Mario Vargas Llosa was born on March 28, 1936 in Arequipa, Peru. After his parents divorced, he grew up with his mother and grandfather in the city of Cochabamba in Bolivia. The family moved to Piura, Peru in 1946 where his grandfather held an appointment as a civil servant. His parents were reunited in 1947 and settled in Lima. Mario Vargas Llosa went to a Catholic school in Lima. Later his father sent him to the military school, Leoncio Prado. After graduating from Colegio Nacional San Miguel in Piura, Mario Vargas Llosa studied law and literature in Lima and Madrid.

In 1959, he moved to Paris where he worked as a language teacher and as a journalist for Agence-France-Presse and the national television service of France. As an author, he had an international breakthrough with the novel La ciudad y los perros (1963; The Time of the Hero, 1966). This novel, which builds on experiences from Leoncio Prado, was considered controversial in his home land. A thousand copies were burnt publicly by officers from Leoncio Prado.

After having lived alternately in Paris, Lima, London and Barcelona, he returned to Lima in 1974. In 1975 he was elected to the Peruvian Academy. In 1990 he ran for the Presidency representing the FREDEMO alliance in Peru, but lost the election. In 1994 he was elected to the Spanish Academy, where he took his seat in 1996. In recent years he has lived in Barcelona, Madrid, Lima, Paris and London. His well known works include Conversación en la catedral (1969; Conversation in the Cathedral, 1975), La guerra del fin del mundo (1981; The War of the End of the World, 1984) and La fiesta del chivo (2000; The Feast of the Goat, 2001).