|Author:||Mario Vargas Llosa|
Mario Vargas Llosa’s latest novel is a chilling encounter with corruption, brutality and eroticism. The story opens with girlfriends Marisa and Chabela - two beautiful and wealthy women - who become lovers. Their husbands are successful men and best friends, one a lawyer, the other an engineer, with political connections in the right places and connections to the booming industrial wealth of Peru. Set in Lima in the 1990s, the backdrop is fraught, even for the wealthy and connected: curfews are in place, armed police remind the populace of the terrorist attacks, gossip and intrigue are slapped across the tabloid newspapers, and shady secret police overlords manipulate the political and economic social fabric. When Marisa’s husband Enrique Cardenas gets embroiled in a sex scandal, Garro - a gutter press editor - attempts blackmail. Enrique is far too arrogant to pay the journalist off and a game of bluff ensues, with each thinking the other will back down. The story is printed, Garro is murdered, there are several suspects, and Shorty enters the game. Here the plot really starts to drive forward. Shorty is a hard-edged reporter, a woman who admired her sleazy boss Garro for his ambition if not so much for his method. Getting closer to the ‘real’ story, Shorty is summoned by The Doctor, a sinister character modelled on Vladimiro Montesinos, the head of Peru’s Intelligence Service in the 1990s and henchman to Alberto Fujimori, the then President. Caught up in this dangerous situation, it seems as though she has no option but to capitulate to grander forces than her own. Vargas Llosa uses the relationship between the two couples to play out the decadence and deception inherent in the political structure. The novel is part thriller, part spectacle. He cleverly sets up each chapter like an episode of a soap opera with titles such as 'A Singular Affair', 'The Scandal' and 'A Whirlpool'. The seedy underbelly of the wealthy and politically powerful rubs up against, yet never touches, the dirt of the impoverished, highlighting the vast differences in experience, the gulf between the classes and the forces of power and money. Ironically, although truths are uncovered, the rich continue to grow richer, keep their positions of power, and indulge in their erotic play and subterfuge despite the tensions and troubles that could trip them.
Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010 'for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat.' He has also won the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's most distinguished literary honor. His many works include The Discreet Hero, The Feast of the Goat, The Bad Girl, and Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, all published by Faber.Edith Grossman has translated the works of the Nobel laureates Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, among others. Her version of Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote is considered the finest translation of the Spanish masterpiece in the English language.