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The Feast of the Goat Hardcover – November 13, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

Mario Vargas Llosa, a former candidate for the presidency of Peru, is better placed than most novelists to write about the machinations of Latin American politics. In The Feast of the Goat he offers a vivid re-creation of the Dominican Republic during the final days of General Rafael Trujillo's insidious and evil regime. Told from several viewpoints, the book has three distinctive, alternating strands. There is Urania Cabral, the daughter of Trujillo's disgraced secretary of state, who has returned to Santo Domingo after more than 30 years. Now a successful New York lawyer, Urania has never forgiven her aging and paralyzed father, Agustín, for literally sacrificing her to the carnal despot in the hope of regaining his political post. Flipping back to May of 1961, there is a group of assassins, all equally scarred by Trujillo, waiting to gun the Generalissimo down. Finally there is an astonishing portrait of Trujillo--the Goat--and his grotesque coterie. Llosa depicts Trujillo as a villain of Shakespearean proportions. He is a preening, macho dandy who equates his own virility with the nation's health. An admirer of Hitler "not for his ideas but for the way he wore a uniform" (fittingly he equips his secret police force with a fleet of black Volkswagen Beetles), Trujillo even has his own Himler in Colonel Abbes Garcia, a vicious torturer with a predilection for the occult.

As the novel edges toward Trujillo's inevitable murder, Urania's story gets a bit lost in the action; the remaining narratives however, are rarely short of mesmerizing. Trujillo's death unleashes a new order, but not the one expected by the conspirators. Enslaved by the soul of the dead chief, neither they nor the Trujillo family--who embark on a hideous spree of bloody reprisals--are able to fill the void. Llosa has them all skillfully outmaneuvered by the puppet-president Joaquín Belaguer, a former poet who is the very antithesis of the machismo Goat. Savage, touching, and bleakly funny, this compelling book gives an all too human face to one of Latin America's most destructive tyrants. --Travis Elborough,

From Publishers Weekly

"This wasn't an enemy he could defeat like the hundreds, the thousands he had confronted and conquered over the years, buying them, intimidating them, killing them." So thinks Rafael Trujillo, "the Goat," dictator of the Dominican Republic, on the morning of May 30, 1961 a day that will end in his assassination. The "enemy" is old age at 70, Trujillo, who has always prided himself on his grooming and discipline, is shaken by bouts of incontinence and impotence. Vargas Llosa divides his narrative between three different story lines. The first concerns Urania Cabral, the daughter of one of Trujillo's closest associates, Agustín Cabral. She is 14 at the time of the Trujillo assassination and, as we gradually discover, was betrayed by her father to Trujillo. Since then, she has lived in the U.S. At 49, she impulsively returns on a visit and slowly reveals the root of her alienation. Urania's character is a little too pat, however. Vargas Llosa's triumph is Trujillo's story. We follow the sly, vile despot, with his petty rages, his lust, his dealings with his avaricious family, through his last day, with mingled feelings of repulsion and awe. Like Stalin, Trujillo ruled by turning his rage without warning against his subordinates. Finally, Vargas Llosa crosscuts Urania's story and Trujillo's with that of Trujillo's assassins; first, as they wait to ambush him, and then as they are tracked down, captured and tortured to death, with almost medieval ferocity, by Trujillo's son, Ramfis. Gathering power as it rolls along, this massive, swift-moving fictional take on a grim period in Dominican history shows that Vargas Llosa is still one of the world's premier political novelists. (Nov.)Forecast: Vargas Llosa is on solid ground with The Day of the Goat, mining a rich vein. The former Peruvian presidential candidate's author tour should attract crowds, and a striking jacket will seduce browsers.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (November 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374154767
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374154769
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,605 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on April 1, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rafael Trujillo ruled the Dominican Republic with an iron hand from 1930 to 1961. His cruelty and brutality could sentence people to disgrace, torture or death on a whim. His lust for power and women was insatiable, and a climate of fear was everywhere. Mario Vargas Llosa, the prize winning Peruvian author knows his subject well. And in this novel, he uses his best storytelling talents to recreate that harsh time in history when ruthlessness ruled. The known facts are all there, re-interpreted by the author to facilitate our understanding of what it must have been like to live through those awful times. And the few fictional characters are there to help tell the story.
The story is told through three different viewpoints. The first is set in the present day, when a middle-aged female attorney who has lived in the United States since the age of 14, returns to the Dominican Republic. She's full of anger at her invalid father who was once an official in Trujillo's government, and it is only at the very end of the book that we understand why. But as she meets her relatives and finally lets them hear her personal story, two other compelling narratives are taking place in alternating chapters which are set in 1961.
The reader gets a chance to see into the mind's eye of Rafael Trujillo himself. He's 70 years old now. Always immaculately well groomed, he's embarrassed by bouts of incontinence. And he's also finding it difficult to consummate his erotic encounters with young women. He's upset about these matters, but his mind is razor sharp, deeply involved in the political intrigues that are his forte, and able to force his underlings to shiver in terror at the whims of his disfavor.
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Roy E. Perry on December 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
If you think a novel about the Trujillo Era (1930-61) in the Dominican Republic would be boring, think again. Mario Vargas Llosa's THE FEAST OF THE GOAT is a work of literary brilliance.
"Literature is fire," writes Vargas Llosa, a writer touted by critics to become the next Spanish-American writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, and his latest novel radiates with the incendiary heat of Machiavellian politics, sexual obsession, and bestial brutality.
To the inhabitants of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina was known as Chief, Generalissimo, the Benefactor, the Father of the New Nation, and His Excellency. To his enemies, Trujillo was the Beast and the Goat.
For more than three decades, Trujillo ruled the Dominican Republic with an iron fist. He had cut the Gordian knot of the "Haitian problem" by having between 10,000 and 15,000 Haitians slaughtered.
In 1961, writes Vargas Llosa, "the country had touched bottom, placed under quarantine because of the excesses of a regime which, although in the past it had performed services that could never be repaid, had degenerated into a tyranny that provoked universal revulsion."
On the mild, starry night of Tuesday, May 30, 1961, the 70-year-old Trujillo, suffering from bouts of incontinence and impotence, was being driven from his palace in Ciudad Trujillo (Santo Domingo de Guzman) to his Mahogany House in San Cristobal, for another of his orgies--"to prove again he was a man." On the highway to San Cristobal, seven men stationed in three cars lay in ambush to assassinate him.
THE FEAST OF THE GOAT has three storylines:
(1) The story of Urania Cabral, now 49, who returns to the Dominican Republic in 1996, after 35 years absence from her homeland.
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Julio Belen-Publicist on November 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Mario Varlgas Llosa is easily on my personal list of all-time Great Latin American Authors. I have been an avid fan for quite some time and have read several of his masterpieces: La ciudad y los perros (1960), the novel that launched his literary career and caused a sensation in the literary world when it was published ... and initiated the second phase of the "boom" in Latin American literature; la casa verde (1964); Conversacion en la Catedral (1964); and La verdad de las mentiras (1990). The current THE FEAST OF THE GOAT (La Fiesta del Chivo) is written with an insurmountable rhythm and precision that is classic Vargas Llosa. Those of us who lived during the unbelievably nightmarish Tujillo Era and in the ghoulish shadow of the Dictador under Balaguer (especially the infamous "12 Years") recall all too well the ruthlessness of this beast. The author handles ingeniously the characterizations and events of the period. And therein lies the mastery of this political-socially astute and innovative writer: his expanded concept of reality and his precepts about literature being born of a reality that is actually lived. This story is powerful. In honestly, however, I take serious issue with Vargas Llosa in that he does not give appropriate credit to a few present-day Dominican literary giants like Frank Moya Pons, Bernardo Vega, Roberto Cassa, and Jose Michel Cordero ... for their already published, widely respected historical research [upon which most every writer draws for accurate historical perspective] on the subject. Only a Vargas Llosa, I suppose, has the literary supremacy to pull it off so cleverly. Nevertheless, this is a novel that will enlighten the reader about the last days of the Trujillo Era and the psyche of "el Chivo"...goat. Pay very close attention to the quite, unassuming poet-president. Vargas Llosa is a priceless literary treasure.
Alan Cambeira
Author of AZUCAR! The Story of Sugar (a novel)
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