Review - The Feast of the Goat

The Feast of the Goat
by Mario Vargas Llosa
400+ pages

Description via Goodreads
Animated chaos, the profound need in what was once your people, Urania, to stupefy themselves into not thinking and, perhaps, not even feeling (6)
The Feast of the Goat takes place during the end of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. It contains the narrative of the infamous Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molinas--el Jefe--as well as the narratives of the daughter of one of his top officials and the many subversives and anti trujillistas, that take part in his assassination. 

The book begins with the narrative of Urania Cabral, daughter of one of the most distinguished Trujillo loyalists. She visits the DR for the first time in 35 years after having lived in the United States, to see her father who has degenerated into a vegetable. Despite his condition, Urania is bitter and borderline hateful towards him. Little by little her narrative sheds light on how Trujillo caused this woman to stupefy herself, to hate her father and become estranged from her people. Her story and the flashbacks within it, frame the other narratives. 
And then it occurred to him: "A cure equal to the disease." The face of a beautiful woman, exploding with pleasure in his arms, thanking him for the joy he had given her. Wouldn't that erase the frightened little face of that idiot? Yes: he'd go tonight to San Cristobal, to Mahogany House and wipe away the affront in the same bed with the same weapons (128)
The one ever-present element in this book is the intertwine of sex, politics and machismo, especially in Urania's and Trujillo's narratives. It seems when Trujillo isn't ordering people around, he's thinking about taking a trip to the Mahogany House (the local upscale brothel) What's interesting about this is Vargas Llosa parallels failings of the Trujillo regime with the failings of Trujillo's body; old age, impotence and incontinence.  

Whereas Urania is repelled by anything suggestive, or of a sexual nature, due to certain events in her adolescence which can be directly linked to Trujillo. In fact, I would go as far to say that Trujillo and Urania are complementary characters in almost every level of analysis. Trujillo holds a very low opinion of intellectuals, artists and writers, people whose work influence the evolution of thought, challenge his sovereignty. Urania falls into that category, not only professionally, but personally. And not just on an intellectual level, a physical one. 
It must be nice. Your cup of coffee or glass of rum must taste better, the smoke of your cigar, a swim in the ocean on a hot day, the movie you see on Saturday, the merengue on the radio, everything must leave a more pleasurable sensation in your body and spirit when you had what Trujillo had taken away from Dominicans thirty-one years ago: free will (144)
I could go on and on about gender, sex and politics in this book. It's a really good book to analyze for that type of reading. But generally speaking, I think this book is great because it shows how fear, shame and paranoia can spread like a disease in all parties. They spread through the oppressed and the oppressors--and not just in those individuals in the moment, but through generations over time.

The Feast of the Goat

Four stars.

Smooth Criminals, Reading Challenge for 2012

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