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The Storyteller (1987)

by Mario Vargas Llosa

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1,0542316,387 (3.65)94
At a small gallery in Florence, a Peruvian writer comes across a photograph of a tribal storyteller deep in the Amazon jungle. As he stares at the photograph, it dawns on him that he knows this man. The storyteller is not an Indian at all but his university classmate, Saul Zuratas, who was thought to have disappeared in Israel. As recollections of Zuratas flow through his mind, the writer begins to imagine Zuratas' transformation into a member of the Machiguenga tribe. In The Storyteller, Mario Vargas Llosa has created a spellbinding tale of one man's journey from the modern world to our origins.… (more)
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English (18)  Spanish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (22)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
I did something with this book that I can't remember last doing: I stopped reading partway through the book. The first section of the book was decent. The second section, for me, was unintelligible. What I did understand of it, I was not enjoying. It was painful, and there was no enjoyment mixed with the pain. Life is too short. I have read other reviewers who raved about how unique the voices in the story are. Perhaps I will go back and try again at some point. I don't know. Once the memory of the pain has faded. ( )
  afkendrick | Oct 24, 2020 |
It is easier to live with a bad book with low aspirations than a mediocre book with high ones. I was mad much of the way through Mario Vargas Llosa's THE STORY TELLER because I wanted to love it but he wouldn't let me. Llosa touches on many themes that touch me including displaced cultures, indigenous mythology, cultural and personal identity, comparative religions, man vs. nature, media vs. culture, art as communication and communication as art. After an introduction that teases a great mystery, we know almost immediately what the answer to the mystery will be and that it will not be satisfying. In the meantime we are held at bay as the author plays out his themes as if in a series of writing exercises. The indigenous myths are meant to parallel the progression of the story in fact and structure but they are slapped onto the narrative in such a ham fisted manner that I felt like I had to wade through them rather than have them rise and lift me. There is some jumping back in forth in time that only accentuates the lack for forward movement the narrative. It's like reading Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS if Marlow talked about the river but never got into the boat. There are interesting parts where he touches on the history and politics of Peru and the history of indigenous tribes and the missionaries who live with them and working within the Peruvian TV industry--but it all feels disjointed like many separate small streams that never meet to form that mighty river. ( )
  KurtWombat | Sep 15, 2019 |
I started reading this novel while traveling in Peru. While in Peru, I learned about many of the Andean people's cultures. This novel takes places more than 20 years ago and discusses the influence of other cultures on these Andean cultures, particularly the influence of missionaries, ethnologists, government officials, entrepreneurs. The novel raises and explores the question of how people from outside the culture affect it, both intentionally and unintentionally. When a person meets another, they bring and share themselves, and will change the other person- the way the person thinks or behaves, and will be influenced.

I was quite surprised by the change in the Storyteller himself and what stories he told toward the end. I think about why the storyteller chose those later stories and had his thinking changed...

I found the writing interesting and thought provoking, but the chapters were very long. ( )
  kparr | Jul 25, 2018 |
In a Florentine shop, a Peruvian writer sees a photo of a Peruvian tribe mesmerized by a tribal storyteller, an almost mystical and mythical person rarely mentioned or even acknowledged to outsiders to exist. For years the writer has been searching for information on this tribe, and also for news of an old school friend who'd disappeared years ago. In the photo, he believes he sees his friend: the storyteller, fully assimilated into this primitive culture hiding in the Amazon. So opens a novel which is told in long, alternating chapters, first by the writer and then by the storyteller. The underlying debate: should isolated and primitive groups be Westernized or allowed to live their own culture? This is a question the two friends had often argued about at university, and here we are presented with both the writer's version of events leading him to discover his friend's destiny, if only in a photo, and the storyteller's tales of his people, their struggles to maintain their nomadic lifestyle (and therefore protect the world from the sun falling permanently into darkness), and stories of the invention of the world and its various supernatural, human, and animal inhabitants.

Although it's initially a challenge to adjust to the storyteller's language and cadence, his stories soon become the most interesting part of the novel as he recounts the tribe's mythology and his own adventures, interweaving tales from his culture of origin couched in the tribe's way of seeing the world. The author's own story very logically lays out the ethical questions in cultural clashes, but these sections pale in comparison to the storyteller's magical words. Highly recommended! ( )
4 vote auntmarge64 | Jan 20, 2018 |
I really like Vargas Llosa's style, and this is an excellent story. I enjoyed the hunt for the hablador more than the hablador's actual stories, but I loved the setup and construction of the story.
That said, it's not my favorite book of Llosa's, and I liked it in a more intellectual sense than being swept up in a story; it's a little too self-aware for you to fully disengage from reality while you're reading it. ( )
  mhanlon | Aug 29, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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A Luis Llosa Ureta, en su silencio, y a los kenkitsatatsirira machiguengas
口を閉ざすルイス・リョサ・ウレータとマチゲンガ族の語り部(ケンキツァタツィリラ)に捧ぐ (Japanese)
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I came to Firenze to forget Peru and the Peruvians for a while, and suddenly my unfortunate country forced itself upon me this morning in the most unexpected way.
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At a small gallery in Florence, a Peruvian writer comes across a photograph of a tribal storyteller deep in the Amazon jungle. As he stares at the photograph, it dawns on him that he knows this man. The storyteller is not an Indian at all but his university classmate, Saul Zuratas, who was thought to have disappeared in Israel. As recollections of Zuratas flow through his mind, the writer begins to imagine Zuratas' transformation into a member of the Machiguenga tribe. In The Storyteller, Mario Vargas Llosa has created a spellbinding tale of one man's journey from the modern world to our origins.

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