World renowned novelist and playwright Mario Vargas Llosa elaborated on his controversial claim that Mexico's government is "the perfect dictatorship" during a discussion of Latin American literature and politics last night. The crowd of 400 students and professors began to form well in advance of the author's arrival, proving the small Benjamin Franklin Room to be inadequate. The discussion, completely in Spanish, drew students and professors from Haverford, Swarthmore and Dickinson Colleges. Many of the students present were from Latin American and European countries, where Vargas' name is immediately recognizable, and his work is part of the canon of twentieth century literary studies. Houston Hall officials were alerted that the large, enthusiastic crowd forming outside the room was a fire hazard and abruptly interrupted the hour-long dialogue in order to move to the audience to Irvine Auditorium. The discussion was conducted in the form of a public interview, with Romance Languages Professor and long-time friend Jose Miguel Oviedo questioning Vargas on topics ranging from the inspiration for some of the Peruvian novelist's characters to an evaluation of contemporary Latin American political problems. Once inside Irvine, the novelist-politician alluded to many of his works, distinguishing the style for writing plays and short stories, as opposed to the expression that characterizes the novel. Towards the end of the informal questioning by Oviedo, the discussion took a decidedly political turn. The audience reacted with interest to a statement Vargas made several months ago which caused an uproar in political circles. In a controversial comment made in Mexico City, he characterized the ruling party of Mexico, the PRI, as "the perfect dictatorship." The statement was significant because it openly articulated what he believes to be the unspoken rules regarding the PRI's monopoly of power within Mexican democracy. It was also significant given Vargas' recent and controversial entry into Latin American politics. Vargas made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency of Peru during that country's elections last year. Representing a large coalition of moderates and conservatives, he gained widespread support throughout the country, ultimately causing a runoff with eventual winner Alberto Fugimori, a wealthy businessman of Japanese decent. The question of the Peruvian novelist's opinion of the political posturing of the famed Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez was also received by the crowd with great interest. Vargas and Garcia have a well-publicized adversarial relationship based on both politics and personal conflict. Vargas Llosa nonetheless said that he holds the Colombian novelist's literary work in high regard, thankful of the fact that his starkly different political views "have not contaminated" their greatness. Finally, as Vargas was preparing to leave, an impromtu meeting took place between he and a long time friend and fellow writer Yevegni Yevtushenko, a famous Soviet poet who is spending a semester at the University. Yevtushenko spoke perfect Spanish to the Peruvian as he discussed the current distress of his native Soviet Union. Vargas will speak tomorrow at 3 p.m. in room 17 of Logan Hall on the contemporary historian and social critic Karl Popper.Comments powered by Disqus
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