Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Former Prof. Wins Nobel

When former Georgetown professor Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature on Oct. 7, his one-time colleague Serafina Hager saw the announcement as a long-awaited triumph for the Peruvian writer.

“I’m so excited about Mario. Every year I was waiting for him to win the Nobel Prize, and this year he finally did,” said Hager, former dean of the Faculty of Language and Linguistics, who worked with Vargas Llosa while he was at Georgetown.

The Swedish Academy, the committee that chooses Nobel winners, praised Vargas Llosa “for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt and defeat,” according to the official website of the Nobel Prize.

Vargas Llosa taught at Georgetown in 1994 as a distinguished writer-in-residence and again in 1999 as a visiting professor. He first arrived at the university when the FLL established an International Writers Workshop for incoming students. Over the summer students were asked to read a work by an influential international writer. The workshop’s first selection, Vargas Llosa’s novel “The Storyteller” (1987) told of the clash of tribal societies with modern life in Peru, Vargas Llosa’s country of birth.

“Although he was such a famous writer even then, he paid such close attention to the students. He took the time to give comments on their papers, he was always there. That really is the mark of a good teacher,” Hager said. “He’s given a great deal of time to the school and his students.”

“The students loved him,” said professor Thomas Walsh who served as chair of the Spanish and Portuguese department when Vargas Llosa taught. “I had to go down to his classroom and almost be like a bouncer because so many people wanted to take his class.”

Vargas Llosa received an honorary degree from Georgetown and joined the university faculty in 2001 as a member of the Spanish and Portuguese department.

“That’s where the close connection comes from,” Hager said. “The amazing feature of Mario’s personality is he doesn’t forget where he’s from. He doesn’t forget his friends. . That’s what really impresses me about him. He has that human side.”

Vargas Llosa is the author of more than 30 novels, plays and essays, but he is known as a renaissance man and is also a critic, journalist and politician. He ran for president of Peru in 1990, and though he was unsuccessful, his foray into politics deeply influenced his writing.

“I think writers are citizens too, you know, and have the moral obligation to participate in the civic debate, in the debate about the solutions to the problems that the societies face,” Vargas Llosa said in an interview on the Nobel Prize website.

“If you believe in democracy, democracy is participation, and I don’t think writers or artists or intellectuals should exonerate themselves of this moral obligation to participate,” he added.

Vargas Llosa’s interest and involvement in the world around him shines through in his writings, according to his admirers.

“He’s a thorough researcher and he’s very much involved in digging into political issues. He wanted to experience everything . and that underlines the noblest characteristic of a writer,” Hager said. “I feel honored and privileged to have known him.”

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