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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Laureates  

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Mario Vargas Llosa and Rafael Lapesa

Prince of Asturias Award for Literature 1986

The Jury has valued his extraordinary gifts as a story-teller, the wealth and variety of his work.

Mario Vargas Llosa

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Mario Vargas Llosa (Arequipa, Peru, 1936 - ) began writing as a journalist when he was still a student at high school, contributing to La Crónica and La Industria. Although he had already written a play beforehand, in 1957 he began to publish short stories in some magazines: Los jefes appeared in the Mercurio Peruano and El abuelo in El Comercio.

In 1958 he travelled to Paris, thanks to a prize won in a short story competition, and on his return to Lima he completed his higher education and received a grant to transfer to the University of Madrid. A few months after arriving in the capital of Spain, he left his studies for the doctorate and settled in Paris, where he was to stay for seven years.

In 1963 he published his first great novel, La ciudad y los perros, with which he won several literary prizes, among them the Biblioteca Breve and La Crítica. It has currently been translated into more than twenty languages. His second major work was to be La Casa Verde, published in 1966, the same year he moved to London, where he would teach at the university and contribute frequently to newspapers and magazines.

After writing one of his fundamental novels, Conversación en la catedral, Vargas Llosa travelled to Barcelona in 1970, where he was to stay for almost five years until in 1974 he put an end to his European exile and returned to Peru with the intention, for the first time, of settling down there.

By 1973, his novel Pantaleón y las visitadoras, which was adapted for the cinema two years later, had come out. In 1975 he began a series of projects related with the cinema and in March of that year he was elected as numerary member of the Peruvian Academy of the Spanish Language. Two months later, he was appointed as president of Pen Club International, a post which he would hold until 1979.

Vargas Llosa began his political activity in 1987, due to the nationalization of the financial system in Peru. As candidate for the presidency of his country in 1989 with the centre-right coalition Frente Democrático, he was finally defeated in the ballot by Alberto Fujimori.

Apart from the works mentioned above, the following works may be highlighted among the output of Mario Vargas Llosa: the novels "La tía Julia y el escribidor" (1977), "La guerra del fin del mundo" (1981), "Historia de Mayta" (1984), "¿Quién mató a Palomino Molero?" (1986), "El hablador" (1987) and "Elogio de la madrastra" (1988); in his facet as a playwright he has written "La señorita de Tacna" (1981), "Kathie y el hipopótamo" (1984) and "La Chunga" (1986) and as an essayist he has published important works such as "García Márquez: historia de un deicidio" (1971) and "La orgía perpetua: Flaubert y Madame Bovary" (1975).

Among many other awards, in addition to those already mentioned, Mario Vargas Llosa received 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature. He has also been distinguished with the Rómulo Gallegos Prize (1967), Peru’s National Novel Award (1967) and the German Booksellers Peace Prize, granted at the Frankfurt Book Fair (1997).

He has been a member of the Peruvian Academy of the Spanish Language since 1977 and of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) since 1994. He has been awarded honorary degrees by universities in America, Asia and Europe, including Yale (1994), Lima (1997), Ben Gurion, Israel (1998), Harvard (1999), the National University of San Marcos (2001), Oxford (2003), the European University of Madrid (2005), the Sorbonne (2005), La Rioja and Malaga (2007), Alicante, the Simón Bolívar University and the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (2008), Granada (2009), Castile-La Mancha, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (2010) and Cayetano Heredia University (2011).

He was decorated with the Legion of Honour by the French government in 1985, while in 2001 he was bestowed by the government with the Grand Cross with Diamonds of the Order of the Sun of Peru, the highest distinction granted by this country,.

Rafael Lapesa Melgar

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Rafael Lapesa, academic and emeritus professor of Spanish Language, the distinguished disciple of Ramón Menéndez Pidal, was born in Valencia on the 8th February 1908. His family moved to Madrid in 1916, and he received his secondary education at the Cardinal Cisneros High School, Madrid. He read Philosophy and Arts at the University of Madrid, where he graduated and received his doctorate in Arts, subsequently extending his studies in the Centre for Historical Studies, where he was graduate student (1927-28) and associate (1929-39). Here he began his philological research under the direct tutorship of Ramón Menéndez Pidal, Américo Castro and Tomás Navarro Tomás. In 1930, after examination, he was selected as a head of department of Spanish language and Literature, a post which he filled in the National High Schools of Madrid (1930-41), Oviedo (1942) and Salamanca (1942-47), at the same time teaching in the respective universities.

In 1947 he obtained, also by selection examination, the chair of Historical Grammar of the Spanish Language (later termed History of Spanish) at the University of Madrid, which he occupied until his retirement in 1978. Also in 1947 he began to work in the Seminary of Lexicography of the Royal Spanish Academy, recently created to draw up the historical dictionary of the Spanish language. Lapesa was later the assistant director (1950-68) and director (1969-81) of the Seminary.

Elected as a numerary member in 1950, he entered the Royal Spanish Academy in 1954, and was its secretary from 1964 to 1971. In 1987 he took charge of the interim running of the Royal Academy after the resignation of the previous director, Pedro Laín Entralgo.

Among the many publications of Rafael Lapesa, the History of the Spanish Language stands out as a fundamental work for the teaching of Spanish in many foreign universities, and which has, since 1942, seen the light in several, successively expanded editions. Other works of his are: La trayectoria poética de Garcilaso (1948); La obra literaria del Marqués de Santillana (1957); De la Edad Media a nuestros días (1967); Poetas y prosistas de ayer y de hoy (1977); Estudios de historia lingüística española (1985); Garcilaso: estudios completos (1985); De Ayala a Ayala (1988), etc.

As a visiting lecturer, Lapesa taught in the American universities of Princeton (1948-49), Harvard (1948, 1952-54), Yale (1949 and 1952), Berkeley (1949), Pennsylvania (1952) and Wisconsin (1956), in whose Institute for Research in Humanities he worked as a researcher during the academic year 1959-60. Likewise he taught at the universities of Puerto Rico (1960), Buenos Aires and La Plata (1962) and in the College of Mexico (1960 and 68). He has also given lectures in many others in France, England, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland, the United States, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina and Peru.

An elected numerary member of the Royal Academy of History, he is a doctor "honoris causa" of the Universities of Tolouse (1964), Valencia (1985), Oviedo (1985), Salamanca (1986), Spanish Open University and Helsinki (1990), and an honourary lecturer of San Marcos de Lima (1975). He is an honourary member of the Modern Language Association of America and of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, a member of the Hispanic Society of America, a corresponding member of the Royal Galician Academy, the Royal Academy of Letters of Barcelona, the Argentinean Academy of Letters, the National Academy of Letters of Uruguay, the Paraguayan Academy of the Spanish Language, the Academy of Arts and Letters of Puerto Rico, the Institute for Asturian Studies, the "Alfonso el Magnánimo" Institution of Valencia and the Centre for Valencian Culture. He is also honourary president of the International Association of Hispanicists, of which he was the vice-president from 1965 to 1971, and president from 1974 to 1977. Among his distinctions are the Grand Cross of the Order of Alfonso el Sabio and of the Order of Andrés Bello.

Rafael Lapesa, the indisputable master of various generations of American and Spanish philologists, has published more than 300 articles in the fields of linguistics, the history of literature and literary criticism.

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