Mario Vargas Llosa at King’s College London
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 14th October, 2008
After I finished giving classes at SOAS this afternoon, I wandered down to King’s College to attend a lecture in Spanish on ‘History and Literature in Latin America’ by the Peruvian novelist and former politician Mario Vargas Llosa. A very sprightly 72-year-old, who looks more like a retired banker than a literary lion, Vargas Llosa is a Fellow of King’s College and used to be on the teaching staff of the Spanish and Spanish American department there, which doubtless contributed to the fact that all the seats in the college’s Great Hall were taken, and a couple of hundred extra people were sitting on the floor or standing. His lecture was a real tour d’horizon of the relationship between European colonialism, indigenous cultures, political radicalisation and the creation of a distinct Latin American take on the world.
I first became aware of him when I read with excitement and enjoyment his novel Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter , but later our paths crossed in political circles when he stood as a liberal — or perhaps one should say neo-liberal — candidate for the presidency in Peru in 1990. Originally a leftist, who supported Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba, he drifted ever rightwards, way past me and most members of the Liberal International. Perhaps it is as well that he didn’t get elected, as he has subsequently continued to contribute to literary life in a way that will certainly go down in history.