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Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord Paperback – March 3, 1998


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Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord + The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman + The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts
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More from Louis De Bernieres
Louis De Bernieres's novels capture personal lives and history with prose that is both lyrical and earnest. Visit Amazon's Louis De Bernieres Page.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (March 3, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375700145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375700149
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #978,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Louis de Bernières is a masterful writer, which is to say his command of the various crafts of writing--creating character, innovative description, telling a whopping good story--weaves a spell and sucks you into the magic. From the moment Dionisio Vivo and Ramón "Cochinillo" Dario attend to the cravate corpse deposited in his garden by the coca lords, you become ensconced in the world of Ipasueño, its passions, ironies, and political intrigues, and cease to be aware of the hand of Bernières behind the scenes.

Dionisio, a professor of philosophy, writes a series of letters, published in the prestigious journal La Prensa, castigating the coca trade, and from there the story spins furiously in many directions and subplots. There's the love affair of the century between Dionisio and Anica Moreno, Lazaro's tragic dance with leprosy, and--to the great pleasure of fans of Bernières's previous novel, The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts--further interactions with the magical jaguars and human inhabitants of Cochadebajo de los Gatos. Events take their course in the way of a grand tragicomedy, with the devastation that's expected followed by the irrepressible joy of life that's never expected and Bernières's tongue-in-cheek touch throughout.

It's a delightfully mesmerizing book. Set in a mythical South American country that's a composite of real South American history and Bernières's fertile imagination, and therefore a perfect companion to take on a south-of-the-border vacation, the book is awash in the realities and flavor of South America and the lunacies of Bernières's genius. --Stephanie Gold

From Publishers Weekly

The wild satire and inventive fantasy that marked de Bernieres' first novel, The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts, reverberate through this audacious story of drug trafficking, corruption, love and murder. In an unnamed South American country resembling Colombia, Dionisio Vivo, a fearless philosophy professor who exposes the country's illegal coca trade in a letter-writing campaign to a leading newspaper, miraculously evades repeated assassination attempts. But his best friend, Ramon, a policeman, and his sweetheart, Anica, who is sexually assaulted by the drug baron's goons, do not escape the cocaine cartel's wrath. Dionisio, who converses telepathically with animals and walks everywhere accompanied by two black jaguars, takes his revenge in a series of events by turns ribald, surreal, horrific, uproarious and tragic. The supernatural constantly intrudes on a landscape of cruel poverty, as exemplified by Father Garcia, a levitating priest, and Lazaro, a hermaphroditic leper cured by a sorcerer. Yet de Bernieres, who lives in London, makes us keenly aware of the drug trade's corrosive effects on a society where drive-by murders are commonplace.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Louis de Bernieres was awarded the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book Eurasia Region in 1991 and 1992, and for Best Book in 1995. He was selected by Granta as one of the twenty Best of Young British Novelists in 1993, and lives in Norfolk, East Anglia.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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See all 27 customer reviews
This was extremely fun to read.
Dick Johnson
His "magical realism" makes each of the stories more real and the characters deeper and more alive.
Rita Sasso
He is, at this point, probably my favorite contemporary English writer.
Reid W. Wyatt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 18, 1998
Format: Paperback
Another impressive book from De Bernieres, though I don't believe anything can match the magnificence of Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Scenes of tender devotion between Dio' and Anica jostle for space among farcial Presidential memos, the letters forming the coca crusade and, finally; descriptions of truly stomach-churning torture, in a narrative that hares off in a bewildering number of sub-plots. Initially rather bewildering, all threads are satisfactorily woven together and in the process, De Bernieres creates a host of engaging, if somewhat surreal, characters. Episodes of grisly violence alternate with teasing and banter and the novel succeeds as escapist entertainment as all works of fiction should. However, in the matter of fact accounts of Lazaro's death by fire and Anica's rape and mutiliation, De Bernieres reminds us that Latin America's drug wars are alive and well and exist outside of the pages of this first-rate novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Petralia on September 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
Writing in the mystical style of South American novelists, Louis de Bernieres creates a story that is hilarious and horrific, sadistic and sad, colorful, fantastic, illuminating, beautiful, mythical and brutal, tragi-comedy and allegorical love story of Columbia.

Senor Vivo, professor of philosophy, unlikely adversary, and Everyman, finds himself the target of retaliation by the brutish drug lord, El Jerarca, who has moved into the area. Vivo's audacious acts of heroism, in the form of anonymous letters to the editor of the newspaper calling for the expulsion of the drug trade, have been exposed--by his own father. Such is life in this lawless South American country.

His friend, policeman Ramon Dario, who invokes an ongoing series of philosophical commentaries on Dionisio's quest, urges him to save himself, but to no avail. Infused with myth and magic, the story of Lazaro moves in parallel toward each man's confrontation with El Jerarca.

In this imaginary country, inept, corrupt government, debauched leaders, tangled bureaucracy, and ridiculous laws all fail the People. Women are routinely violated and gangsters lauded for their "good works." Within the descriptive narration de Bernieres also comments on: the impact of American trash on ocean pollution, the vagaries of direct translation of slang, the corruption of Catholicism, patterns of promiscuity, and the impact of language on the social history of a country.

Can this nation be saved? Dionisio and his female followers believe it can. If, as a reporter quotes at the end of the book, "Journalism is to a large extent responsible for the formation of our National Being," then de Bernieres' is writing to us all.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dick Johnson VINE VOICE on January 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The hilarity continues. This trilogy starts with "The War of don Emmanuel's Nether Parts" and after Senor Vivo continues with "The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman". Be sure to read them in order! Oh how I love the cats, and I'm NOT a cat person! This blend of fact, fiction, magical realism and social commentary is marvelously mixed with larger than life characters.

The book's description above does a good job of introducing the book. This was extremely fun to read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on August 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
Latin America has spent decades struggling to break the chains of residual colonialism. While North Americans can rejoice in casting off hereditary monarchy, Latin America has been gripped by a far stronger and enduring set of bonds - culture and tradition. When Spain ruled these lands, great haciendas, usually built on royal land grants, were ruled by titled aristocrats using armed vaqueros and the Church to maintain social quiet. Today, it's drug lords and paramilitary squads but the structure has changed little. While an established anti-establishment stable of writers in Latin America have mildly flourished [those that have survived], de Bernieres intrudes as an outsider to bring a fresh, vivid and disturbing view of this society. His imagination is boundless and his capacity to impart his visions is peerless.

Vivo Dionisio is a philosophy teacher - young, vibrant and, of course, idealistic. He's also articulate, which leads him to pepper the great newspaper, La Prensa, with complaints about the drug lords. In particular, the local padrino, El Jerarca. An obtuse, obese, and overbearing man, he views Senor Vivo as a threat to his hegemony. Most powerful men in such societies can dominate the local police. Here, however El Jerarca must contend with a philosopher police chief, Ramon. While Ramon is powerless to deal with the drug czar, he is anything but submissive. He cheerfully retrieves the corpses El Jerarca's men leave in Dionisio's front yard, hoping to find a niche in the drug lord's armour. Dionisio may provide the key - if he survives.

Dionisio, however, has many interests. Among the most demanding is his new-found love, Anica.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. C. Bailey on January 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
Since first reviewing "Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord" for Amazon my opinion has changed substantially, and it is only fair to pass this on.
I stand by my original thought that this book suffers from the post-modernity malaise: The author has brought together almost too many ideas, styles and techniques in the service of his agenda - at certain points these tend to obscure rather than clarify things. However, the depth of the message and the beauty of its expression have become clearer over time.
The message is simultaneously uplifting and painful: There is a grim symbiosis that unites corrupt and stupid governments with drugs and arms dealers in a feeding frenzy that destroys not just people but civilisation itself. Love and justice can be victorious, but only the kind of love that has more to do with self-sacrifice than romance, and only the kind of justice that is prepared to confront evil regardless of the cost. It's a profound but painful truth that only that strange hybrid of Marxism and Christianity called "Liberation Theology" has succeeded in developing systematically.
The book's principal stylistic flourish is "magical realism", a formula familiar to readers of Garcia Marquez and others. This piece of lit. crit. jargon means simply that magical events are an integral part of the plot, but, this being the world of po-mo, it only happens to make a point. In other words, the author does not require you to suspend disbelief as would be the case in a conventional magic story.
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