For decades, the acclaimed Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa has split himself into two personalities: There is Vargas Llosa, the author of dazzling political novels such as“Conversation in the Cathedral” and “The Feast of the Goat.” Then there is Vargas Llosa, the author of two titillating sexual fantasies, “In Praise of the Stepmother”and “The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto.”
Vargas Llosa has long kept the imaginative territory of his serious political works fenced off from the hedonistic frivolities of Don Rigoberto. With good reason: The 2010 Nobel Prize in literature was bestowed upon Vargas Llosa mostly for “his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat.” It’s hard to fathom how the hilarious Rigoberto, who enjoys role-playing games with his wife, would fit into that high-minded rubric. Instead, Vargas Llosa’s favored recurring character in the political novels is a noirish police detective named Lituma, who last appeared fighting the Shining Path guerrillas in “Death in the Andes” (1993) and could easily fit into a gritty television series such as “The Wire.”
But now that Vargas Llosa is 79 and has won the greatest literary prizes in the world, perhaps he thought, Why not?