After a very very long time, Mario Vargas Llosa has written a novel that reminds us what a great writer he once was.
“Harsh Times” plays with time, simultaneous and disjointed at once through a collage of episodic narratives to recall the coup that overthrew the Guatemalan October Revolution in 1954. Both in form and content, Llosa makes a comeback with this novel that intersperses factual history and imaginative fiction to expose the role of the CIA and the United States in destabilizing democratically elected governments and in propping up dictators to serve the cause of US corporations in Latin America (The United Fruit Company in this case). The last La Dictadura novel that Llosa wrote was The Feast of the Goat (2000) and there are some characters from that work that show up in this novel too, most prominently Rafael Leónidas Trujillo and his henchman Johny Abbes García.
Continue reading “Harsh Times – a review”
The Dream of the Celt, Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa’s latest novel published in Spanish in 2010, and whose English translation appeared earlier this year, recounts the life of Sir Roger Casement in the earlier part of the 20th century. Born of a Catholic mother and a Protestant father, Casement served the British Empire well enough to be honoured with the title of ‘Sir’. His life, however, ended tragically when he was executed by the same British state in 1916 for his role in the Easter Uprising in Ireland.
As a 20-year-old, Roger Casement joined the International Congo Society’s (AIC) operations in the Congo in Africa. A fervent believer in the idea that the West was spreading civilization across the world, his ideas underwent a transformation when he was exposed to the brutalities the AIC–owned by the Belgian King Leopold II–was committing to further his interests in the extraction of rubber in that part of the world.
Roger Casement prepared a report strongly indicting the rubber company and hence the Belgian monarch. This report led to Roger Casement’s recognition as a great liberator of the Congolese people. He was subsequently sent to South America to investigate the treatment of natives. His report had a devastating impact, and the Peruvian Amazon Company that was responsible for the atrocities was forced to close down.
His fame had, by then, spread to all echelons of British society, and Sir Roger Casement was offered a diplomatic post as the British ambassador to Brazil. It was then that he made a surprising decision. He turned down the offer and instead decided to return to Ireland and dedicate his life to the freedom from the very colonial power that he had served until recently. Continue reading “The Dream of the Celt”