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Death in the Andes: A Novel Paperback – October 2, 2007

4 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ancient and modern horrors mingle in Vargas Llosa's somber yet oddly zestful novel, the most direct examination the Peruvian writer has made of his nation's complex political problems since The War of the End of the World and The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta. At a remote location in the Andes, Civil Guards Lituma and Carre?o investigate the disappearance of three men, two of whom were laborers on a highway project that will likely never be finished due to the region's increasing political volatility. Sendero Luminoso guerrillas have attacked several nearby towns; in a chilling early chapter, they stone to death two French tourists unwise enough to travel through the area. The Sendero Luminoso's activities?and Carre?o's casual aside acknowledging that the Civil Guard has committed atrocities in return?create an atmosphere of menace that is further compounded by the officers' inability to communicate with the sullen and hostile seruchos. These mountain people treat the easygoing Lituma "as if he came from Mars." Indeed, affluent coastal Peru might as well be Mars to the sierra's impoverished Indians, who prove less receptive to the guerrillas' Marxist sloganeering than to the blandishments of a mysterious local couple who may have instigated sinister rites with links to those involving pre-Columbian human sacrifice. If Vargas Llosa is making a point about the eternal, intractable nature of violence in Latin America, it is so buried as to be virtually invisible. No matter: his vigorous storytelling and intriguingly complex structure?past and present mingle in the intertwined narratives of various characters?offer ample satisfaction without any overt message.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

People have been mysteriously disappearing in the remote mining communities of the Andes, where the inhabitants are more likely to speak the Incan language Quechua than Spanish. Some blame the heavily armed bands of teenage Sendero Luminoso guerrillas that periodically descend on the villages to conduct mock trials and execute "imperialist lackeys." Others blame the equally bloodthirsty government troops. Danish anthropologist Paul Stirmsson suspects that some of the recent victims may have been killed in ritual sacrifices to appease pre-Columbian gods and demons. A witch named Dona Adriana and her husband, Dionisio, whose drunken antics recall the Dionysian revels of Greek antiquity, are the prime suspects. The author (In Praise of the Stepmother, LJ 9/1/90) makes no attempt to assess the Senderistas in political terms. Instead, he offers a sort of Diane Arbus portrait gallery of rural Peru, set in an entertaining detective novel format. For larger fiction collections.
Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law School Lib., Los Angeles
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1st edition (October 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312427255
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312427252
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #448,343 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Wischmeyer on May 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
Death in the Andes is a story of brutality and fear and ignorance. The language is often coarse and vulgar. The ending is especially disturbing. Were it not for the remarkable writing of Mario Vargas Llosa, I might have put this unsettling story aside. But Mario Vargas Llosa is a captivating story teller and I found myself wanting to know more and more about his characters that inhabit the harsh mountains of Peru.
The reader encounters alternating viewpoints and layered conversations that intermingle the present and the past, forcing the reader to remain alert. Death in the Andes is structurally a mystery story in which two soldiers assigned to a barren outpost investigate the disappearance of three men. The brutal Shining Path terrorists (the Senderistas) are the natural suspect, but Corporal Lituma also mistrusts both the townspeople (largely traditional Indians) and the construction work crew building a highway across the mountains. Initially, he has little patience for talk of the pishtacos, vampire-like humans that sucked the blood and ate the melted the fat of their victims.
There are stories within stories. Young French tourists are stoned to death, rather than shot, to save bullets, and to permit others to take part in the killing. In fascination we listen to a lonely young man describe his improbable love of a prostitute. We witness a village turning upon itself and selecting victims for the Senderistas. We meet an aged, repulsive woman who in her youth helped kill a pishtacos. We gain a nebulous understanding as to why Peruvians and foreigners involved in re-forestation programs and nature preserves become prime targets for assassination.

I have already begun to read Death in the Andes again and I am searching for more writings by Mario Vargas Llosa.
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Format: Paperback
Mario Vargas Llosa does an excellent job in capturing many of the dilemnas and controversies which face modern Peru in "Death in the Andes". He does an masterful job in presenting the military, insurgents, (Sendero Luminoso), and also the native peasants and farmers of the country. The reader really feels the emotions and experiences of the characters in the story. The violence, brutality and pain of life of many in Peru comes across clearly in this tale. Vargas Llosa weaves the narratives of three characters and also experiments with shifting between different periods of time during the course of the novel. His writing style in this work is very straightforward and clear. The book reads quite quickly and easily. If one enjoys the work of Gabriel García Márquez or a great story in general, they will enjoy "Death in the Andes".
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Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa continues to speak out politically in yet another realistic and uncompromising novel set in his home country of Peru. In this novel, he brings the reader face to face with the horrors of the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), a Maoist terror group operating in the mountains of Peru from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s, with seemingly few direct challenges from the government. The novel’s sense of immediacy, enhanced by vivid descriptions of real events affecting real people, provides a close-up look at the tactics used by the Shining Path in the central and southern mountains of Peru, where they attacked indigenous Indian peasants, all foreigners, all educated Peruvians working to improve the lives of the peasants, and anyone representing the government or police.

The novel opens with an old woman, arriving at a rural Garda station to say that her husband, a foreman on a road-building crew, has disappeared. His is the third unsolved disappearance from their small mountain village in the past three weeks. Local peasants, farmers, laborers, and Indians have provided no information to the two Garda officers, Cpl. Lituma and Tomasito, his assistant, and both men worry that they are surrounded by the terrorists they are there to monitor. Tomasito himself has escaped to the mountains to avoid death at the hands of a mob leader for whom he had recently been a bodyguard – until he fell in love with his boss’s girlfriend.

Without transition, the narrative suddenly shifts to a pair of adventuresome but naïve French tourists traveling through the Andes by bus. Even after masked men stop their bus, they believe that nothing can happen to them because “We are French tourists, senor.” Other story lines also evolve and broaden the scope.
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Format: Paperback
DEATH IN THE ANDES is a suspenseful and explosive story about the political and social landscape of Peru in the 1990's. Corporal Lituma and his deputy Tomas are assigned to a remote area of the Andes to oversee a road crew. When three men are reported missing, everyone becomes edgy. Lituma sets out to solve the mystery, but soon finds himself overrun with more questions than answers.
Told in a mosaic of voices, from Lituma to two hapless French tourists to the proprietor of the local cantina, the real mystery is the Peruvian people and their survival in the harsh terrain of the Andes amid guerrillas, poverty, political uncertainty, and superstition. Llosa delivers this story with an unflinching honesty that will keep you turning pages, horrified and yet unable to turn away.
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