Jean Franco

The Camp and the Killing Field

In his preface to “The Drowned and the Saved,” Primo Lei wrote that the Nazi concentration camp “still remains a unicum, both in its extent and its quality,” while dismissing the atrocities of the conquest of the Americas as “things of another time.” But isn’t there a danger in this dismissal, the danger of setting up a competition of the worst? In countries that have experienced genocide – Turkey during the Armenia genocide, Guatemala during the eighties and Germany from the thirties to the mid forties, there are common features: genocide is perpetrated in an area immune from foreign or domestic interferences. It requires totalitarian control over that area and willing executioners.

Franco is a Professor Emerita of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and has been recognized by both the Chilean and Venezuelan governments with the Gabriel Mistral Medal and the Andres Bello Medal for advancing literary scholarship on Latin American literature in the United States. She will be speaking about Latin American dictatorships of the 1970s and 80s.