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Death in the Andes [Paperback]

Mario Vargas Llosa
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Nov 2004
Set in an isolated, run down community in the Peruvian Andes, Vargas Llosa's riveting novel tells the story of a series of mysterious disappearances involving the Shining Path guerrillas and a local couple performing cannibalistic sacrifices with strange similarities to the Dionysian rituals of ancient Greece. Part-detective novel and part-political allegory, it offers a panoramic view of Peruvian society; not only of the current political violence and social upheaval, but also of the country's past, and its connection to Indian culture and to pre-Hispanic mysticism. As in his other novels, Vargas Llosa breathes into this work a magical assemblage of narrators, time frames and subplots. We meet Senderista guerrillas, disenfranchised Indians, jaded army officers, eccentric townspeople and cult worshippers, among many unforgettable characters. The result is a work of broad sweep, powerful narrative drive, and keen insight into one of Latin America's most fascinating and complex countries.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Ed edition (4 Nov 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057117549X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571175499
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 176,768 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Mario Vargas-Llosa was born in Peru is 1936. He is the author of some of the last half-century's most important novels, including The War of the End of the World, The Feast of the Goat, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter and Conversation in the Cathedral. In 2010 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Witchcraft and terrorism in Peru 19 Nov 2006
Prior to spending six months teaching and travelling in Peru I thought it sensible to become aquainted with the country's most celebrated author. I was in for a shock. This is not the perfect travel companion for a visit to the country, beginning as it does with the stoning to death of two French tourists by the Shining Path. Set at the height of the terrorist war waged by Abimael Guzman's Maoist guerillas, the book centres around two policemen posted to an isolated Andean mining town to investigate a succession of disappearances. The book explores their boredom, paranoia and bleak fatalism as they become haunted by the spectral superstitions of the mountain community, fear of death at the hands of the Sendero Luminoso, and their own questionable pasts.

Vargas Llosa uses alternating dialogue to portray narratives that are separated spacially and temporally, enforcing one of the writer's principal themes: the struggle of individual liberty in an oppressive reality. Partly influenced by Satre, and partly by Modernism, Vargas Llosa is a willfully experimental and uncompromising author that goes to great lengths to disorientate and unsettle the reader. Death in the Andes, like many of his novels, operates principally on an allegorical level, creating a vivid tableaux of Peruvian myth, culture and politics at a critical time in its development. Brutal and depressing (not one to take on the bus to Macchu Picchu!) it is partly a hard-boiled detective story and partly a metaphorical journey into Peru's heart of darkness.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping overview of Peruvian Society! 22 May 2001
By A Customer
The novel is set at a remote and grim location in the Peruvian Andes, where a company of labourers are building a road. Two policemen are stationed by the village that has sprung up due to the construction works, and they spend most of their time contemplating the misery in which they live until a number of people begin to disappear. The investigation leads the policemen to interact with the distrustful villagers/labourers and the local inn-keeper... The mystery quickly thickens and the novel, even if not Vargas LLosa's best, is truly gripping! It provides an excellent overview of Peruvian society and is difficult to put down.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa continues to speak out politically in yet another realistic and uncompromising novel set in his home country of Peru. In this novel, he brings the reader face to face with the horrors of the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), a Maoist terror group operating in the mountains of Peru from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s, with seemingly few direct challenges from the government. The novel’s sense of immediacy, enhanced by vivid descriptions of real events affecting real people, provides a close-up look at the tactics used by the Shining Path in the central and southern mountains of Peru, where they attacked indigenous Indian peasants, all foreigners, all educated Peruvians working to improve the lives of the peasants, and anyone representing the government or police.

The novel opens with an old woman, arriving at a rural Garda station to say that her husband, a foreman on a road-building crew, has disappeared. His is the third unsolved disappearance from their small mountain village in the past three weeks. Local peasants, farmers, laborers, and Indians have provided no information to the two Garda officers, Cpl. Lituma and Tomasito, his assistant, and both men worry that they are surrounded by the terrorists they are there to monitor. Tomasito himself has escaped to the mountains to avoid death at the hands of a mob leader for whom he had recently been a bodyguard – until he fell in love with his boss’s girlfriend.

Without transition, the narrative suddenly shifts to a pair of adventuresome but naïve French tourists traveling through the Andes by bus. Even after masked men stop their bus, they believe that nothing can happen to them because “We are French tourists, senor.” Other story lines also evolve and broaden the scope.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Murder mystery in which a whole nation is guilty 29 Aug 2006
`DITA' is a wonderful book, skilfully blending an intriguing story with an examination of Peru's history and culture. Some of the reviewers below write that they read this book before or during travelling in Peru. Although the story is bleak and disturbing, I can see how `DITA' evokes a Peru that you wouldn't find in the pages of a travel brochure. In this book, Llosa has created a murder mystery in which the history and culture of a whole country is the killer.

The story is that of two policemen (Lituma and Carreno), who find themselves in a remote Andean mining town (Naccos) investigating the disappearance of three local men. The two policeman are outsiders, mistrusted by the mostly native population of Naccos. The hills are crawling with Senderistas, members of the brutal Shining Path terrorist group, who are murdering everyone not conforming to their way of life. Many of the locals believe that the hills also contain other, more ethereal dangers, such as pishtacos (vampire-like creatures) and the apus, spirits trapped in each peak which send down landslides to punish wayward towns. The people of Naccos are trapped between these forces, and the town is often compared to a jail. These factors conspire to cause the disappearance of the three men, and Lituma and Carreno must first come to understand their native country before they can hope to solve the crime.

Although the story is bleak, with acts of unspeakable violence and an air of depression hanging over Naccos, Lituma and Carreno are engaging characters who keep the book going. The former has a an ever-present sense of (albeit black) humour and the latter keeps Lituma (and the reader) entertained with his tales of his first love.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars It is a surprize that this book came from a Nobel Price winner
It is a surprize that this book came from a Nobel Price winner, very violent and aimless book. I gave it to charity.
Published 3 months ago by Earth
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Latin America's best...
I love Vargas Llosa's stuff, and this is one of my favourites. Powerful, evocative, sometimes violent, and always thought-provoking. Read more
Published 6 months ago by High Seas Drifter
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping!
Picked this book because I wanted to read something different about a different country and culture. I was not disappointed! Read more
Published 20 months ago by Chloe
5.0 out of 5 stars Bloody Hell
I like this book, a lot, it's one of my favourites now (though admittedly I am a young'in).

It's hugely different to other detective novels, full of spiritual and... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Nedj
4.0 out of 5 stars Rich insight into an isolated Andean community
Corporal Lituma and his adjutant Civil Guard Tomas Carreno have 3 disappearances to investigate - and only in the final few pages do we learn what happened to the three. Read more
Published on 6 May 2011 by JoTownhead
5.0 out of 5 stars Death in the Andes
Having visited South America I was intrigued
by the title. It is a very readable and
amusing book (despite the title) and will
entertain you.
Published on 15 April 2011 by Mrs. H. N. Robinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Mario Vargas Llosa - Death in the Andes
A road is being built on the high Peruvian sierra. Two policemen are stationed at the work-camp outpost to keep an eye. Read more
Published on 9 Aug 2010 by RachelWalker
4.0 out of 5 stars This must be the REAL Peru
I am a fan of Mario Vargas Llosa. After reading The Feast Of The Goat I was hooked to his style of sorytelling. Read more
Published on 17 Jan 2007 by A. O. P. Akemu
4.0 out of 5 stars Mumbo jumbo in Peru
The underlying theme running through the book is the persistence of indian beliefs and superstitions, despite much of the modernisation of Peruvian society. Read more
Published on 31 Mar 2005 by Ms. C. O'donnell
5.0 out of 5 stars Unmissible journey into Peru's magic heartland
I'll keep it short. I have come across no other book that conveys so much about Peru so vividly -- the magic, the desolation of the altiplano, the Sendero Luminoso, the mentality. Read more
Published on 30 May 2001
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