Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Vargas Llosa has always drawn from personal experience to document the injustices and uncertainties of life in modern Peru. His earliest novels, La ciudad y los perros (1962; Time of the Hero, 1966) and La casa verde (1966; The Green House, 1968), explore themes of repression and corruption in the military academy of his adolescence and a small jungle town of his youth. Conversación en la catedral (1969; Conversation in the Cathedral, 1975) is a panoramic portrait of Peru in the 1940’s and 1950’s under the dictator Manuel Odria. In these early novels, Vargas Llosa began to experiment with an interweaving, nonlinear narrative style.

His next two novels, Pantaleón y las visitadoras (1973; Captain Pantoja and the Special Service, 1978) and La tía Julia y el escribidor (1977; Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, 1982), incorporate humor and farce and draw on the author’s knowledge of military life and the television industry. Both use the technique of incorporating fictional documentary material into the body of the novel.

With La guerra del fin del mundo (1981; The War of the End of the World, 1984) and Historia de Mayta (1984; The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta, 1986), Vargas Llosa returned to his serious, political writing, focusing on turn-of-the-century religious zealotry in Brazil and contemporary radicalism in Peru. For Vargas Llosa, writing is a political act; in 1990, the author ran unsuccessfully for the presidency of Peru. The Storyteller, not surprisingly, gives evidence of the political leader that Vargas Llosa has become, concerned with the larger issues confronting Peruvian government, society, and culture.