The Swedish Academy announced yesterday, in a surprising manner, that it will be investigating this year’s Nobel laureate for literature, Mario Vargas Llosa, for a possible fraud which may cost him that high distinction.
According to various denunciations received last year–above all, as a result of the prize–the Peruvian author may used a lesser-known writer to edit the works that later won him recognition, since the beginning of his prolific career in 1959 with The Chiefs.
In declarations exclusively for this newspaper, the president of the elective committee for the Nobel Foundation, Sven Goran Erikson Larsson, commented: “As yet, it is very premature to make a judgment on this matter. I can only tell you that we have fairly solid proof that there may have been ‘fixing’, but I also think that we have to let the police do their job.”
The case has come to the attention of the Swedish police since their information-crimes brigade intercepted a mail which the South American novelist himself had sent a month before to one of their clandestine operatives. At the moment, there is a gag order in place, but according to a leak, the e-mail made allusions to a tale of an anarchist shepherd from Cáceres who fell hopelessly in love with a wealthy heiress at the dawn of the First World War.
According to the Attorney General’s hypothesis, Vargas Llosa appeared to have 18 other writers on his payroll, who periodically sent him outlines which the now perhaps not-so-gifted novelist might later polish up, or correct to his liking if the works were further advanced.
Among the possible writers, five Spaniards figure, along with two Bolivians, three Chileans, four Peruvians, two Germans and a citizen of Gibraltar. They include the young man–her ex-brother-in-law–who helped Ana Rosa Quintana to write A Taste of Bile, whose plot revolves around a woman who has suffered ill-treatment and, in 2000, before it had been withdrawn from the market by the publishing house Planeta due to scandal, had sold more than 100,000 copies.
The suspects in this complex and scandalous scheme include Genoveva Casanova, the ex-wife of Cayetano Martínez de Irujo–son of the Duchess of Alba–who is now the wife of his [Vargas’s] son Gonzalo, who may have actively collaborated in The Dream of the Celt–the latest work of Vargas Llosa, who now lives in Madrid. There are a number of idiomatic expressions in the novel which originate in the Mexican neighborhood of El Dorado, an exclusive zone from which the young man hails. He was interrogated last Thursday by members of the committee who, every year, decide who receives the Nobel.
After several attempts to contact Vargas Llosa, now a Spanish national, this publication can confirm that the matter has been referred to a highly prestigious Madrid law firm, Stampa Braun, which several years ago defended the popular German pop duo Milli Vanilli, who were accused of fraud in 1990.
If the claims hold true and it is confirmed that Mario Vargas Llosa, the eternal aspirant to the Nobel, has cheated, he will automatically lose the prestigious prize, along with the million dollars he received with it. To date, there has never been a case like this one.
As I said earlier, these charges have yet to be proven in court. But now that this matter is under investigation by the Swedish Nobel Academy (and the Swedish police), and further allegations have come out, it deserves to be taken seriously. Ironically (and comically), he’s using the same firm as Milli Vanilli–who were found guilty of lip-synching their music, and who lost their Grammy award for it. A bad omen?
In the meantime, the Dominican Republic has awarded Vargas Llosa honorary citizenship following the Nobel. It will be interesting to see what becomes of that, should these charges hold up.
For now, I give him the benefit of the doubt. Presumption of innocence until proven otherwise, etc. But I will say that damn, this is getting awfully weird.