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(04/13/2008) The Time Of The Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa. New York. 1966. Grove Press. Translated From The Spanish By Lysande Kemp. keywords: Literature Translated Peru Latin America. 409 pages. Originally published in Spanish as La ciudad y los perros, 1962 - Editorial Seix Barral, S. A. , Barcelona.

While at first a bit confusing with its multiple narrators, it will not take long for the persistent reader to fall right into the rhythm of this novel. Banned in Peru when it was originally published because it was considered scandalous, and even burned publicly, it is the story of a group of rebellious military school cadets. Mario Vargas Llosa was reportedly not happy with the American title. He wanted it to be closer to the book's title in Spanish, something like 'The City of the Dogs.'

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   The scene: a pitch-black lavatory after eights-out in a military academy. Four cadets are drawing lots for the night's mission. Their objective: the captain's office. Their target: to steal a copy of the next day's chemistry examination. Thus begins THE TIME OF THE HERO, a work which has been hailed by critics around the world as one of the best Spanish-language novels of recent decades. The author has set his novel at the Leoncio Prado Military Academy in Lima, Peru. In this microcosm, this city within a city, a group of cadets form still another circle in their attempt to break out of the vicious round of sadistic hazing, military discipline, confinement, and boredom. The cadets' rebellion is led by the Jaguar, an aloof, tough boy who refuses to be initiated and treated as one of the Dogs. Under his leadership seven cadets, later reduced to four, join forces to fight the system by smuggling in pisco and cigarettes, running midnight poker games in the latrine, selling answers to examinations, stealing or mutilating uniforms. The Poet, regarded as the class brain, writes and sells pornographic stories; the Boa, their sex hero, wins the contests they hold in their hide-out; and the Slave is their built-in scapegoat. But what began as pranks in their First Year turns into tragedy by the time the boys reach the Third Year-the point at which the novel opens. The officers' discovery of the theft of a crucial final exam sets off a cycle of betrayal, murder, and revenge which jeopardizes the entire military hierarchy. Moving back and forth from past to present, from inner thought to outer action, from within the Academy to the city outside, Vargas Llosa exposes the sordid world of the military elite, with its hypocrisy, moral decay, and power politics, and the corruption throughout the society beyond the Academy walls. Mario Vargas Llosa is a Peruvian writer who is one of Latin America's leading novelists and essayists.

Mario Vargas Llosa was born in Arequipa to a middle class family of Spanish forebears, the only child of Ernesto Vargas Maldonado and Dora Llosa Ureta. His parents separated five months after their marriage. Vargas Llosa spent his childhood with his mother in Cochabamba, Bolivia, obtaining his early education at the local Colegio La Salle. During the government of Jose Luis Bustamante y Rivero, his grandfather obtained an important political post in the Peruvian city of Piura, which prompted Vargas Llosa's family to return to Peru near his grandfather and study in the Colegio Salesiano. In 1946, Vargas Llosa moved to Lima and met his father for the first time. His parents reestablished their relationship and lived in the capital during his teenage years. While in Lima he studied at the Colegio La Salle. When Vargas Llosa was 14, his father sent him to the Leoncio Prado Military Academy in Lima. A year before his graduation, Vargas Llosa was already working as an amateur journalist. He withdrew from the military academy and finished his studies in Piura, where he worked for the local newspaper La Industria and, at the same time, where the theatrical performance of his first dramatic work, La Huida del Inca, took place. During the government of Manuel A. Odria, Vargas Llosa entered Lima's National University of San Marcos in 1953 to study literature. At the young age of 19, he married Julia Urquidi, his uncle's sister-in-law, who was 13 years his senior. The relationship did not last long, however, and in 1959 he left to Spain thanks to a Javier Prado scholarship, and did post-graduate studies at the Complutense University of Madrid, from which he received a Ph. D. Vargas Llosa first came to attention as a writer with La Ciudad y los Perros, based on his teenage experiences at Leoncio Prado. The work met with wide acclaim, and its author was hailed as one of the main exponents of the Latin American literature boom, alongside Paraguay's Augusto Roa Bastos, Argentina's Julio Cortazar, Mexico's Carlos Fuentes and Colombia's Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The novel shows influence of the existentialist works of Jean-Paul Sartre, and quotes a dialogue from one of his novels at the beginning of each of its two parts. It also showed as a stepping for what would become Vargas Llosa's trademark technique, the use of alternating dialogue to portray realities that are separated by space and time, and the use of verb tense to move his narrative back and forth in time; as well as establishing what would become the main theme of his narrative: the fight of the individual in search of freedom in an oppressive reality. He followed La Ciudad y Los Perros by writing La Casa Verde, a novel that shows the considerable influence that William Faulkner had on the budding writer. The novel deals with a brothel called the Green House, and how its quasi-mythical presence affects the lives of the characters. The main plot follows Bonifacia, a girl who is about to receive the vows of the church, and the transformation that will lead her to become la Selvatica, the best known prostitute of the Green House. The novel confirmed Vargas Llosa in his position as an important voice of Latin American narrative, and went on to win the first edition of the Romulo Gallegos International Novel Prize in 1967, out-voting works by the veteran Uruguayan writer Juan Carlos Onetti and by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Vargas Llosa's third novel completes what many critics consider to be his most valuable narrative cycle. Published in a four-volume edition, Conversacion en la Catedral was Vargas Llosa's first attempt at what he calls a 'total novel,' that is, the depiction of all the levels of a society through fictional narrative. The novel is a deconstruction of Peru under the dictatorship of Odria in the 1950s, and deals with the lives of characters from the different social strata of the country. The ambitious narrative is built around two axes, the stories of Santiago Zavala and Ambrosio respectively; one the son of a minister, the other his chauffeur. A random meeting at a dog pound leads to a rivetting conversation between the two at a nearby bar known as the Cathedral In the course of the encounter Zavala tries to find the truth about his father's role in the murder of a notorious figure of the Peruvian underworld, shedding light on the workings of a dictatorship along the way. The novel makes sophisticated use of techniques of alternating narrative, as the conversation in the bar is intercut with scenes from the past. Vargas Llosa followed this serious novel with the shorter and much more comic Pantaleon y las visitadoras, which, through a series of vignettes of dialogues and documents, follows the establishment by the Peruvian armed forces of a corps of prostitutes assigned to visit military outposts in remote jungle areas. In 1977 Vargas Llosa published La tia Julia y el escribidor, based in part on his first marriage. Julia Urquidi, his ex-wife, later wrote a memoir, Lo que Varguitas no dijo in which she gave her own version of their relationship. Vargas Llosa's novel was later adapted as a Hollywood feature film, Tune in Tomorrow. La guerra del fin del mundo, published in 1981, is a fictional recreation of the War of Canudos, an incident in 19th-century Brazil in which an armed millenarian cult held off a siege by the national army for a number of months. Vargas Llosa's most recent novel, Travesuras de la nina mala, relates the decades-long obsession of its narrator, a Peruvian expatriate, with a woman with whom he first fell in love when both were teenagers. Vargas Llosa's novels include many different literary genres, including comedy, murder mystery, historical novel, political thriller, and erotic They are often based on historical events or personal experiences. His writing style often includes intricate changes in time and narrator, similar to that of American novelist William Faulkner, whom Vargas Llosa acknowledges as a literary influence in his account of the novelist's craft A Writer's Reality Vargas Llosa's first novels were set in Peru, but he has broadened his setting over time. Later novels included some set elsewhere in Latin America, such as Brazil ) and the Dominican Republic ) One of his more recent novels ) is set largely in France and Tahiti. Vargas Llosa has written a book-length study of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a onetime friend with whom he subsequently parted ways. After the book, entitled Garcia Marquez: historia de un deicidio, was published in 1971 in an edition of 20,000 copies, the initial edition quickly sold out, but despite great demand Vargas Llosa refused to allow its republication for many years. The study was eventually included in a volume of his collected works in 2006. It has not been translated into English. He has also written book-length studies of Flaubert and of the Valencian writer Joanot Martorell. Vargas Llosa's discussion of his own novels is contained in A Writer's Reality In common with many fellow Latin American intellectuals, Vargas Llosa was initially a supporter of the Cuban revolutionary government of Fidel Castro, but he eventually became disenchanted with the policies of the Cuban government and moved considerably to the right. During the 1980s, Vargas Llosa became increasingly politically active in his native country, and became known for his staunch neoliberal views. He ran for the presidency of Peru in 1990 as the candidate of the center-right FREDEMO coalition. He proposed a drastic austerity program that frightened most of the country's poor. During the campaign, his opponents read racy passages of his works over the radio in an apparent attempt to shock voters. Although he won the first round with 34of the vote, Vargas Llosa was defeated by a then-unknown agricultural engineer, Alberto Fujimori, in the subsequent run-off. His account of his run for the presidency was subsequently included in a memoir, published in an English-language translation as A Fish in the Water. On his most recent visit to Peru before the 2006 presidential elections, Vargas Llosa campaigned in favor of conservative candidate Lourdes Flores, saying she respected democracy and promised 'a moderate' program for the country. In contrast, he warned that if nationalist candidate Ollanta Humala were to win it would be a 'great misfortune' since he 'will push Peru toward the same catastrophic route that Chavez is pushing his country. ' Although Humala had led a rebellion against Fujimori in 2000, Vargas Llosa suggested that Humala was a carbon copy of Fujimori. He asked: 'How it is possible that at least a third of Peruvians want a return to dictatorship, authoritarianism, a subjugated press, judicial manipulation, impunity and the systematic abuse of human rights?' As the presidential race during the second round drew to an end and polls showed Humala trailing former president Alan Garcia, Vargas Llosa tepidly endorsed Garcia as 'the lesser of two evils. ' His cousin Luis Llosa is a Peruvian film director, who has filmed an adaptation of Vargas Llosa's novel The Feast of the Goat. Vargas Llosa and Julia Urquidi were divorced in 1964. In 1965 Vargas Llosa married his first cousin Patricia Llosa, with whom he has three children: Alvaro Vargas Llosa, a writer and editor; Gonzalo, a businessman; and Morgana, a photographer.  

 

 

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