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Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa

Death in the Andes (1993)

by Mario Vargas Llosa

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Novelas de Lituma (4)

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English (22)  Spanish (3)  All languages (25)
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
During my reading of this story, I felt that Llosa was taking me deep into the Andes with their violence, morbidity, superstitions, hopeless people, drugs, poverty and into the clashes between the ingenious habitants and those trying to modernize the area. The two main characters' constant inner struggles between hope and despair, love and gloom endears them. I was mystified by the beautiful poetic narrations of Llosa. He well deserves the Nobel prize. ( )
  drjesons | Jan 18, 2014 |
Ostensibly this book is about the disappearances of three men in the mountains of Peru which two Civil Guards are sent to investigate. However this is not much more than a plot device for the author to explore broader themes such as poverty, violence and hopelessness. And he throws in a dash of romance (of the cruder variety) for levity.

If I’d read anything about this book before picking it up from my local library I wouldn’t have brought it home with me because it is exactly the kind of book my brain cannot process. Although it didn’t take me as long, reading it reminded me very much of the long four months it took me to plod through Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera a few years ago because everyone said it was so wonderful. I once again thought I’d have made about as much sense of the book if I’d read it in its original (and to me incomprehensible) language. In short I don’t ‘do’ magical realism and this book is full of it.

The two investigators, Captain Lituma and his sidekick Tomás, treat the local villagers as little better than savages or simpletons, especially when they discover that the locals still practice ancient spiritual beliefs and attribute the disappearances of the three men to these mystical elements. I won’t even pretend I understood these beliefs which seemed to have a heavy supernatural element and the only thing I’ll remember is the ‘pishtacos’ which are some kind of fat-sucking spooky thing that I don’t think it would be pleasant to meet.

Aside from this element the book is extremely violent, not surprisingly I suppose as it looks in-depth at the brutal reign of the communist guerrillas known as Sendero Luminoso (or Shining Path) and their impact on local people and politics. Lituma believes they’re responsible for the disappearances rather than any mystical being and he spends a lot of time talking about murders, rapes and torture he has witnessed or knows of. There wasn’t much room for sunshine and happiness in all of this. I imagine Lituma’s endless fascination with his off-sider’s romantic attachment to a prostitute he went on the run with when he shot her client while she was servicing him was meant to provide that lighter element to the book but honestly I just found it needlessly crude and bordering on repulsive.

The combination of a narrative told from a constantly changing point of view, a major fantasy element and the endless violence and crude language did not appeal to me at all. Even the translation provided a bit of a struggle as many words were left in the original language with no explanation provided as to why. There were moments where I was engaged enough by a snippet of narrative to want to learn more about the plight of the people (or, heaven forbid, find out the outcome of the mystery) but these were few and surrounded by too much surrealism for me. In fact I wouldn’t have bothered finishing the book at all if it weren’t for the fact that I needed to read a book set in Peru for a reading challenge. However, there are plenty of very positive reviews of Death in the Andes here and elsewhere so don’t take my non-fantasy-loving brain’s word on it ( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
This was my first taste of Vargas-Llosa, and it was interesting to say the least. This novel starts off kind of slow, but it gets better as the reader becomes more and more curious about what exactly has happened (and is going on) and as the characters become more and more intriguing.

( )
  purplehena | Mar 31, 2013 |
Such a morbid tale filled with creative prose and plots. Llosa changes narrators with ease and the resultant episodic plot lines are well placed. Originality at its finest. ( )
  TJWilson | Mar 29, 2013 |
Once the setting has been established, he brings in new characters from outside by telling us their biographies first (such as Stirmsson, the French couple, the ecologist) introducing them as possible main characters, getting us involved with them, and then abruptly killing them off.

Wide diversity of characters (chosen for their social/professional roles) carries a wider evocation of society - the minister, the ecologist, the shaman, the bar tender, the mountain mute, the foreign academic, the miner, the army commander etc.

Jarring sentence breaks(eg.89) - he omits buffer sentences like "the next morning" and transports action across time and space without announcing it and without including a page or paragraph break. The effect is disorienting, you have to figure out where you've been thrown from within unfolding action. Cinematic technique.

Excellent use of standalone short stories (such as the Senderista massacre of Pedrito Tinoco's vincunas, or the revenge upon the albino by the girl he got pregnant) which weave back into the main narrative (the disappearance mystery).

Doesn't detail live violence - leaves a lot to imagination "he was sure her hand wouldn't tremble when she fired."

Including the reader in the story: The sub plot of Carreno's love story is handled by Lituma being his audience and alleviating writer's doubt by making comments like "it's getting boring now." A smart but unpretentious postmodern technique to get over the tedium and doubt of narration. Lituma is only 'one kind of reader', you could have more. The author narrates this whole story in 3rd rather than first person - it draws attention to itself as a standalone story.

Paralel narration - (145/6) - Lituma is not interested in Carreno's lovesick ramblings and is recounting things he read in a magazine about eye thieves in Lima, while Carreno prattles on. The effect is comic and realistic - people often try to steer conversation onto a topic that interests them at the expense of what the other person is saying.

The narration creates suspense by articulating character's hopes and fears through visual imaginings "he pictured himself lying inert, his spine shattered, at the bottom of the cliff..." This is a realistic tool that also creates a sense that the story might or might not be heading this way.
  mingusfingers | Jul 31, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mario Vargas Llosaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Grossman, EdithTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wehr, ElkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Für Beatriz de Moura, die hochgeschätzte Freundin und vorbildliche Verlegerin
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Cain's City built with Human Blood, not Blood of Bulls and Goats.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312427255, Paperback)

In a remote Andean village, three men have disappeared. Peruvian Army corporal Lituma and his deputy Tomás have been dispatched to investigate, and to guard the town from the Shining Path guerrillas they assume are responsible. But the townspeople do not trust the officers, and they have their own ideas about what forces claimed the bodies of the missing men. To pass the time, and to cope with their homesickness, Tomás entertains Lituma nightly with the sensuous, surreal tale of his precarious love affair with a wayward prostitute. His stories are intermingled with the ongoing mystery of the missing men.

Death in the Andes is an atmospheric suspense story and a political allegory, a panoramic view of contemporary Peru from one of the world's great novelists.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:17 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

General Adult. Set in an isolated, rundown community in the Peruvian Andes, a part mystery, part political allegory follows a series of disappearances that involve the Shining Path guerrillas and a local couple who performs Dionysian sacrifices. Reprint. 10,000 first printing.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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