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Victoria Saramago (Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Studies, University of Chicago): Mario Vargas Llosa and the Amazon: Fiction, Ecology, Politics


When: Thursday, April 2, 2020
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM CT

Where: Kresge Hall, Kaplan Humanities Seminar Room 2-350, 1880 Campus Drive , Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Cindy Pingry   (847) 467-1933

Group: Andean Cultures and Histories Working Group

Category: Academic, Lectures & Meetings, Global & Civic Engagement


Abstract: The Amazonian region occupies a singular place in the fictional and nonfictional works of the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa. Author of paradigmatic novels on the Peruvian Amazon, such as La casa verde (1966; trans. The Green House, 1968) and El hablador (1987; trans. The Storyteller, 1989), among others, Vargas Llosa nevertheless has repeatedly defended an extensive exploitation of Amazonian natural resources in his essays and political activities at the expenses of indigenous rights and environmental conservation. Such positions have led to public confrontations with indigenous and non-indigenous leaders, activists, and intellectuals. This talk discusses the conflictive relationship between Vargas Llosa’s fictional and nonfictional works on the Amazon through the lenses of a theory of mimesis present in his essayistic work across decades, which suggests the independence of the fictional text in relation to the referential reality it represents. By revisiting his novels, writings about fiction, and positions as a public intellectual and politician from the 1960s to the 1980s, this paper argues that the existence of fictional environments in Vargas Llosa’s work does not owe anything to the actual environments and imaginaries it mobilizes. As such, this autonomy of fiction explains, to a certain extent, how the fascination for the Amazon present in the author’s novels coexists with his defense, as a politician and public intellectual, of drastic changes in the region through the environmental exploitation and the acculturation of indigenous populations. As a result, the non-transitive notion of mimesis put forward by Vargas Llosa as an affirmation of aesthetic autonomy gradually gains reactionary undertones in the changing expectations of the 1980s and 1990s, if compared to the reception context he enjoyed in the 1960s.

Victoria Saramago is an Assistant Professor in Brazilian Literature.  Her research covers twentieth and twenty-first century Latin American literature with a focus on Brazil. Her current book project, Environmental Fictions and Fictional Environments: Mimesis and Deforestation in Latin America, analyzes the complex relationship between literary representation and environment in Latin American fiction by focusing on seven mid-twentieth-century regionalist novels by authors from Brazil, Mexico, Cuba, Paraguay, and Peru.


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