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The War of the End of the World by Mario…
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The War of the End of the World

by Mario Vargas Llosa

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English (27)  Spanish (3)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (34)
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Oh lord. I remember reading this in a literature class in college - it was summer term. Was so excited to read something about Brasil, having been there just a few years previously. I HATED this book. It took every fiber in my body to force read it. It was nevertheless, ~600 pages. Agony. Wonder if I would enjoy it now? There are way too many books I want to read to give it another chance :) ( )
  anglophile65 | Mar 8, 2016 |
This is one of the best, if not the best, books I've read this year. Based on real life events that occurred in the late 19th century, it is a tragedy of epic proportions, and I will not soon forget it.

A charismatic holy man, the Counselor, wanders among the poor, dusty villages of Bahia. Wherever he stops, he repairs the chapel, weeds the cemetery, or makes similar improvements, and in return the villagers feed him. Along the way, he picks up followers: the rag-tag poor, the homeless, the orphaned, the deformed, as well as some of the worst dregs of society--the murderers and bandits. After years of wandering, he and his followers settle and begin to build their own society at Canudos. The town is based on Utopian principles--everyone has a home and food, and everyone works and worships communally. New followers continually flow in, and the society is constantly growing.

The people of Canudos do not view themselves as accountable to the outside world, including the government. The town becomes endangered when the machinations of two opposing political movements create an incident which make it appear as though Canudos is arming itself (with help from the British government) for a revolution. The Brazilian government feels it must assert control over Canudos, and when the initial group of soldiers it sends is soundly repelled, increasingly larger waves of soldiers are sent to quell the people of Canudos, with catastrophic results.

The plot of this book is non-linear, and not told in strict chronological order. The narration frequently and abruptly shifts points of view among various characters. The writing is compelling and vivid. Vargas Llosa has created dozens of rich characters, intricate subplots, and a panoramic background against which to tell the story. While we see the people of Canudos as the tragic victims of these events, Vargas Llosa does not sugar coat their religious fanaticism. He also ably, and sometimes sympathetically, portrays the other factions: the aristocratic landowners, the military, the government officials. The result is a morally complex and challenging read. Highly recommended. ( )
  arubabookwoman | Sep 30, 2015 |
Whew. This is a lotta book. Too much really.

‘The War of the End of the World’ is Mario Vargas Llosa’s version of events well known to Brazilians (at least to one I talked to anyway :), as it’s taught in history classes there. It takes place in the 1890’s in the northeastern state (then province) of Bahia, where a bunch of religious idealists built a community in Canudos and flouted the new Brazilian Republic, which had formed after Emperor Dom Pedro II was deposed.

The Republic is fragile, and it’s a period of change, slavery having just been abolished in 1888, so there is unrest and competing factions in the country. The main political parties are the Progressive Republicans, who are in power, and the Autonomists, which includes the richer landowners who were more inclined to favor the monarchy. There are also a few idealistic groups floating about: one advocating a dictatorial republic, another communism, and still another composed of religious fundamentalists who, upset with the change to the status quo, fight the republic and its ‘evil ways’, e.g. civil marriage, the separation of church and state, the census, and yes, the metric system. It’s this last group, led by the messianic Antônio the Counselor, who convinces the faithful to follow him through the wilderness, converting the downtrodden of Bahia along the way, including its bandits, murderers, and rapists. These outcasts are critical to his success in turning back several waves of the Brazilian Army, including one led by a Colonel and Republican hero with the nickname ‘Throat Slitter’.

As it may be apparent, this is a masculine book, with regular images of the horrors of war, and none of the groups or characters is particularly likeable. Vargas Llosa is successful in setting the stage to this story: the various motivations of the political groups, and how enemies turn into allies at times, are brought to life in ways that are comprehensible and interesting, surprisingly enough.

However, even though I love his writing, I think he’s less successful in other ways. This is like a South American ‘War and Peace’, or an attempt at one anyway, without being as well-rounded. There are a few human interest subplots, but not enough, and the book becomes laborious and particularly tedious in its descriptions of troop movements and the battles themselves. Put another way, it’s far too long. It’s as if Vargas Llosa accumulated a tremendous amount of knowledge in doing research for the novel, and then tried to get all of that detail included. He errs too much on the side of presenting history, to the detriment of his art as a novelist.

The book started off in 3-star country for me, being hard to get into at the outset (which was all the more concerning given its length), climbed a bit but never truly flirted with 4-stars, and ended up dropping back down to 3 stars, as I was relieved to finish it. That’s not much of a recommendation is it? It’s for you only if you are really interested in this time period or the historical events. ( )
1 vote gbill | Mar 3, 2015 |
I read this book many years ago and loved it ( )
  debrakeogh | Feb 28, 2015 |
The upsides of this novel are so stunning it seems ungrateful to dwell on the downsides. But I'll start there. The first is Mario Vargas Llosa's almost disturbing pleasure in debauchery. The second is that the structure of the book seems a little off. The second half is entirely military campaigns and killing, which related to the first, can sometimes be tedious and feel unnecessary. The book is more War and War than War and Peace. Also, as the book shifts perspectives from the rebels to the government troops to the capital, it also shifts in time. As a result, the end of the Canudos military campaign is told more than a hundred pages before the end which adds to the occasional tedium. Also, as a result, the ending of the book did not seem to satisfyingly tie together the various pieces and a number of the more interesting characters disappeared.

All of that said, it is a monumental and for the most part thoroughly absorbing novel that effectively shifts perspectives and sympathies, telling what is ultimately portrayed as a tragic but morally ambiguous story. It shifts between the two parties in Bahia (the monarchists led by a Baron and the Republicans led by a newspaper editor), the army/federal government, and the breakaway Christian/communist/utopians of Canudos. Some of the creations, like the Baron de Canabrava, the nearsighted journalist, and several of the followers of the Counselor, are stunningly rendered and as real as any fictional figures. Many of the others are more stock characters, or not fully developed, or a little wooden (e.g., the cuckolded guide who spends a substantial portion of the book trying to hunt down his wife and kill her).

Feast of the Goat was better, but in many ways this book is literally bigger and also very much worth reading. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mario Vargas Llosaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Богдановск… АлександрTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Euclides da Cunha in the other world; and, in this world, to Nélida Piñon
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The man was tall and so thin he seemed to be always in profile.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312427980, Paperback)

Deep within the remote backlands of nineteenth-century Brazil lies Canudos, home to all the damned of the earth: prostitutes, bandits, beggars, and every kind of outcast. It is a place where history and civilization have been wiped away. There is no money, no taxation, no marriage, no census. Canudos is a cauldron for the revolutionary spirit in its purest form, a state with all the potential for a true, libertarian paradise--and one the Brazilian government is determined to crush at any cost.

In perhaps his most ambitious and tragic novel, Mario Vargas Llosa tells his own version of the real story of Canudos, inhabiting characters on both sides of the massive, cataclysmic battle between the society and government troops. The resulting novel is a fable of Latin American revolutionary history, an unforgettable story of passion, violence, and the devastation that follows from fanaticism.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:47 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

An apocalyptic prophet in the Brazilian backlands creates the state of Canudos. In it there is no money, property, marriage, income tax, decimal system, or census.

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