Critical Context

The Time of the Hero, Vargas Llosa’s first full-length novel, was also his first commercial success. The book was published when the author was not yet thirty, yet its favorable reception by critics and public alike placed Vargas Llosa—along with Julio Cortázar and Carlos Fuentes—in the mainstream of the exciting wave of Latin American fiction of the 1960’s and 1970’s known as the “Boom.” In this novel the author experiments, rather successfully, with a number of literary techniques; he uses multiple narrators, flashbacks, fragmented time sequences, introspective monologues, breaks in the structure of the narration, all of which contribute to make this book a complex work of literature whose story line is that of a rather simple Bildungsroman. Although the figure of the writer appears in this novel, represented by the Poet, Vargas Llosa has not yet begun to explore the role of the writer in the creation of reality and the relationship between reality and fiction, themes that will become central to some of his future celebrated novels, such as La tía Julia y el escribidor (1977; Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, 1982) and La guerra del fin del mundo (1981; The War of the End of the World, 1984).

Vargas Llosa has also been a prolific writer outside the area of fiction. He has established a reputation as an erudite and respected literary critic and has been a frequent contributor to important news and cultural publications throughout the world. He has become one of the most important novelists, in any language, of the last quarter of the twentieth century and a most likely recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature.