February 11, 2016
Mario Vargas Llosa wins literary prize, causes kerfuffle
by Taylor Sperry
Protests have broken out in the Dominican Republic, where Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Pedro Henríquez Ureña Literary Prize.
As Sibylla Brodzinsky reports for The Guardian, the backlash is a response to critical comments that Vargas Llosa made in 2013 regarding a ruling by the Dominican constitutional court “that stripped many ethnic Haitians of their Dominican nationality.” The Peruvian writer called the court’s decision “‘a legal aberration’ inspired by Hitler-era legal sentences that denied Jews German citizenship.”
Dominican author (and Pulitzer Prize winner) Junot Díaz has also been critical of the government’s decision and what he called “the persecution of immigrants—mainly Haitians—in the Dominican Republic.” In October of last year, Díaz and the Haitian American author Edwidge Danticat went to Washington to urge the U.S. to intervene in what they argued was a “human rights crisis.”
Eduardo Selman, the Domincan Republic’s consul in New York, subsequently stripped Díaz of the order of merit award he’d been given in 2009 and pronounced his actions “anti-Dominican.”
As for Vargas Llosa, he has sent a letter of thanks to the Dominican minister of culture, writing, “The fact that, despite that incident, I am given this prize, speaks well of the democratic, tolerant and open spirit that luckily seems to prevail in the country.”
Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.