La Fiesta del Chivo: Spanish novel, by Peruvian writer, portrays the brutality of living under a dictatorship in Dominican Republic

Ellie Wild, first year Spanish student at Oxford, writes about a novel she studied in her first term: La fiesta del chivo by the Peruvian Nobel Prize in Literature Laureate, Mario Vargos Llosa.


In my first term studying Spanish and Linguistics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, a variety of texts from the Spanish-speaking world have captured my interest. However, by far the most eye-opening has been Mario Vargas Llosa’s La Fiesta del Chivo. Not only does it keep you gripped throughout with its cinematic cliff-hangers and effective withholding of information, but it also poignantly reveals the horrors of living under a dictatorship, which certainly made me appreciate the democracy we take for-granted in British society. As someone who knew almost nothing about the history of the Dominican Republic, I was shocked that such brutality and oppression could have taken place within the lifetimes of current Dominican citizens, and that these people did not enjoy true democracy until the year I was born!

Something particularly interesting about La Fiesta del Chivo is that it departs from much of the other popular literature produced during the Latin American literary boom, and indeed from any Latin American literature which I had previously read, through its rejection of magical realism. This enables Vargas Llosa to portray the atrocities of the dictatorship in a terrifyingly realistic manner, which is certainly moving, and in places deeply disturbing. I would definitely recommend getting hold of the English translation (The Feast of the Goat) – it will really make you understand the true value of free will!

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