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The War of the End of the World: A Novel Paperback – July 22, 2008
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
“A modern tragedy on the grand scale . . . As dark as spilled blood.” ―Salman Rushdie, The New Republic
“A vast, fantastic, thunderous novel.” ―The Times (UK)
“A magnificent storyteller . . . [Vargas Llosa] gives us a cast of unforgettable characters swept up in the upheaval. . . . This is the work of a master, coming into full realization of his powers.” ―The Boston Sunday Globe
“His masterpiece.” ―Madison Smartt Bell
“An extraordinary achievement. The author gives a wonderfully vivid and impartial picture of individuals and communities.” ―The Guardian (UK)
About the Author
MARIO VARGAS LLOSA was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010 "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat." Peru's foremost writer, he has been awarded the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's most distinguished literary honor, and the Jerusalem Prize. His many works include The Feast of the Goat, The Bad Girl, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, The War of the End of the World, and The Storyteller. He lives in London.
Top customer reviews
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What makes the novel so compelling is that the author is deeply interested in how religion and politics intersected to create modern Latin America and to some degree the broader modern world.At the heart of the novel is a complex power game played by various elites.The old elite is on its last legs.It 's the conservative , Catholic aristocracy which is embodied in the character of the Baron.The Baron is horrified by what's happened at Canudos.He's lost some major property.Adding insult to injury,his main political rivals,the progressive republicans claim - dishonestly- that he and his ilk are actually in league with the Counselor.The Baron concludes it's time to change if anything is to remain the same and forms an alliance with the progressives to crush Canudos.The new bourgeois progressive ruling class is no more in touch with the "masses" then the old aristocrats ( arguably less so).It's also doubtful that their hold on power will be of long duration.Waiting in the wings is the military.There are two characters who coming from different perspectives see this as the charade that it to some degree is, the Baron and Galileo Gall , a British anarchist and phrenologist who is instinctively drawn to Canudos.
The book goes in some strange directions near the end and it is a resolutely down beat novel.However, MVL show himself to be a master of narrative here and it's one of the most intellectually stimulating books I've read in ages.
The novel centers itself on a real incident, the razing and massacre of a community of ex-slaves, mestisos, and others at Canudos Brazil in 1897 by government forces. The community was led by a charismatic leader whose theology was a lethal brew of catholic mysticism and anti-government paranoia.
The community which he founded has been estimated to have reached a population of approximately 25,000 at its height. It was located in the extreme north of the state of Bahia, a rough, unforgiving area where infrastructure was unknown and small towns and settlements were connected to the outside world by cattle tracks.
Government intuitions and basic development in Bahia were concentrated along the coast. Even a couple hundred miles inland the government essentially disappeared except for the largely infective rural police.
The area teemed with bandit bands that collected extortion from the large haciendas and terrorized small settlements with raw violence.
On top of this the inhabitants were routinely punished by cycles of extended droughts that drove the subsistence farmers off the land, forced the abandonment of settlements and caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands through starvation, the rigors of forced migration and disease.
The individuals who could exert any kind of force in the area were the white landed oligarchs who had amassed large tracts of land, had their own hired guns and were plugged into the political machine in Salvador.
Into that brutal explosive landscape wanders Mario Vargas Llosa's cast of characters, navigating the dangers as best they can, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, until in one form or another, they are reeled into the simmering tragedy at Canudos.
Lloas is a wonderful story teller and the reader is pulled along by his narrative that speaks with voices from each level of the social strata.
Skillfully he starts with a series of small panoramas that expand, grow and morph into a grand scale where all the different pieces meld into whole clothe.