Book Review / Shining path of decency
DEATH IN THE ANDES by Mario Vargas Llosa trs Edith Grossman, Faber pounds 15.99
Sunday 30 June 1996
As in the previous book, the "mystery" element - in this case the disappearance of three men - is to some extent a McGuffin. Like Leonardo Sciascia (and unlike Friedrich Durrenmatt or Alain Robbe-Grillet) Vargas Llosa understands and respects the rules of the crime genre, but his real interest is not in solutions but in the insoluble - even the unspeakable. There are scenes in this book which are likely to haunt your dreams for some considerable time to come, and their power is enhanced by the knowledge that it is all, in the vulgar sense, true. Anyone who doubts this should read "The Story of a Massacre", which has just been republished in Making Waves (Faber pounds 20), a splendid anthology of Vargas Llosa's occasional pieces translated by John King, but unfortunately defaced by a portrait of the author which manages to make this most distinguished of literary figures look like a Martin Amis inflatable at bursting point.
In the end, Lituma does indeed find out what happened to the three missing men, but the result is not a sense of closure and a return to normality but a vision of a heart of darkness which even Conrad might have balked at, only slightly mitigated by the fact that the gun which has been hanging on the wall for three acts fails to go off. The expected descent of the Sendero Luminoso death squads never materialises, Lituma gets promotion and a transfer, and his lovelorn adjutant is reunited with the woman of his dreams. One is left with the feeling that in the last resort Vargas Llosa is just too decent to follow the logic of his concept through to the bleak conclusion it seems to demand - just as, perhaps, he was too decent to become President of the country about which he writes with a horrified fascination, which ultimately seems more characteristic of the foreigner than the native.
There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turningTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
- 2 Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 4 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 5 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Downton Abbey fans unimpressed by Kindle sponsorship adverts
Thomas Heatherwick creates gin palace with a fantastical Willy Wonka vibe
Cilla, episode 2, ITV, review: Sheridan Smith continues to shine
Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned PR disaster
The Lion King becomes biggest grossing musical ever
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God