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Death in the Andes: A Novel by Mario Vargas…

Death in the Andes: A Novel (original 1993; edition 2007)

by Mario Vargas Llosa, Edith Grossman (Translator)

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1,0392712,977 (3.68)123
"In this novel, simultaneous plot lines ranging from an investigation by Corporal Lituma of a mysterious disappearance, to his deputy's love affair with a prostitute, to an Andean community terrorized by Shining Path guerrillas, and the alternating first- and third-person narrators all obscure coherence. Grossman's lazy translation needlessly retains large doses of original Spanish lexicon. An introduction, maps, and a translator's note are badly needed to orient readers not familiar with Peru"--Handbook of Latin American Studies, v. 58.… (more)
Title:Death in the Andes: A Novel
Authors:Mario Vargas Llosa
Other authors:Edith Grossman (Translator)
Info:Picador (2007), Edition: 1st, Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

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Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa (1993)

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English (24)  Spanish (3)  All languages (27)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
En un campamento minero de las montañas de Perú, el cabo Lituma y su adjunto Tomás viven bajo la constante amenaza de los guerrilleros maoístas de Sendero Luminoso, y debatiéndose con misterios sin aclarar, como ciertas desapariciones inexplicables. Está también la historia íntima de estos personajes, sobre todo la de un antiguo amor de Tomás
  Haijavivi | Jun 4, 2019 |
“as everybody in the Andes knows, when the devil comes to work his evil on earth he sometimes takes the shape of a limping gringo stranger."

This is my first experience of the author and even on completion I am somewhat non-nonplussed by his methodology.The book is split into two distinct parts with an epilogue and as the title suggests is set in the mountains of Peru. However, the main protagonist of this novel is an outsider, a man from the coast, Corporal Lituma. Lituma is a police officer who along with his adjutant Carreno has been sent to offer token protection from guerilla attacks at a road construction camp in the remote mountain village of Naccos.

Three men mysteriously vanish from the camp and whilst Lituma becomes obsessed by the disappearances this is much more than a murder mystery tale. Intertwined throughout is Carreno's reminiscences of the murder that he had committed whilst supposedly acting as a bodyguard and the subsequent naive love affair he had with a prostitute alongside tales of the guerillas (Senderistas) and their victims. The Senderistas are portrayed as being both brutal and dogmatic but the author deliberately avoids giving them little more than a peripheral role in both this novel and perhaps in Peru in general, in contrast their victims are given greater prominance. However, their inclusion alongside Correno's ill fated love affair seems aimed purely at distracting both Lituma's and the reader's attention from the on-going case. This idea is further enforced when despite it transpiring that all three missing men had previous encounters with the guerrillas, not to mention Lituma's and Correno's own precarious situation, they virtually disappear from the second half of the novel. Instead this half centres on yet another sub-plot, one that is equally dark and violent but one far more far more difficult to fathom.

Lituma suspects that Dionisio and his wife Dona Adriana, the keepers of the local cantina, have some involvement with the disappearances. Both are degenerates. Dionisio encourages the workers to drink and dance with himself and one another when drunk whereas Adriana reads fortunes and is viewed as a witch. They are knowledgeable of local folk lore which includes pishtacos, vampires who leach the fat from their victims' bodies, and apus, ancient spirits of the mountains, who were placated by Indian women with human sacrifices before undertaking any new project, eg a road. Lituma finally discovers that the three missing men were not victims of the guerillas but rather of a sadistic ritual.

The author intimates that human blood was as important as mortar as a building material back within mountain communities. A Scandinavian anthropologist informs Lituma how ''Aztec priests stood at the top of the pyramids and tore out the hearts of the victims'' and suggests that the serruchos, local villagers' Christianity, with its very own human sacrifice, is secretly enmeshed with the cults of their ancestors. Equally the Senderista purges are necessary tools as they attempt to build a new society of their own design. Llosa seems to intimate this as an unholy trinity and that many Andean communities haven't really advanced that much at all.

There are some beautifully written vignettes but they are often difficult to mesh together and the murder mystery element ultimately seems strangely peripheral to the novel. Instead it can be viewed as a vehicle to remind Lituma and educate the reader on Peru's bloody past. Personally I feel that the author would have been better advised to concentrate on one of these mountain myths rather than trying to incorporate so many. I generally enjoyed the author's writing style but sadly felt that the plot was often muddled. This has rather intrigued rather than deterred me from reading some of the author's other works but overall OK rather than great. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Jun 4, 2018 |
Remarkable! One of the best novel's I've read in some time and the best I've read by Vargas Llosa. Many plot lines are developed, but the technique is masterful as it is unique. Main characters are fascinating, but even more impressive is how quickly the author can create and make the reader care about minor figures like poor Pedrito Tinoco. I'll certainly read this novel again. ( )
  ProfH | Jan 13, 2017 |
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 |
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mario Vargas Llosaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Grossman, EdithTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wehr, ElkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Cain's City built with Human Blood,
not Blood of Bulls and Goats.

William Blake, 'The Ghost of Abel'
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Für Beatriz de Moura, die hochgeschätzte Freundin und vorbildliche Verlegerin
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Cuando vió aparecer a la india en la puerta de la choza.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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