The first Vargas Llosa I encountered was the short story collection , Cubs, and I didn’t like it at all. Saying that I’m not a huge fan of short stories so I was curious about my first foray into his novels.
I was not disappointed!
What I’m loving about this project is that each novel is virtually a treasure trove of information. A regular educational experience. This time round it’s an in depth study of the Trujillo government. I know practically nothing about the Dominican Republic so I was quite keen on the subject matter.
Vargas Llosa tackles the Trujillo’s reign through three different viewpoints. The first one is through the fictional character Urainia Crabal, who returns to The Dominican Republic after 30 years. The second one focuses on the Trujillo’s assassins and the third is the last day (and night) of the Generalissmo himself.
Through these characters Vargas Llosa manages to squeeze in over 70 years of history. Although it’s not in chronological order and certain scenes repeat themselves, it is performed so deftly that the reader doesn’t even notice. In fact it’s almost like a game and with each chapter historical timeline becomes even more clear.
Trujillo is portrayed as an overgrown child, albeit a dangerous and organised one who seeks revenge at every confrontation. He’s also very macho and believes that sex is power and yet it’s his leaky phallus which is his greatest enemy at the same time and Vargas Llosa pokes fun at this weakness quite a few times in the book.
As for his victims, who clearly represent the results of this dictatorship, they are a bunch of people who stay by Trjuillo’s side but then a devoid of free will as Dominicans were not allowed to express themselves. One particularly poignant part of the book is how Balaguer manages to transform the Dominican Republic into a democracy and the affect it has on the population. Saying that Urania Crabal represents the aftermath and stabilization period.
Historically all the events and characters that shaped the Dominican Republic’s history are all present and told in detail, despite this The Feast of the Goat is essentially a work of fiction and reads like a story with it’s twists, turns and surprises, and trust me there’s one plot twist which I kicked myself for not figuring it out earlier! . It was probably this reason why I obsessed over it for the past week. It is truly one of those books that absorb you from the first page onwards.
Apparently it took Vargas Llosa over a decade to write this book. If his writing gestation period produces masterpieces like this then it’s definitely worth the wait!