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The War of the End of the World Paperback – July 22, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 80 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“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)

Language Notes

Text: English, Spanish (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (July 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312427980
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312427986
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #181,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is perhaps Vargas Llosa's best novel and a must for all those well-meaning readers in the developed world who eagerly idealize Latin American revolutions without knowing anything about these countries.

The book is based on the true story of Antonio Vicente Mendes Maciel ("O Conselheiro"), a mad prophet of sorts -kind of a weird Christian ayatollah of the late XIX Century- who ignited, in the most remote corner of Brazil, a bloody uprising among the lowly against Money, Property, Progress, Law, Army, Republic and State, and everything else he found oppressive, sinful and evil. In return, the Brazilian government reacted with indifference, disbelief, concern, anger, outrage and total annihilation.

Little by little, Vargas Llosa transforms this obscure anecdote into a monumental epic of Tolstoiesque proportions that not only hooks you on the plot but reveals the richly interwoven carpet of Brazilian -and therefore Latin American- society; its illusions and delusions, its races and classes, its loves and hates, its fear of the modern and its contempt for the past, and the fanaticism that pervades both attitudes (to date).

I read this mammoth masterpiece during Christmass '94 at the midst of the Zapatista revolt in Chiapas, and it was sad to realize how little have we changed our societies. Our development always seems to engender inequality and our social struggles to defend backwardness and ignorance. Vargas Llosa is acutely aware of this, and he conveys it in his story splendidly, without preaching, without agendas, without aloofness and without letting you put down the book. Should you decide to read it, ask for a few days off!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The War of the End of the World is an impossibly ambitious book which nevertheless succeeds completely, and in the process confirms that Vargas Llosa deserves to be considered among the great authors of all time. Unlike his other books, which are either frankly autobiographical or significantly based on the author's personal experience, this is a straightforward historical novel, taking place in 1890s northeastern Brazil. It is also a real novel of ideas, confronting very seriously such timeless topics as the relationship of individual to society and of faith and personal belief to law and social order, the source of state authority, and truth/beauty and means/ends issues. While somewhat "modern" in style - the narrative does not proceed in a linear fashion, perspectives shift sharply from one character to the next, and "truth" is often in the eye of the beholder - the book really aspires to be a Great Historical Novel in a classic mode, like The Red and the Black or War and Peace. (Personally, I think it is stronger than either of those; at the very least it belongs on the same shelf.) In other words, it is no post-modern mirror-job, but a serious attempt to engage all thoughtful people - including those who ordinarily do not care for fiction - in a subtle and thorough consideration of the factors that create Peru's Shining Path, or Waco, Jonestown, MOVE, Hamas, etc. Vargas Llosa even manages the trick of being both sympathetic to and critical of all sides.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Vargas Llosa's gripping 1981 book is a fictionalized history of Canudos, the community in the dry interior of Brazil that was utterly wiped out by the Brazilian army in 1897. Vargas Llosa's book is as long (over 500 pages) and as dense as the seminal Canudos book "Rebellion in the Backlands" by Euclides da Cunha, and those fascinated by the story will want to read both. This book takes da Cunha's as its point of departure, for where da Cunha was a military engineer who accompanied the military campaigns against Canudos and wrote about the event's impact on the Brazilian identity, Vargas Llosa is a novelist captivated by the human element. "The War of the End of the World" is the massive story of four successive military campaigns against a religious sect (part-Waco, part-Masada) that killed about 10,000 people on both sides. It is built on the lives of many key personalities. By threading together the life stories of several real Canudos inhabitants who included criminals, castoffs, and misfits with the lives of landowners, journalists, and military officers, including the famously brutal general Moreira Cesar, Vargas Llosa both chronicles the Canudos tale and creates a powerful human novel.
Da Cunha was intrigued by the "why" of Canudos. What fostered a fanatical religious sect in Brazil's interior, allowed it thrive and grow, and why was it the subject of such national fear that the fourth campaign against the village involved fully half of the Brazilian army? Da Cunha spent dozens of pages writing about Antonio the Counselor, Canudos messianic leader. Vargas Llosa is less sympathetic to the military's point of view, depicting Canudos as a safe haven for those rejected by society, by sweethearts, employers, or the church. An island of broken toys.
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