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The Time of the Hero Paperback – 4 Nov 2004

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The Time of the Hero + Conversation in the Cathedral + The Feast of the Goat
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Ed edition (4 Nov 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571173209
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571173204
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 192,850 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Oliver Paz on 7 Mar 2002
Format: Paperback
I came across this book - Mario Vargas Llosa's first novel - by chance in a second-hand shop in Cheltenham. I had been disappointed by his more recent offerings - DEATH IN THE ANDES, THE NOTEBOOKS OF DON RIGOBERTO and so on - so it was with extra pleasure that I read this book and was reminded quite why Vargas Llosa is one of the best novelists alive.
This book deals with a group of cadets at Peru's premier military academy. The superficial order of their parades masks a world of corruption, bribery, sadistic bullying and yet also of togetherness. But the bullying comes to a head with a tragic "accident" which leads everyone to reveal their true colours.
In portraying the relationship between the lower ranks and the officers, and the way in which everyone is out to defend their own interests except for those who lose out the most, Vargas Llosa again hits the heart of the corruption and self-serving motives behind so many politicans - a theme which he took up again in CONVERSATION IN THE CATHEDRAL, another one of his books that is highly recommended (as are THE WAR OF THE END OF THE WORLD, THE STORYTELLER and AUNT JULIA AND THE SCRIPTWRITER). It's perhaps difficult to believe that the author of these books could go on to stand for the right in Peru's presidential elections - but, if anything, THE TIME OF THE HERO, shows that Vargas Llosa does at least understand the rottenness and misery that lies beneath the polished veneer of urban society in Latin American cities.
The tale of the cadets is interwoven with accounts of the lives of some of them before and during their time at the academy, mixing the personal (which illustrates the essence of Limenyo culture) with the universal as reflected in the stories of the cadets.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Ayodeji Odelusi on 27 Oct 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As an aside, when deciding on the next Llosa novel to read (after reading The Feast of the Goat and Conversation in the Cathedral; very good books, by the way), I identified this as a potential on Amazon, and then proceeded to read the reviews on the book.

There was only one, which described the book in glowing terms, and gave it a five-star rating. On the strength of this, I read the book, and what immediately struck me was that for such a great book, there was only one review on Amazon.

I pondered the issue of the dearth of reviews, and concluded that it's probably not because many people haven't read and enjoyed the book. It's possibly that they read the book, (inevitably) thoroughly enjoyed it, and then neglected to complete the process by reviewing it on this forum. What a disservice to potential readers!!

With that in mind, I feel obliged to leave my comments on this forum, having just finished reading what is surely a great book, the greatness of which is enhanced by the fact that Llosa was only 26 years old when he wrote it.

The plot revolves around the activities of a group of cadets and their officers at a leading military academy in Peru. On full display are humanity's negative traits - greed, bullying, corruption, abuse of position, and flagrant disregard for authority.

As usual, Llosa writes in a style that immediately draws the reader into the novel, with the initial mildly frustrating task of figuring out the main players. Once this task is completed, the book becomes enjoyable, and the reader becomes caught in the suspense of the story, eager to find out the ultimate outcome. There are no dull or uncaptivating moments in the book, and it is without any hesitation whatsoever that I award it five stars!!!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 12 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic - in a Vargas Llosa kind of way 7 Aug 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I rate this book 10, because it embodies in one text a story so powerful from a personal and political point of view. The story deals with a group of army cadets in Lima, their pasts and their presents, and what will potentially be a future shaped for them by the serious injury of one of their troop while on army manouvers.
The story that unfolds from this, interwoven with the power struggle that goes on between the forces of good and humanity and evil faceless silence of the army leaves you breathless. Not everyone will appreciate this book, but there are those out there that owe it to themselves to read this book and learn. Not just about peruvians themselves, but the deep forces of power, ruthlessness and betrayal that power the human race itself
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Not my Favorite Novel by Vargas Llosa, but Interesting... 13 Sep 2009
By Lauren Mitchell - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've now read several of Vargas Llosa's novels and I am a HUGE fan, actually, but this particular novel didn't strike me in quite the same way. It is an earlier novel than most of the others that I have read by him--this is a schoolboy/military academy novel that Vargas Llosa wrote during the Latin American Boom in Literature. Imagine "A Separate Peace" set in a Latin American Military Academy, in fact. (Except that it is also written in the less traditional, non-chronological narrative format favored by many of the Boom writers, who were all admirers of Modernists such as Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and William Faulkner.)

There really isn't any particular reason that I can pinpoint that I enjoyed it somewhat less than the other novels that I have read by Vargas Llosa--and I would recommend it to other readers. The way that the non-chronological narrative veils certain things about the story might frustrate some readers, but others might find that very element of the novel to be an intriguing selling point. Especially if you're interested in Vargas Llosa, the Latin American Boom, or Latin American literature in general, this is a must read, despite my own personal preference for some of his other novels.

(I would highly recommend "Death in the Andes," "The Storyteller" and "The Feast of the Goat," all by Vargas Llosa, as well as "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and "Chronicle of a Death Foretold" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.)
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Coming of age in the military 25 Oct 2005
By Ian Muldoon - Published on
Format: Paperback
A novel which provides shifting perspectives and which moves back and forth in time and which moves easily from third to first person and in so doing manages to accumulate an engrossing look at adolescents and their experiences in the military. But it also manages to show the side of the officers in charge with intelligence and understanding. A major theme is the individual conscience in collision with the institution, and the individual faced with the imperatives of the group. The cadet training institution is a dumping ground for adolescents who are fed, clothed and "disciplined" and the novel examines their experiences especially ways in which they manage to create their own society within the structure much as in prisons. THe novel is especially strong in depicting the idealism of youth and their groping towards first love. Although cynical at times - rules are for subordinates not superiors one Lt is told (p382) it does end with an overall feeling of hope. A Mosaic of life in Peru in the 1950's which might be paralleled in many other cultures.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Lessons to be learned 13 Oct 2010
By bookknight - Published on
Format: Paperback
The first one third of this book is not an easy read. The narrative is chaotic, heavy with characters and they come at you fast. A scorecard would be helpful. The narrative frequently switches between first and third person. Vargas Llosa is also fond of long, long paragraphs. Chapter three of part one totals 22 pages divided into six paragraphs! If the reader can only persevere however, this chaos gives way to light and insight at the end.

The setting of this story is a military boarding school for adolescent boys. We learn that many of these boys wound up at Leoncio Prado Military Academy because they were delinquents in need of discipline or, conversely, wimpy boys whose parents thought they needed to be toughened up. Academic standards at Leoncio are obviously lax and there is an egregious lack of discipline and supervision within the cadet barracks. These adolescent males engage in all manner of prohibited vice including cheating, smoking, drinking, stealing, going absent without leave, and pornography. Most appalling is the bullying and victimization of the weak by the strong. In fact, the first third of the book is given to detailed descriptions of two broad categories of adolescent diversions or perversions: machismo and masturbation. In common with other institutionalized environments a social stratification falls into place, a pecking order develops, and the weak are victimized mercilessly. Early on the newcomers form a clan for mutual protection from hazing by the upper class cadets and this clan itself evolves to terrorize others.

By the time I finished the first third of the book all I really knew of the main protagonist, Alberto, is that his mother was passive-aggressive but mostly submissive and his father was abusive. I nearly closed the book and put it away at the one third mark because I didn't really care and wasn't really interested in this mixed-up kid. But I plowed on out of curiosity. Curious as to where this tale was heading------------something needed to happen to break up the tedious dark lives of these young degenerates and I was especially hungry for some analysis or insight into why they acted out like this. Vargas Llosa delivered, all in due time.

Fortunately for me I didn't give up. In the final two thirds of the book the characters were fleshed out, the fog lifted and I didn't want to put the book down, it just kept getting better. When the brutality in the barracks climaxes in a murder on the training grounds the apathetic administration is forced into action. Without spoiling the plot I can say that Vargas Llosa utilizes the principals involved in the crime and ensuing cover up to give us glimpses into their consciences and a look at the rationalizations they employ to justify what they have done or failed to do. We are handed insights into the meaning of compassion, courage, loneliness, selfishness, selflessness, and honor. Some of these lessons conform to our own experiences and some will be revelatory. Especially fascinating is an innocent girl, fancied by three of the cadets, who orbits in and out of the story line; her gravity affecting multiple characters and indirectly providing energy to move major events. She truly is free of malice and unaware of her power and its tragic consequences. For every action there is indeed a reaction and this invites us to ponder our own real life effects on others.

The larger lesson I will continue to ponder is the paradox of the code of silence. The code is ultimately both futile and vitally necessary for the integrity and order of the unit. Those caught up in the murder-cover up are damaged whether they adhere to the code or turn out to be squealers. Interestingly, the cadets who are not directly involved as the drama plays out are strengthened as a unit even as the principals are sacrificed by their adherence to or violation of the code of silence.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A+ book, C- translation 17 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Time of the Hero is one of the best books of our time, and ideal for The American Scholar. Llosa's writing style incorporates insights about life, war, love, fraternity, and humanity in a characteristically intelligent way. The subject matter is both informative and universal, and the presentation is unique and intellectually appealing. The book is multi-faceted, layered, and intriguing. Unfortunately, the translation takes so much away from the story. It is necessary to either read the book in the original Spanish, entitled La Ciudad y los perros, or read it with a grain of salt, always trying to read the language not as it appears on the page, but as Llosa wrote it.
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