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The Dream of the Celt: A Novel Hardcover – June 5, 2012
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In 1916, the Irish nationalist Roger Casement was hanged by the British government for treason. Casement had dedicated his extraordinary life to improving the plight of oppressed peoples around the worldâespecially the native populations in the Belgian Congo and the Amazonâbut when he dared to draw a parallel between the injustices he witnessed in African and American colonies and those committed by the British in Northern Ireland, he became involved in a cause that led to his imprisonment and execution. Ultimately, the scandals surrounding Casementâs trial and eventual hanging tainted his image to such a degree that his pioneering human rights work wasnât fully reexamined until the 1960s.
In The Dream of the Celt, Mario Vargas Llosa, who has long been regarded as one of Latin Americaâs most vibrant, provocative, and necessary literary voicesâa fact confirmed when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010âbrings this complex character to life as no other writer can. A masterful work, sharply translated by Edith Grossman, The Dream of the Celt tackles a controversial man whose story has long been neglected, and, in so doing, pushes at the boundaries of the historical novel.
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When I read the book last month (March2013) I had learned a lot more than what I knew, which was that he was a Knight of the realm and a homosexual and that there were some 'diaries'.
This well written book took me to many different places and I met a man very different than had been intimated by my mother in 1950 or whenever it was. The times he witnessed in Africa/Belgian Congo and in Brazil/Peru, reflected the book I had read about the Amazonian rubber industry from the eyes of an Englishman who also spent time in the horrors of a rubber plantation, but he was more interested in stealing rubber tree seedlings and shipping them to the Far East.
I enjoyed this book as it opened my eyes to Casement's Irish views and to his seemingly innocent homosexual encounters in both Congo and Amazonia, both by todays standards, hardly worth mentioning.
It is not an easy read as Casement exposed the atrocities in Belgium and the Amazon during the rubber tree explosion.
Intertwined is the very difficult life of Casement at a time when Great Britain condemned homosexuality. His accomplishments were actually buried for some 60 years because of how Britain thought of him.
Mario Vargas Llosa is an expert at writing novels that expose human nature and thus a group's cultural experiences. His talents range from the humorous (Bad Girl, Aunt Julia and the scriptwriter, Capt. Pantoja) to serious novels ( The War that Ends the World).
Llosa's novels will enrich a reader's insight into human nature but that will not always be a pleasant experience. It is no wonder that Llosa received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
It is a dense book but I was unable to put it down. I learned about the Irish rebellion, the Congo and Amazonia as well as the possible mindset of those fascinating figures of British colonial history.
Highly recommended, indeed.