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Conversation in the Cathedral Paperback – February 1, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Spanish (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Mario Vargas Llosa, uno de los más destacados novelistas contemporáneos latinoamericanos, se lanzó a la fama con su novela La ciudad y los perros que obtuvo el Premio Biblioteca Breve y el Premio de la Crítica. Novelas posteriores son, entre otras, La casa verde (Premio de la Crítica y Premio Internacional de Literatura Rómulo Gallegos), Conversación en La Catedral, La guerra del fin del mundo y Lituma en los Andes con la que obtuvo el Premio Planeta 1993. Ha publicado también obras teatrales, ensayos y memorias. En 1986 compartió con Rafael Lapesa el Premio Príncipe de Asturias de las Letras y en 1994 se le concedió el Premio Miguel de Cervantes de Literatura.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (February 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060732806
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060732806
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

MARIO VARGAS LLOSA was born in Arequipa, Peru, in 1936. In 1958 he earned a scholarship to study in Madrid, and later he lived in Paris. His first story collection, The Cubs and Other Stories, was published in 1959. Vargas Llosa's reputation grew with the publication in 1963 of The Time of the Hero, a controversial novel about the politics of his country. The Peruvian military burned a thousand copies of the book. He continued to live abroad until 1980, returning to Lima just before the restoration of democratic rule.

A man of politics as well as literature, Vargas Llosa served as president of PEN International from 1977 to 1979, and headed the government commission to investigate the massacre of eight journalists in the Peruvian Andes in 1983.

Vargas Llosa has produced critical studies of García Márquez, Flaubert, Sartre, and Camus, and has written extensively on the roots of contemporary fiction. For his own work, he has received virtually every important international literary award. Vargas Llosa's works include The Green House (1968) and Conversation in the Cathedral (1975), about which Suzanne Jill Levine for The New York Times Book Review said: "With an ambition worthy of such masters of the 19th-century novel as Balzac, Dickens and Galdós, but with a technical skill that brings him closer to the heirs of Flaubert and Henry James . . . Mario Vargas Llosa has [created] one of the largest narrative efforts in contemporary Latin American letters." In 1982, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter to broad critical acclaim. In 1984, FSG published the bestselling The War of the End of the World, winner of the Ritz Paris Hemingway Award. The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta was published in 1986. The Perpetual Orgy, Vargas Llosa's study of Flaubert and Madame Bovary, appeared in the winter of 1986, and a mystery, Who Killed Palomino Molero?, the year after. The Storyteller, a novel, was published to great acclaim in 1989. In 1990, FSG published In Praise of the Stepmother, also a bestseller. Of that novel, Dan Cryer wrote: "Mario Vargas Llosa is a writer of promethean authority, making outstanding fiction in whatever direction he turns" (Newsday).

In 1990, Vargas Llosa ran for the presidency of his native Peru. In 1994, FSG published his memoir, A Fish in the Water, in which he recorded his campaign experience. In 1994, Vargas Llosa was awarded the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's most distinguished literary honor, and, in 1995, the Jerusalem Prize, which is awarded to writers whose work expresses the idea of the freedom of the individual in society. In 1996, Death in the Andes, Vargas Llosa's next novel, was published to wide acclaim. Making Waves, a collection of his literary and political essays, was published in 1997; The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto, a novel, was published in 1998; The Feast of the Goat, which sold more than 400,000 copies in Spanish-language, was published in English in 2001; The Language of Passion, his most recent collection of nonfiction essays on politics and culture, was published by FSG in June 2003. The Way to Paradise, a novel, was published in November 2003; The Bad Girl, a novel, was published in the U.S. by FSG in October, 2007. His most recent novel, El Sueño del Celta, will be published in 2011 or 2012. Two works of nonfiction are planned for the near future as well.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is what the main character, Zavalita, and the author, try to find out in the book: how, when, where, why, Latin America went wrong. It is a political, social and personal novel. Without a clear answer, of course, Vargas Llosa boldly exposes before our eyes the crap, the misery, the injustice and the depravation that rule life in most parts of our continent. He is unsparing, cruel and realistic. The lives of Santiago Zavala and Ambrosio Pardo meet time and again through a conversation in "The Cathedral", a bar in Lima, Peru. As they tell to each other their stories, they tell the story of Peru in those years. Zavalita is an upper-middle class journalist, the son of a politician, who resigns his social position for idealistic reasons. He is a loser because he refuses to fit in a world like that, where in order to succeed you have to be a part of corruption, pervertion, and immorality. He prefers to be marginalized and isolated.
To tell a chaotic story, Vargas Llosa uses a complex style: jumps in time, different voices from separated times speaking simultaneously. But it is not a hard reading, once you get used to it. The author is superb at eliciting suspense, progressive revelations that give an additional clue into the whole picture. It is fascinating how he reproduces the way people talk in an informal conversation at a bar. Think about it and try to remember your conversations with friends, when sharing a complex story.
If the style is great, the substance is chilling: it is a glimpse into the reality most of us refuse to acknowledge. Wherever you live, you will recognize people in almost every character. While MVLL is an excellent writer, this is definitely one of his best. It is certainly one of my favorite novels of all times, and I strongly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a great novel. At the beginning I found it a little hard to follow the story but once I got used to the author's narrative style, I was spellbound.
It is just amazing how much knowledge the author (in his early 30s when he wrote this novel) displays about Peruvian, and by extent Latin American, society and people's psychology, especially those in positions of power (since this is also a political novel).
The narrative revolves around the story of Zabalita, a journalist from an upper middle class background. Zabalita is essentially a rebel and idealist who renounces fortune and fame out of both political/ideological convictions and parental resentments. His own personal family deceptions and disappointments are somehow projected onto the whole Peruvian society (it is hard to tell the author from his personage).
As it turns out, Zabalita's misfortune is that the vices he resents in his family (his father is an important politician) are inextricably linked to those the author very ably depicts as taking place in Peruvian society as a whole. The author skillfully depicts this reality throughout the novel by showing us his other characters with all their vices; here we have the opportunistic, corrupt, deceitful and immoral politicians.
Vargas Llosa greatly succeeds in narrating Zabalita's misfortune and gaining adepts in his readers (at least in my case) to Zabalita's cause. The climax of the novel comes towards the end of the book when Zabalita and the reader are revealed the darkest secrets of Zabalita's father. This is the climax towards which the novel inexorably unfolded starting with the initial conversations, between Zabalita and one of the main protagonists, in the bar "The Cathedral".
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Format: Paperback
Conversation in the Cathedral is a novel of power and politics in 1950s Peru. Two of the main characters meet in an inexpensive restaurant (the "cathedral" of the title) and spend the afternoon conversing about the past. The novel is, for the most part, encapsulated within their conversation, although we are occasionally reminded of some events accessible only to the omniscient narrator.
While somewhat unusual, the structure of Conversation in the Cathedral is most impressive. The vast bulk of the book is dialogue, and a common occurrence is for different dialogues to be interlaced at the level of the sentence with no overt marking in a kind of point and counterpoint. There also exists an hierarchical layering, with events described in individual conversations recounted within the meta-conversation that spans the entire novel.
The narrative includes many jumps in time, with significant events that take place in the middle of the story often not being recounted until near the end of the book. The result is an almost "fractal" narrative, but one that is singularly impressive.
Despite its somewhat complicated structure, Conversation in the Cathedral has an irresistible feeling of movement and once readers become used to Vargas Llosa's sophisticated style, the book becomes more than engrossing. Conversation in the Cathedral also presents the clearest picture of exactly how a Latin American military dictatorship actually works.
While all of Vargas Llosa's books rate five stars, Conversation in the Cathedral is certainly his most impressive.
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