Death In The Andes

Death In The Andes, by Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru)

One of the best things about novels is that everyone takes something different from them, which becomes apparent in discussions or reviews and which, as you read these divergent opinions, encourage you to slowly absorb and savour what you have read so that your own opinions can settle. Had I read reviews of Death In The Andes online, I wouldn’t have picked it up in the book shop; as I’m trying to read only one book per country I’d have gone for Aunt Julia and the Script Writer instead which is almost universally admired. As it is, I decided that Death In The Andes sounded like an intriguing read (seduced by the publisher’s carefully selected glowing reviews) and that was the one I took home.

I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it – most other reviewers don’t seem to be overly impressed with it for a variety of reasons, many of which are precisely the reasons I enjoyed it so much. Death In The Andes was written at the tail end of Peru’s Shining Path rebellion (which is ‘fuelling Lima’s literary revolution’ according to an article in the Guardian last week) and touches on many themes – politics, crimes of passion (political and otherwise), superstition, love, deception, rural society, to name a few. Set, as the name suggests, in the Andes, the novel follows a member of the Civil Guard who has to solve some unexplained local disappearances, surrounded by hostile rebels, unfriendly mountain people and ancient Incan myths. Llosa plays with the narrative, allowing memories and reality to intrude on each other and distort perception which can be both very comic but also quite unsettling. I basically found this a very thought provoking novel (even if a lot of the thoughts did revolve around how awful Communist revolutions invariably are), and a very gripping one – and it is quite probable that it isn’t possible to get further removed from the magical realism which numerous South American authors are known for, which makes for a sharp contrast with my previous reading.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Death In The Andes

  1. Dorothy W.

    I’m tempted to do my version of Kate’s Reading Beyond Borders challenge all on Asian writers, but if I don’t do that, Llosa will be one of the ones on my list.

  2. Lotus Reads

    Sounds like a truly fascinating book, Traveller. I haven’t read too many South American authors, but I really,really want to…I am very glad for your reviews, it makes it much easier for me to choose what I might like to read. Thank you!

  3. booklogged

    Traveller, you always have the most interesting reviews of the most interesting books. Look how much you are learning.

  4. litlove

    I keep meaning to read Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, but now I’m also tempted by this book!

  5. Barbara

    Ogn gi xava. Algumpreza eram vivinalt na… Far trabiondolos il kagnit wole… Sai wag todostosit wenzatosta!

  6. The Traveller

    Thanks for your comments everyone – I would still like to read Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter at some stage in the future since I enjoyed Death In The Andes. Barbara, I have no idea what you wrote, but I’m going to go with thanks!

  7. Sherry

    I added a link to your review to my Saturday Review of Books at http://www.semicolonblog.com. I host this round-up of book reviews each Saturday, so feel free to come over and add a link to future reviews.

    I think your idea is fascinating, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing what books you choose as you travel round the world this year.

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