Vargas Llosa, Mario (Vol. 10)
Vargas Llosa, Mario 1936–
Vargas Llosa is a Peruvian novelist, critic, journalist, screenwriter, and essayist. His writing is concerned with the hypocrisy and corruption of Peruvian society and politics. Violence is a recurring motif in his work, which Vargas Llosa believes reflects a society "where the social structures are based entirely on a sort of total injustice that extends to all aspects of life." His fictional works are noted for their structural complexity and innovative presentation of both time sequence and narrative structure. Vargas Llosa has collaborated with both José María Gutierrez and Rui Guerra on the screenplay adaptations of their novels. (See also CLC, Vols. 3, 6, 9, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 73-76.)
Wolfgang A. Luchting
[Conversation in the Cathedral] (together with [Vargas Llosa's] earlier novels) is a splendid and admirable proof of how three apparently disparate impulses—moral rage, authorial autoindulgence, and severe discipline—can combine into an harmonic whole of shattering power and icy autonomy. Read anything by Mario Vargas Llosa and you will be amazed by the contrast between the heat of the corruptions or perversions narrated and the formal and linguistic frost glittering over them….
The society described [in Conversation] is one of corruption in virtually all the shapes and spheres you can imagine: products and consequences of a dictatorship and the (human) instruments it employs to perpetuate itself. Yet, the language is—with the exception of a few passages that do not ignite—matter-of-fact, almost flat, without pressures of expression, almost casual—even in the most orgiastic and perverse moments!…
[If] you can name it, Conversation has got it. And pervading it all, pulsating in everything, even in the most perverse parts of the spectrum of Peru's "quality of life," peeping from actions and reflections, there is masochism…. The tone and rhythm of the passages shaping such scenes stay cool. Yet the language never becomes diffuse or imprecise because this technique of a seemingly casual style is the apt expression of the underlying lament in Conversation: horror and...
(The entire section is 940 words.)
José Miguel Oviedo
JOSÉ MIGUEL OVIEDO
[The appearance of military characters] is reiterated with insistence [in the novels of Vargas Llosa], almost in a manic way; they operate by means of saturation and concentration in narrative texts which, on the other hand, appear crammed full of characters, filled to the brim with entire human populations. Among that mass, however, the military stand out with an unmistakable brilliance which is not just that of their uniforms: they are there to tell us something, a great deal, about the author, his imaginary world, the key notions to his intellectual conduct. (p. 16)
What can explain this … seduction by the military and their hierarchies? Why do they captivate the author's imagination? What role do they play in the text and context of his works? In the first place, the world of the military appears to be ruled by the principle of rigor: military structure is a closed structure by nature, with its secret and self-sufficient codes, almost a freemasonry founded on symbols, values and purposes which the rest of society does not share or does not completely know. The military system is thus presented with an aura of prestige before the eyes of civilians and their institutions, whose principal weakness is a lack of unity and internal cohesion, a tendency to dissent. In the name of the sacred principle of order, the military society can always make the Spartan harshness of its rules even more...
(The entire section is 1909 words.)
J. J. Armas Marcelo
[Going] beyond the simple boundaries of a superficial reading of the plot [of The Time of the Hero]—in which "the city" and "the school" appear as the central spaces of the narration—other darker, more profound, more functional and more labyrinthine worlds emphasize the ambiguous characteristic of duplicity (personal, temporal, conceptual and functional), so that the same characteristic will be the center of contradiction, the grounds for two opposite poles, for two strata that fuse together and split apart simultaneously and constantly during the narrative process. This gives rise to a dual structure which is bipolar, oppositive and presented in a clear process of diminution that will continue fragmenting into two halves….
The asymmetry of the formal structure that Vargas Llosa utilizes in the novel has been pointed out with some insistence, as if—on managing as he pleases a great number of technical elements—the arbitrariness of the author exercised complete dominance over it and unbalanced the narrative discourse with marked anarchy…. On the other hand, there are those who point out the constant presence of the author suffocating his creation, the actions of his characters and the way in which episodes and protagonisms are arranged within the novel. Nevertheless, it is here, at this exact point of conceptual confluence, that I see that Mario Vargas Llosa has tried to situate the narrative totality:...
(The entire section is 1282 words.)
José Miguel Oviedo
JOSÉ MIGUEL OVIEDO
If writing about himself, exposing himself as in "una ceremonia parecida al strip tease" (Historia secreta de una novela), is what Vargas Llosa has done up to now under various disguises, then [La tía Julia y el escribidor] constitutes an exercise in boldness and brazenness. Half of La tía Julia is the account of an episode from the writer's youth … and the writer does not even hide behind a character: the protagonist is unmistakably named Varguitas o Marito, which introduces a perturbing element in the work of a novelist who has made Flaubertian objectivity a trademark in his writing. The other half of the novel (that which corresponds to the escribidor of the title) presents the story of Pedro Camacho, a picturesque type who earns his living as a writer of soap operas and whose "texts" are of a morbid and exaggerated unreality.
This bipolar structure (similar to that of La ciudad y los perros [The Time of the Hero]) has an appearance of simplicity at the beginning: a clear contrast between the episodes that we can call "autobiographical" (the odd chapters) and the "imaginary" episodes (the even chapters, with the exception of chapter twenty, and the conclusion), between the private life of one protagonist [Marito], and the outrageous fantasies of another [Camacho], encouraged and shared by a mass audience…. [The] autobiographical part of the novel is...
(The entire section is 681 words.)
Barbara Probst Solomon
Mario Vargas Llosa has the ability to work on many different levels. On the one hand, he can produce a complicated study of Flaubert—"The Perpetual Orgy," published in 1975; on the other hand, he can write an uproariously slapstick novel ["Captain Pantoja and the Special Service"] that reads like a Peruvian "Catch-22" or "M∗A∗S∗H." What Mr. Vargas Llosa borrows from Flaubert is his stylistic technique; in this case, the use of several third-person narrators and the device of making a place his central character: Flaubert's Paris becomes Mr. Vargas Llosa's Peru. Like Flaubert, he is fascinated by the shady role of the intermediary in society, the person who carries out commands and never questions why they are given….
Clearly, Mr. Vargas Llosa is laughing at his native Peru [, satirizing its social clichés and sexual mores.] His wacky novel is well aided by the sleight-of-hand vernacular style of the translators, Gregory Kolovakos and Ronald Christ.
In his earlier, more somber works, "The Green House" and "Conversations in the Cathedral," Mr. Vargas Llosa was also obsessed by a cast of characters that included pimps, whores, shady journalists, scandal and a corrupt military. But neither in those novels nor in the present one are his whores tough Brechtian heroines waiting for the black ship to take revenge against the overstuffed bourgeoisie, nor is Captain Pantoja a rebel "outsider" like Joseph Heller's...
(The entire section is 327 words.)