www.georgetown.edu /The Hoya Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa signed copies of his novel, The Feast of the Goat, after Saturday’s First Year Academic Workshop.

Celebrated Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa discussed his novel The Feast of the Goat, about dictator Rafael Trujillo’s regime in the Dominican Republic in the mid-20th century, and addressed the dangers of modern day dictatorships Saturday in Gaston Hall as part of the First-Year Student Academic Workshop.

“Thank you to you all for reading my novel,” Vargas Llosa said. “It’s a very exciting experience for a novelist like myself to see my readers in front of me.”

Students had read the novel, written an essay and met in discussion groups Saturday to discuss their reactions to the themes in the book.

Vargas Llosa described the inspiration for his novel, citing his life in Peru under a rigid dictatorship that “marked his youth.” He later traveled to the Dominican Republic, a beautiful country filled with people eager to recount stories about their lives under Trujillo.

“I have never chosen in a free way the themes of my novel,” he said. “[They] are imposed on myself by the experiences that I’ve had . . . Trujillo was the emblematic dictator because of the extravagant acts which were a permanent fixture of the Dominican Republic dictatorship,” Vargas Llosa said.

The regime in the Dominican Republic was a system in which everyone was potentially guilty of something, women were manipulated and used and moral degradation was very important to preserve, Vargas Llosa continued. The dictator imposed “perpetual fear and insecurity,” he said.

“It was like a nightmare to hear about Saddam Hussein and his sons with the anecdotes that were so similar to those I had heard in the Dominican Republic, especially with women,” Vargas Llosa said. “It was exactly like, as you say, a recurring nightmare.”

He said that dictatorships like Trujillo’s were not unique and he wanted readers to “see the phenomenon of dictatorships,” which he said is still a tragedy for so many countries around the world.

Students were allowed a brief question and answer section after which Vargas Llosa signed copies of his book for those in attendance. Vargas Llosa, who lost the 1990 Peruvian presidential election to Alberto Fujimori, said that he would not consider running again for the presidency of Peru and that he himself was “a very bad politician.”

When asked about the graphic scenes of torture and rape in his novel, Vargas Llosa deemed them “the most difficult pages to write” and acknowledged that, at times, he was so disgusted that he had to stop.

Serafina Hager, chair of the Italian Department, special assistant to the provost for international initiatives and one of the event’s organizers, said Georgetown University was very fortunate that Vargas Llosa was willing to be the featured writer in the workshop. His presence coincided with his semester residency at Georgetown as the Distinguished Professor of the Ibero American Chair in Literature and Culture.

“We hope that students will be challenged to question, debate and analyze the salient issues raised in the novel, particularly the timely and compelling topic of the relationship between a dictator and its people,” Hager said.

French professor Paul Young, who led a discussion group about the novel, said many students were interested in learning more about a topic they knew little about. “Students are very lucky to be able to read a work and hear the author discuss it,” he said.

Vargas Llosa, as a writer who has traveled to numerous countries either under dictatorships or recovering from them, was able to offer a unique perspective to students at the presentation.

“I thought it was interesting how Vargas Llosa compared the Dominican Republic of the ’60s to the current situation in Iraq,” Jean Hosty (SFS ’07) said. “It’s fascinating that the messages and themes in his novel about an administration removed from power 40 years ago are still so relevant.”

“The lecture was powerful and the discussion was a way to really get involved in the material on a more personal basis,” Saad Abdali (COL ’07) said. “Periods in history such as Trujillo’s regime need to be analyzed and probed so they cannot happen again.”

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