Mario Vargas Llosa

Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa has returned to Georgetown this semester as a Distinguished Writer in Residence. Vargas Llosa, who first taught at Georgetown in 1994 as a visiting professor, currently holds the Ibero-American and Culture Chair in the Spanish and Portuguese Department, a $2 million endowment established in April 2001.

Vargas Llosa said he enjoys teaching at Georgetown. “The university has a very alive, very cosmopolitan atmosphere. The number of students that come from all over the world make it a unique place,” he said.

He has always been pleased with the students in his literature classes at Georgetown, and he hopes to continue making a positive impact on their studies. Literature, he said, “obligates one to read in a more rational and analytical way.”

This fall, Vargas Llosa will teach two seminars, which are limited to Spanish majors and Spanish graduate students.

“The fact that class enrollments are kept low makes it possible for him to have direct personal contact with his students,” Alfonso Morales, chair of the Spanish and Portuguese Department, said.

The author is recognized as one of the world’s most talented and prolific writers. His novels traditionally present character-driven plots set within real, often turbulent, historical periods.

Vargas Llosa’s 2001 novel, The Feast of the Goat, which centers on the harsh dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, is currently the subject of Georgetown’s First-Year Academic Workshop.

The workshop brings first year students face-to-face with a leading contemporary literary figure and introduces them to his work. Freshmen are required to read the novel and then write a reflection essay. Next Saturday, Sept. 20, the workshop will culminate with two presentations – at 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. – by Vargas Llosa in Gaston Hall.

Serafina Hager, chair of the Italian department and the workshop’s director, believes the author and his works offer valuable lessons for first year students, especially during this month’s Sept. 11 anniversary. “Memorials become voices in our conscience. Writers also become voices in our conscience, as they help to remind us of injustice around the world,” she said.

Vargas Llosa’s association with Georgetown is also important for the university’s academic standing. “We’re so privileged to have him here,” said Hager. “The fact that we’re able to attract such an internationally distinguished author reflects on the status of Georgetown as a major teaching and research university.”

Aside from his novels, Vargas Llosa has also gained fame as a journalist for the Spanish daily El Pais, and as a politician in his native country. He was narrowly defeated by Alberto Fujimori in Peru’s 1990 presidential election. The period is recounted in Vargas Llosa’s autobiographical “A Fish in the Water.”

Yet literature remains at the core of his international acclaim, with renowned works like 1981’s The War of the End of the World, which in the opinion of Professor Morales, “is one of the best novels ever written on the topic of war.”

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