Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa said the Nobel Prize for Literature awarded to him on Thursday represented a world recognition of the Spanish language.
Vargas Llosa said hours after the Swedish Academy for Nobel prizes announced him this year's winner that it came as a "total surprise" because he thought he was out of the running in the past two decades.
Vargas Llosa, 74, said he thought he would be spending his days quietly in Lima, Madrid and New York until early Thursday, when he learned that he had won the most prestigious literary award in the world.
"I was not a candidate for the past 20 years," Vargas Llosa said. "Look, because of the Swedish Academy, my life has changed. It will be a mad house, but I will try to survive."
"I think in this case the Nobel Prize is not only a recognition of a writer, but also at the same time the recognition of the Spanish language" spoken by more than 500 million people worldwide, Vargas Llosa said at a hastily arranged news conference in Manhattan.
"This is the language that I write, a very energetic, creative and modern language," he said, adding that Spanish is the common link for millions of people with different traditions and beliefs.
"This award is an important recognition of Latin American literature, which in the last decades has acquired a kind of citizenship in the world of modern culture and literature," he said.
The author said that for too long the world had ignored Latin America because it was regarded as a land of dictators and revolutionaries, a stereotype maintained in particular in the US. "Now we have produced artists, philosophers and novelists," he said.
Well known for his strong opinions and criticism of totalitarian regimes, mostly reflected in his books, Vargas Llosa said, "I am basically a writer and want to be remembered for my work. On the other hand I am also a citizen and I have political ideas, which I think is a moral obligation of everybody and not only of writers."
"Every citizen should have ideas, participate and intervene in the discussion of political problems," he said. "I have always been very critical of all kind of dictatorships, from the left and from the right."
Vargas Llosa said he had criticized the dictatorships in Cuba and Chile as his contribution to the defence of democracy and liberal reform.
"But I don't know if those ideas have impregnated my literary works, it is difficult for me to say," he said.
"I think literature plays a large role in human experiences," he said in defending his writings.
He thanked Spain for his becoming a writer in the early 1950s and Spanish agents and editors for helping him publish his first book of short stories in 1959.
But he said he will continue to write in spite of the Nobel Prize because writing "comes from a very intimate part of my personality".
Vargas Llosa was born in the Peruvian city of Arequipa. His novels include The Time of the Hero (1963), The Green House (1966), Who Killed Palomino Molero? (1986), The Feast of the Goat (2000) and The Bad Girl (2006).
He is currently teaching a course on the techniques of the novel and a class on Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges at Princeton University in the US.
His international breakthrough came with The Time of the Hero, translated into English in 1966, according to the Swedish Academy.
The last Latin American author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature was Octavio Paz of Mexico in 1990.