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Conversation in the Cathedral Paperback – February 1, 2005
"The Fifth Doll" by Charlie N. Holmberg
The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician Series transports readers to a darkly whimsical world where strange magic threatens a quiet village. | Learn more
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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.
- Item Weight : 15.8 ounces
- Paperback : 608 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-0060732806
- ISBN-10 : 0060732806
- Product Dimensions : 5.31 x 1.37 x 8 inches
- Publisher : Harper Perennial; Reprint Edition (February 1, 2005)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #401,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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And then there's the setting and characters: Peru - 95% set in the capital, Lima - in the 1950s, a city of dreadful night indeed, a world of whores - lots of these - cutthroats, assassins, and, above all, slews of very poor people living in squalid conditions in shantytowns---oh, and a few rich families. In short, the way most of humanity lives, are living, as I write this, on less than a dollar a day.
Fortunately, for the persevering reader, one gradually becomes accustomed to Llosa's technique and the stylistic pyrotechnics slowly ebb away to an almost straight linear narrative at the end. Also, one realises how many layers the novel touches on: political, psychological, spiritual. I should say that - more than anything - it is a Bildungsroman of Santiago (read Llosa) and his disillusionment with Marxism, Capitalism - really any "-ism" and determination to shun the venality that makes the world around him a cesspool on so many levels. At the end, the reader feels that it is the most lovely life in the world to have a small apartment with books, a spouse and let's not forget the dog with which the novel begins and ends.
Of course, it's not so simple; otherwise, this book would never have been penned. Santiago has tried to disencumber himself of the horrors of this world, even disowning his family, yet he lays bare the psychological scars of country and family for all to see here as if he is laying down a crown of thorns he has been wearing for his entire life.
The Balzac quote at the beginning is quite apt and bears repeating. It's left in the French in my copy, so the reader of this review will have to do with my perhaps somewhat clunky, though accurate translation:
"One must have searched through all social life to be a true novelist, seen that the novel is the private history of nations."
The book accomplishes this feat astoundingly well. Indeed, the history revealed is so private that, fifty years on from the events in this book, I doubt you will be ingratiating yourself to the populace if seen on the streets of Lima with this book.
It's really a very lonely, frequently depressing book, filled with what Wordsworth called "the still, sad music of humanity." Read it anyway.
If you aren't used to non-linear story telling: linear - this happened, then this happened, then.....;
non-linear - this happened (sometime); this happened (some other time - maybe earlier, maybe later); this happened (could be later, could be sooner than anything else, could be any time in between, maybe). Simple - after 600 pages if you haven't figured it out it doesn't really matter - you've had a hell of a trip anyway.
Sound like I'm being negative? I'm not - it was a blast. There are some real stinkers in here - and I liked some of them, disliked some and pretty much didn't care about the others.
This book is pretty heavy and bleak. You can read the Amazon description. If you are already in a bad mood, save this one for later. Imitation of the characters is not a healthy form of flattery or living.
Top reviews from other countries
For help on deciding which of his novels to read next, I turned to that immensely valuable facility that I've used over the years, which has seldom failed me - the Amazon book peer-review facility.
After reading the reviews of a number of his books, I decided on Conversation in the Cathedral, as a result of its high rating (all the four reviewers gave it five stars).
However, a common thread that runs through the reviews is that the novel is rather difficult to read and comprehend, mainly at the initial stages, on account of the author's rather difficult, convoluted narrative style, in which he switches seamlessly not only between the past and the present, but also between different characters.
But I thought to myself - 'Ah, I should be okay, having got through another novel with a similar style - Jean-Paul Satre's The Reprieve.'
However, in spite of the reviewers' advance warning and my confidence that I would cope, I still found the novel rather difficult at the initial stages, to the extent that I almost stopped reading it.
I, however, heeded the reviewers' advice that in spite of the initial difficulty, readers should stick with the novel, and in time, they will get used to the author's style, and make sense of the book.
They also pointed out that rewards of such perseverance are immense, for once the reader 'gets into' the book, he or she would be abundantly rewarded.
I'm very happy that I heeded their advice, for I truly did 'get into' and thoroughly enjoyed the book. As I progressed with its reading, everything started falling into place, including the initial confusing parts.
So my advice to anyone reading or contemplating reading this novel is - persevere, and you'll be immensely rewarded!