A PLAY


                                               JOSÉ AGUSTÍN




ISBN: 978-9-403638-25-6
(European Edition)


Vicious Circle:

Paradigm and Mirror

of Current Mexican Society


From French author Jean Genet’s Lou, Divine, and Seck in his novel, Our-Lady-of-Flowers, to Argentinian author Manuel Puig’s Valentín, Arregui and Molina in his novel, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Spanish playwright Clara Pérez’ five jailed women in her play, We are already four of us, twentieth-century literature is full of unforgettable characters painted within the troubled and grey penitentiary universe.

Beto, Raúl, Héctor, and Gómez, heroes from Mexican novelist and playwright José Agustín’s play, Vicious Circle, certainly belong with this long list of magnificent losers. Beyond their insane quarrels, silly debates, and short-sized, shared dreams in order to decide which of them has to assume total responsibility for the three others possibly to get out free, this is the logic and the rule of the penitentiary world that José Agustín invites us to discover with his chief (Mayor), his ‘legal expert’ (Licenciado) and even his King’s fool (Loco).

Although the story, per se, may seem plain and almost boring at first sight, it is far from being the case. José Agustín excels at describing the family, neighborhoods and regional backgrounds of each and any of his urban jungle farcical representatives. In a pointillist manner, the Mexican playwright builds a sad puzzle of the 1970’s society of his country, where politicians and police men abuse simple citizens; lawyers and judges are totally corrupt; drug dealers are the true deciders; money buys death or freedom. In an interview in 2013, José Agustín declared “Reality is the main theme of my whole work.” Not only does he transcend it in Vicious Circle, he puts it almost acceptable and certainly unavoidable.

Written in the beautiful street language characteristic of the period, replete with imagery, the American translator, Eric W. Vogt perfectly succeeded in translating José Agustín’s play, Vicious Circle from the Mexican culture to that of the USA, such that it appears today neither dated, nor obsolete. At a time when Mexican drug cartels continue to build and break state governors and police chiefs; murder students, journalists and professors alike; and openly laugh at the Mexican democratic ideal, José Agustín’s acute theatrical vision is reminding us that there is still a long way to go on the road toward equality, justice, and freedom for all, as imagined by Emiliano Zapata at the time of the Mexican Revolution.



Playwright, poet, and novelist

(Universidad del Norte, Asunción, Paraguay),

Author of El Banquete de Tonatiuh.


“Peering into the labyrinth of Mexico’s justice system in the 1970s, Vicious Circle could have been written yesterday. Mexican playwright José Agustín skillfully integrates enduring themes relevant in contemporary Mexico—drugs, crime, and corruption—to weave together an unenviable prisoner’s dilemma for four young hippies who find themselves between the rock and hard place that was Mexico’s unforgiving Lecumberri prison, where Agustín found his inspiration. Exceptionally translated in the parlance of a heady time, this adaptation will find welcoming audience among English speakers fascinated by the counter-culture era that gave birth to the modern day war on drugs.” 

David A. Shirk, Ph.D.
Graduate Director, M.A. in International Relations,
Associate Professor, Political Science and International Relations,
Principal Investigator, Justice in Mexico,
University of San Diego, CA, USA 

“Eric W. Vogt's translation of José Agustín's Círculo vicioso is a masterpiece. The bilingual format and superb glossary facilitate serious study for translators and interpreters who work with the language of the underworld in Spanish and English.”

Elena R. Rojas 

Federal Agencies'Translator
Professional Translators and Transcribers, Inc.,
Newport Beach, CA, USA

“This English translation of José Agustín’s Círculo vicioso by Eric W. Vogt stunningly reproduces the language and concerns of prisoners I have listened to in my career on the bench. Serious reading of this play could foster productive cross-border discussions among professionals in the criminal justice systems of the US and Mexico regarding the seldom discussed realities of incarceration and the societies that lock people up.”

Hon. Judge Runston Maino

San Diego Superior Court since 1982,
Member, Alliance of California Judges,
San Diego, CA, USA



Recently retired Eric W. Vogt was a Professor of Spanish at Seattle Pacific University, USA, from 2001 til 2017. He is a specialist of Spanish Golden Age Drama, Poetry, and Translation. His bilingual first edition of The Complete Poetry of Teresa of Avila was published in 1996 by University Press of the South. A revised recently published second edition was to honor St. Teresa of Avila' fifth centenary in 2015.