Mario Vargas Llosa, a giant of Latin American literature whose political ambitions saw him run for president of his native Peru, finally won the Nobel Literature Prize on Thursday at the age of 74.
Vargas Llosa, long tipped to win the award, is best known for works such as "Conversation in the Cathedral" and "The Feast of the Goat" but is also a prolific journalist, still writing for Spain's El Pais daily.
Vargas Llosa has won a string of major literary awards, including the most prestigious of all for a Spanish-language author, the Cervantes Prize, and had often been tipped to win the Nobel prize but said he had no inkling that he would win this time round.
"I didn't even think that I was one of the candidates," he told Colombia's RCN radio, in an interview in New York shortly after learning that he had received the prize.
"I think it is a recognition of Latin American literature and literature in the Spanish language, which is something that all of us can be happy about."
Announcing the award, the academy hailed "his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat."
Born in Arequipa, Peru, Vargas Llosa grew up with his mother and grandfather in the city of Cochabama in Bolivia before moving back to Peru in 1946.
He then became a journalist, moving to France in 1959 where he worked as a language teacher and as a journalist for Agence France-Presse as well as for French television before establishing his reputation as an author.
His first major success came with the novel "The Green House" which appeared in English in 1966. He has since continued to produce a string of bestsellers, many of which deal with political themes and the troubled history of Latin America.
He ran for the Peruvian presidency in 1990 on a center-right ticket, but was badly beaten by Alberto Fujimori, later to be disgraced after a string of political scandals.
Disappointed by his defeat and upset at the dictatorial turn of Fujimori's 1990-2000 regime, Vargas Llosa took on Spanish nationality in 1993 -- a controversial move that angered many Peruvians.
The following year he was elected to the Spain's Royal Academy of Language, the final authority in Spanish-language grammar and vocabulary.
Unlike other literary figures who seek to avoid the limelight, Vargas Llosa embraces contemporary affairs with gusto. He writes regularly for newspapers and magazines, and travels frequently for research and to deliver lectures.
"A writer must never turn into a statue" he told AFP in an interview last year.
"I have never liked the idea of a writer stuck in his library, cut off from the world, like Proust was. I need to keep a foothold in reality, know what's going on. That's why I do journalism".
Fellow Latin American authors said the award was very deserved, even those critical of his politics.
"This is very good news," said fellow author Carlos Mueller.
"We have thought for some time that Mario Vargas Llosa was worthy of the Nobel prize ... he deserves it perfectly," said Mueller, speaking at the ongoing Frankfurt Book Fair.
Another author, Leonardo Martinez Ugarte, said: "I have a love-hate relation with Llosa because I do not agree with his politics but as an author, I have to take my hat off to him."
Last year, German author Herta Mueller took the Nobel Literature Prize for her work inspired by her life under Nicolae Ceausescu's dictatorship in Romania, and the year before it went to French author Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio.
The Literature Prize is the fourth of six awarded this Nobel season, following the prizes for medicine, physics and chemistry earlier this week.
Next in line is the Peace Prize, which will be announced on Friday. The Economics Prize will wrap up the Nobel season on Monday, October 11.
This year's laureates will receive 10 million Swedish kronor (1.49 million dollars, 1.09 million euros) which can be split between up to three winners per prize.