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The Connect Book Club
Book for April 2012
Group 1
Death in the Andes
Death in the Andes
by Mario Vargas Llosa

Three men have disappeared from a remote village in the Andes. Corporal Lituma believes they were murdered, perhaps even sacrificed to ancient Andean gods, but gets no help in his case from the resentful villagers. Not only is the tiny village in decline but terrorists threaten the area increasing the doom of Naccos. In the slow nights, guardsman Tomas Carenno excites the corporal with his tale of his lost love, Mercedes.

This is a slow moving novel with a slim plot which doesn't even come to fruition. Nonetheless Llosa intrigues us by taking us inside the historical culture of village people, their ancient gods, human sacrifices and eternal struggles of pleasure and pain while revealing the social structures used to bear this harsh life.

He cultivates a slow meandering pace which matches life in the village and takes his time to explore significant aspects of the simple life in Naccos. I am reminded of Harold Courlander's novel The Bordeaux Narrative, set in Haiti. Courlander was an anthropologist who had written several books and many scholarly articles on aspects of Haitian culture which he could rigorously demonstrate. However, late in his life he wrote a novel, a sort of wandering mystery story like Llosa's, to allow him to lay out all the folk customs he had heard and collected over the years, but which remained at the level of speculation. This book has a similar feel.

Death In The Andes is not a gripping tale. It is a gentle soft and slow-moving novel that enriches and grows on the reader as it wends its way toward the last days of the village of Naccos.

About the Author

Mario Vargas Llosa
is a Peruvian-Spanish writer, politician, journalist, essayist, and Nobel Prize laureate. Vargas Llosa is one of Latin America's most significant novelists and essayists, and one of the leading authors of his generation. Some critics consider him to have had a larger international impact and worldwide audience than any other writer of the Latin American Boom. He was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat".

Vargas Llosa rose to fame in the 1960s with novels such as The Time of the Hero (La ciudad y los perros, literally The City and the Dogs, 1963/1966), The Green House (La casa verde, 1965/1968), and the monumental Conversation in the Cathedral (Conversación en la catedral, 1969/1975). He writes prolifically across an array of literary genres, including literary criticism and journalism. His novels include comedies, murder mysteries, historical novels, and political thrillers. Several, such as Captain Pantoja and the Special Service (1973/1978) and Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1977/1982), have been adapted as feature films.

Many of Vargas Llosa's works are influenced by the writer's perception of Peruvian society and his own experiences as a native Peruvian. Increasingly, however, he has expanded his range, and tackled themes that arise from other parts of the world. Another change over the course of his career has been a shift from a style and approach associated with literary modernism, to a sometimes playful postmodernism.

Like many Latin American authors, Vargas Llosa has been politically active throughout his career; over the course of his life, he has gradually moved from the political left towards liberalism or neoliberalism, a definitively more conservative political position. While he initially supported the Cuban revolutionary government of Fidel Castro, Vargas Llosa later became disenchanted with the Cuban dictator and his authoritarian regime. He ran for the Peruvian presidency in 1990 with the center-right Frente Democrático (FREDEMO) coalition, advocating neoliberal reforms, but lost the election to Alberto Fujimori. He has subsequently supported moderate conservative candidates until the run-off to the 2011 presidential election in which he supported the left-wing Ollanta Humala rather than his right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori.