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The Storyteller: A Novel Paperback – November 3, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 245 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1 edition (November 3, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312420285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312420284
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #227,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author's moral conscience and political consciousness (at one point he considered running for the presidency of Peru) are evidenced in this slim volume, less conventional novel than a blend of memoir, folklore and polemic. The narrator tells of his college friend Saul Zuratas, a man obsessed with preserving the culture of the Machiguengas, a tiny, isolated Indian tribe threatened both by rapacious rubber barons destroying the Amazon jungle and the missionaries who want to bring the Machiguengas into the 20th century. Saul, called Mascarita because of a disfiguring facial birthmark, and doubly an outsider because he is a Jew, has a particular sensitivity to this primitive tribe that seeks to live peacefully with the natural world. The narrative alternates the story of Saul's obsession with chapters relating the Machiguengas' myths, stories handed down by the hablador , or storyteller. Through a remarkable coincidence, the narrator discovers that the mystery surrounding the habladores can be traced to Saul, who has found his destiny among the tribe. Written in the direct, precise, often vernacular prose that Vargas Llosa embues with elegance and sophistication, this is a powerful call to the author's compatriots--and to other nations--to cease despoiling the environment.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In his dazzling new novel, Vargas Llosa (whose works include The War of the End of the World ) shows that "story-telling can be something more than mere entertainment." In alternating chapters, he tells the story of Saul Zuratas, a Peruvian Jew who becomes an habladore (storyteller) to the Machiguengas--a tribe still wandering the Amazon jungle--and the tribe's stories themselves. The examination of the roles of anthropologists and ecologists in preserving the integrity of native societies is here explicit, and the good reader reaps the rewards of a novel that tackles major political issues as it fulfills the basic human need to tell and hear stories. A well-written work, demanding that we think about the results of acculturation and ecological disaster.
- Vincent D. Balitas, Allentown Coll., Center Valley, Pa.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Although I learned a lot about Peruvian natives, there was too much information and not enough story or plot.
M. Oja
Taking us from Florence to Peru's urban and jungle life in a single bound, the author gives us a friend's devotion, and a people's insular lore.
Amazon Customer
I really wanted to skip over them, but sensing that the thread of the main story would be lost, I plodded through.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Anne R. Markham on June 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
Part mystery, part fictional biography, part travelogue, part ethnological study, this intriguing tale draws the reader into its onion-like structure. A Peruvian scholar has set himself several academic tasks to be accomplished in Florence, Italy, where he has traveled for a respite from his homeland. While there the narrator discovers a gallery exhibiting photographs of the same Amazonian tribe, the Machiguenga, that he had visited years earlier and never forgotten. One photograph fascinates him, driving him to decipher the story of the storyteller depicted in shadow. As the narrator traces the history of his college friend, Saul Zuratas, who has not been heard from since he allegedly emigrated to Israel many years earlier, the reader is reminded of Joseph Conrad's narrator Marlow, who recounts the tale of his friend Kurtz, who also disappears into the jungle. The novel explores the evolution of an individual from contemporary Latin American urban life to tribal life in the jungle, as he becomes so obsessed by the tribe that in time he undergoes a conversion. Gradually he changes from his role as an ethnologist studying Machiguenga culture and passionately supporting its preservation to a role as one of the tribes's central figures, a "talker." Issues of cultural and environmental integrity, of what is "primitive" versus "advanced," and of what modern society truly offers in a setting in which the environment and its inhabitants have successfully coexisted for thousands of years, are treated with great intelligence and sensitivity.Read more ›
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
Having lived in Latin America, and being Jewish, I was amazed at Vargas Llosa's ability to describe his 'friend' - a Peruvian Jew from a small town, who moves to Lima with his father, but who cannot fit in, no matter where he goes. A brilliant student, who refuses to accept a grant to study in Europe. Instead, he turns his back on academia and on everything he knows to move permanently to the Amazon and live in a nomadic fashion with a tribe. He takes on the role as their 'storyteller'; and he is finally able to find his place in the world. What impressed me the most is the author's ability to describe the inability of this minority within a minority - a Jew from a small town in Peru - to be able to fit in anywhere. The author has a tremendous insight and sensitivity re: Jewish people generally, particularly Jews in Latin America, and the plight of the main character in particular. I have not read anything quite like this book. I highly recommend it. It is also wonderful how he weaves actual Indian myths into the story.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Carrie D. Snell on October 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
The Storyteller hypnotized me with its rhythmic myths of the Machinguenga storytellers. I was captivated with the imagined scene of gathering around a fire with a group of entranced people listening to the calming lilt of the voice of the storyteller and the comfortingly familiar (to them) stories of Tasurinchi. I could really imagine what it would be like to feel that this was important in their lives. The storyteller was like a medicine man or a shaman whose words were like a healing balm for a people who felt misplaced in the world as it was becoming for them. Mascarita had the soul of a storyteller because he perhaps carried an unconscious identification with his ancestors who wandered as nomads in the desert; a people with no permanent home. For this and many other reasons, he understood what it meant to have no solid ground on which to stand.

Is it better for an anthropologist, as one who studies other cultures, to keep an academic distance from the people who are his subjects? How far should participant observation be taken? Saul Zuratas took it all the way. He abandoned the modern world and joined with a culture that was trying to avoid being assimilated into the world of zombies. The Machinguenga is a culture that is deeply imbued with meaning in every area. Globalization says that progress is king. If a `traditional' culture is impacted by global culture, that is just part of life. Do we hold `traditional' cultures back by wanting them to stay frozen in the past? Or are we `helping' them by bringing them up-to-date with our modern world? I sometimes think it is a battle of meaning versus modernization. Can the two be compatible?
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 22, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book is a dense and rewarding exploration of the meaning of stories in cultural identity. It takes a penetrating look at a tribe of Amazonian Indians that is uncompromising in its effort to represent their culture on its own terms. Alternating between chapters which describe the "First World" narrator's discovery of his story and chapters which attempt to record a cultural history through the stories of the tribe, the book draws our attention to the serious difficulties of cross-cultural understanding. What is translation? What is culture? What do we do when we "study" culture, when we translate language, when we approximate or translate the forms of their stories? The book is dense in the storytelling chapters, but the challenges have tremendous rewards.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews

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.

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The Storyteller: A Novel
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