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The Feast of the Goat Hardcover – 18 Mar 2002

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 410 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (18 Mar. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571207715
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571207718
  • Product Dimensions: 0.3 x 0.3 x 0.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 375,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Mario Vargas Llosa, a former candidate for the presidency of Peru, is better placed than most novelists to write about the machinations of Latin American politics. In The Feast of the Goat he offers a vivid recreation of the Dominican Republic during the final days of General Rafael Trujillo's insidious and evil regime. Told from several viewpoints, the book has three distinctive, alternating strands. There is Urania Cabral, the daughter of Trujillo's disgraced secretary of state, who has returned to Santo Domingo after more than 30 years. Now a successful New York lawyer, Urania has never forgiven her ageing and paralysed father, Agustín, for literally sacrificing her to the carnal despot in the hope of regaining his political post. Flipping back to May of 1961, there is a group of assassins, all equally scarred by Trujillo, waiting to gun the Generalissimo down. Finally there is an astonishing portrait of Trujillo--the Goat--and his grotesque coterie. Llosa depicts Trujillo as a villain of Shakespearean proportions. He is a preening, macho dandy who equates his own virility with the nation's health. An admirer of Hitler "not for his ideas but for the way he wore a uniform" (fittingly he equips his secret police force with a fleet of black Volkswagen Beetles), Trujillo even has his own Himler in Colonel Abbes Garcia: a vicious torturer with a predilection for the occult. Although once "the spoiled darling of the Yankees" this arch manipulator whose corruption permeates every aspect of Dominican life, is now viewed as a serious liability by Kennedy's government and several members of his own ruling elite.

As the novel edges toward Trujillo's inevitable murder, Urania's story (the novel's weakest link) gets a bit lost in the action; the remaining narratives, however, are rarely short of mesmerising. Trujillo's death unleashes a new order but not the one expected by the conspirators. Enslaved by the soul of the dead chief, neither they nor the Trujillo family--who embark on a hideous spree of bloody reprisals--are able to fill the void. Llosa has them all skilfully outmanoeuvred by the puppet-president Joaquín Belaguer, a former poet who is the very antithesis of the machismo Goat. Savage, touching and bleakly funny, this compelling book gives an all too human face to one of Latin America's most destructive tyrants. --Travis Elborough

Review

From one of Latin America's outstanding authors, a monumental novel about - and terrible indictment of - the abuses of the Rafael Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic. Dense in reminiscence and multi-layered in perspective, the feast of eloquent writing tumbles out and eventually unites parallel stories of a particular family involved in Trujillo's fate; the aging dictator himself bound up by physical frailty yet still capable of unacknowledged inhumanity, and those patriots plotting his assassination. The intense descriptive and Byzantine machinations make for an intellectually demanding yet richly rewarding novel whose recreation of bygone excesses is ultimately applicable to all such flawed regimes.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. E. Holden on 7 Dec. 2006
Format: Paperback
Wow, what a novel! I was completely blown away by this tour de force from Llosa, a gruesome, bitter, but beautiful tale told with the vivacity and skill we've come to expect from him. The story is woven cleverly around a central historical event and a central ahistorical event, while unravelling an intriguing story of power, hope and betrayal.

Unlimited power is portrayed compellingly in the Goat, a taudry charismatic, egotistical maniac ruling the Dominican Republic. His subtle art of suspicion and less subtle art of violence allow an iron grip to take hold over a small clique of insiders who in turn take an iron grip over a whole nation. It is the ultimate fable of a society infected from the top with bile and cruelty, seeping out to destroy all in its wake.

Hope is found in the plot to unseat this power, through characters completely distinct, and painted with wonderful prose into twentieth century heroes. Their hope is true, their motivations distinct, but their aim clear. The way in which this is betrayed by naivety and recklessness is a great tragedy in this novel.

Finally, the heartbreaking aspect of this book is the betrayal, the betrayal by power and of hope, centred through the largely metaphoric role of the daughter of a Senator. Her fate is realised brilliantly through the use of diverging time devices, and is at once tragic and deeply symbolic of the infection mentioned above.

I cannot commend this book enough, it could well be one of the top 10 or 20 pieces of fiction of the twentieth century.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Alan S R Howarth on 25 April 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brutal, and uncompromising do not buy this book if you are squeamish.
The books starts off slowly- a brilliant middle-aged (polymath) woman, Urania Cabral, the daughter of the former Secretary Of State to the Dominican Republic visits her father who is barley alive- he cannot speak but we think he can listen and understand what she is saying. She speaks to her father for the first time in thirty years about what her father did when she was a little girl. Whilst she has been away she has, as an obsession/ hobby, studied the recent history of the Dominican Republic and in particular the regime of her fathers boss General Rafael Trujillo. The story she tells is horrific- you will have to read it to find out what happens .... believe me the denouement is extreme and comes at you like an express train. My favourite chapter is one of extreme calm, the interregnum and Joaquin Balauer scheming and taking ultimate control. Totally Machiavellian, absolutely mesmerizing
Mario Vargas Llosa is a great writer. The book is a must read because, as George Santayana said in 1905, 'Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it!'
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By ali baba on 27 Sept. 2003
Format: Paperback
South America has produced some wonderful novels over the past few decades. But Mario Vargas Llosa's 'Feast of the Goat' is a truly astonishing accomplishment from a very multi-talented and controversial figure. Those who read the works of Vargas Llosa will need no persuasion in getting hold of the book, but for those who are browsing through Amazon, I can honestly say that this book is superb: it has so many different features. Principally, it is a thriller, a real page-turner, but one which you have to be in the mood. It works in a non-linear way, the best comparison I make probably is with films, such as Memento or Pulp Fiction. It switches back and forth across two periods, as as the story goes on, there are more and more developments and layers to the story. Gradually you piece together the incredible history that Vargas Llosa has laid out before us. Ok, its a thriller, but its also a great piece of literature. Dazzlingly written, atmospheric and very psychological. It is a testament to Vargas Lloas's writing technique that he allows the reader to follow and digest a highly complex plot with reading enjoyment and ease. He plays with the reader's mind by submerging the reader into the inner dialogues and minds of the characters while at the same time maintaining an all-seeing overview of the story's events. It has a sense of history, a sense of the tyranny and madness of the 20th Century, a powerful sense of the subconscious terror that a few, even one, can inflict upon so many. A remarkable book. Before I read Feast of Goat, I would have said that Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude was the benchmark of South American literature, and it remains one of the greatest novels of the 20th Century. But Vargas Llosa has at last proved himself to be one of the great writers, and this book, very different to 100 Years of Solitude, takes South American literature to a different level.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "gavinrob2001" on 30 April 2005
Format: Paperback
Mario Vargas Llosa's 'The Feast of the Goat is a detailed and exceptionally well-written account of political life in the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean nation that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, in the last years of the tyrannical rule of 'the Goat', Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, who effectively ruled from 1930 to 1961 (despite officially renouncing the Presidency in 1947). This novel provides a considerable amount of factual detail for those readers that have some prior acquaintance with the subject matter, but is nevertheless eminently readable for those without. There are references to a great many - possibly as many as a hundred - historical figures, and sometimes the great number of unfamiliar names can be a handful, but the novel is written (and translated) in such a way that the reader can recall previous information about characters re-introduced into the story.
'The Feast of a Goat' consists of broadly three interwoven strands. Firstly, the author unflinchingly tackles the actions, behaviour and thoughts of Trujillo head-on, offering insights into the psychological make-up and motivations of a despot. In the process, Vargas Llosa also analyses the character and actions of the Generallisimo's closest lackeys. Secondly, the novel builds up the suspense in the execution and aftermath of a plan to take The Great Benefactor's life, in the process examining the personal histories of the seven co-conspirators. Thirdly, Vargas Llosa chronicles the harrowing stories of Uranita Cabral, successful New York lawyer, as she returns to Santo Domingo to confront her broken and invalided father, Agustin, formerly right-hand man to 'The Father of the New Nation'.
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