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The Dream of the Celt: A Novel Hardcover – June 5, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780374143466
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374143466
  • ASIN: 0374143463
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #642,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the middle of this long book by Mario Vargas Llosa, there is a surprisingly moving chapter in which the prison official responsible for guarding Sir Roger Casement in prison puts aside his vindictively hostile attitude and speaks of the death of his only son in the Battle of Loos in the previous year, 1915. In English terms, he is speaking to a traitor under sentence of death, for Casement (since stripped of his knighthood) was captured in 1916 in Ireland after being set ashore by a German submarine to contact the leaders of the doomed Easter Rising against the British. Casement's life and death have passed into history, but the conversation with the sheriff is, I'm sure, made up. This is what a novelist can do: bring together different historical perspectives in an emotional human connection. All the more surprising, therefore, that Vargas Llosa dilutes the scene of the grieving man with Casement's self-absorbed musing on the details of what went wrong with his own mission, the parade of facts only slightly less dry by being couched as an inner monologue.

The 2010 Nobel Prize committee praised Vargas Llosa "for his cartography of structures of power and for his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat." So you would think the story of Roger Casement could not have been better suited for his pen. Born in Ireland in 1864, he worked in various places in Africa before being appointed a British consul. Joseph Conrad credited Casement with opening his eyes to the colonial exploitation that he would feature in his HEART OF DARKNESS of 1902. In 1903, Casement made his own journey upriver, returning to write a report on human rights atrocities that would make him a household name in Britain.
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Format: Hardcover
Vargas Llosa never ceases to surprise his readers. He takes on big subjects--Peru in the 1950s, the Canudos rebellion in Brazil, the Trujillo dictatorship, Gauguin in Tahiti--and brings them to life on the page. In this, his latest novel, he reconstructs and depicts the horrors of rubber exploitation, with all its human cost, early in the 20th century, first in the Belgian Congo, later in the Amazon (as seen and reported on by Irish natinalist Roger Casement).

What is amazing is that, for the last 20 years, Vargas Llosa has been a frank libertarian, a defender of the capitalist "free" market who openly ridicules the welfare state and who, in his opinion pieces for the general press, invokes the likes of Hayek, von Mises, and Milton Friedman as his model ideologues.

And yet, when dealing with something so stark as this dark history, the author puts aside the standard, formulaic praise of capitalism for "creating wealth" (a darling phrase of libertarians, including Vargas Llosa himself) and instead shows the system at its most violent and inhuman. We see here Gulag-style slave labor, though under the control of Brits, Belgians, and white Latin Americans.

THE DREAM OF THE CELT may not be one of Vargas Llosa's very best works, but it still demonstrates his masterful objectivity as a novelist, his gift for telling a gripping, suspenseful story, along with an ability to transcend his libertarian dogma and get at the central truth of the events themselves. The book is a worthy successor to Joseph Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS, with which it will inevitably be compared.
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Format: Kindle Edition
After a distinguished career with many historical novels exploring the human toll taken by political idealism, Mario Vargas Llosa follows his 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature with the lightly fictionalized life of Sir Roger Casement. Familiar more to Irish nationalists for his anti-slavery activism and his execution for actions which were judged traitorous to the British crown which had knighted him for his services as consul, Casement's reputation since his 1916 death after the failed Easter Rising has suffered. Before his hanging in a London prison, British intelligence released his "Black Diaries," full of not the humanitarianism which fueled his career uncovering the victims of the African and Amazonian rubber trades, but the "gloomy aureole of homosexuality and pedophilia" still debated from these fevered diaries as true, exaggerated, or invented--planted, grafted, or organic within the secret soul and clandestine identity of a lonely, driven Anglo-Irish activist for justice.

Situated often in Vargas Llosa's native Peru, where the core of this novel burrows into the depredations of colonialism owned by Britain and controlled by Peruvians far from the control of their capital or the law, the placement of Casement within late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century capitalism sharpens the author's portrayals of Latin Americans and Europeans complicit in raping the jungles, its women, and its resources. Vargas Llosa had run for president of his own struggling Third World nation; he shows a keen understanding of all sides in the debate over the fate of the "3 C's" of capitalism, colonialism, and Christianity.
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