Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Feast of the Goat - Mario Vargas Llosa

I can't imagine what I've been reading all these years.  How have I managed to miss out on contemporary South American fiction?  One fairly insignificant Marquez - that's my lot.  Then I saw this in the library.  I liked the cover, I liked the fact that Faber had reissued it as part of its Revolutionary Writing series.  I thought, why not?

I'm staggered.  It's a masterpiece, pure and simple.  It's so good, I bought two more before I'd even finished it.

The deal is this: Urania returns to the Dominican Republic after 35 years.  In all that time she has had no contact whatsoever with her family - her father, her aunt, her cousins.  She left for America at 14, smuggled out by nuns on a contrived scholarship.  Her life has been hugely successful professionally.  Internally, though, nothing whatsoever.  Through the book we discover why.

She left in 1961, just after the Generalissimo (Goat) was assassinated.  We also relive those events, with the dictator, his puppet president, his assassins.  Every one of dozens of principal characters comes alive.  From time to time we are even inveigled into empathising with the Goat himself.  It is so cleverly structured that it was only in the penultimate chapter that I guessed how Urania and Trujillo were connected.

Not so much a cracking read.  More a life-changing artistic experience.  Can't recommend it highly enough.

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