, founder of the modern novel, as he explained in his book “The perpetual orgy. Flaubert and Madame Bovary ‘. Jean-Paul Sartre and Raymond Aron also influenced him.

The author of “La ciudad y los perros” and “La fiesta del chivo” has been a member of the Peruvian Academy of Language since 1975 and of the Royal Spanish Academy since 1994. That same year he won the Cervantes Prize, the highest award of the Spanish letters. In 2016, Vargas Llosa became the first living non-French writer to be published in the select collection of classics La Pléiade.

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