Conversación en La Catedral PDF/EPUB ✓

Conversación en La Catedral PDF/EPUB ✓
    Conversación en La Catedral PDF/EPUB ✓ Literature."/>
  • Paperback
  • 768 pages
  • Conversación en La Catedral
  • Mario Vargas Llosa
  • Spanish
  • 21 February 2017
  • 9788466304566

Conversación en La Catedral[BOOKS] ✭ Conversación en La Catedral By Mario Vargas Llosa – A conversation is held in the Cathedral during the Manuel A Odrma dictatorship in Peru; over beers and a sea of freely spoken words, the conversation describes the degradation and the frustration of a A conversation is held in the Cathedral during the Manuel A Odrma dictatorship in Peru; over beers and a sea of freely spoken words, the Conversación en ePUB Ì conversation describes the degradation and the frustration of a town Through a complicated web of private lives, the author analyzes the mental and moral mechanisms that govern power and the people behind it Conversacisn en la Catedral is than a point of reference; it is a landmark in the history of present Literature.

10 thoughts on “Conversación en La Catedral

  1. says:

    Bumbling Towards Hell

    None of us is ever prepared for what is happening in our lives; nor are the choices presented to us - political, personal, spiritual - ones that we formulate. We move randomly, provoked by half-formed dreams and aspirations; but it simply isn’t possible to foresee the consequences of each move. So we react, with even less reason than immediate desire, to circumstances as they unfold. We call the result a life, or career, or accomplishment, but it is really only a series of unplanned revolutions in our experience, our preferences, our prejudices, our politics and the way in which we harm other people. Thus one of Vargas Llosa’s main characters can say. “People change here... never things.”

    The Peru of Vargas Llosa is perhaps exceptional in this regard. It is a place of ingrained racial tension - among the Spanish, the Mountain Indians, the Jungle Indians, the Blacks, the mixed race untouchables - which insures that no politics can be stable. Consequently everyone is “... in revolt against his skin, against his class, against himself, against Peru.” It is a place of domination by the Catholic Church through which personal advancement is controlled. It is a place of profoundly respected, and expected, machismo in which women have no voice and are presumed to submit in everything from sex to financial dependence. It is not therefore a happy place in which to seek one’s future. Everyone is disappointed, especially those who achieve what they believed they wanted. And revolution is more or less a way of life - personally as well as politically.

    The eponymous conversations take place in a bar, a working man's dive in Lima called the Cathedral. They tell the history of a group of boyhood friends and their families as well as that of Peru. This is a history of haplessness and failed dreams - about love, about vocation, about familial loyalty, about doing the right thing - largely because each dream interferes with the others. Love confronts loyalty and leads to a politics of hate; pursuing one’s calling demands giving up whatever doing the right thing means. Dreams become nothing more than a residue of regret and fragmented, sentimental memories. As one character describes another, “You seem to have stopped living when you were eighteen years old.”

    The literary technique of cutting abruptly from the personal conversation to the national history - and frequently inter-leaving up to four other conversations - can be disconcerting initially but as it becomes familiar it serves to amplify the ironies of the situation to the point of desperate sarcasm. The conflicts and incompatibilities of needs, wants, emotions become stark and obvious. As do the various forms of complicity in coercion and torture in contemporary Peruvian society.

    Otherwise relatively innocuous people are drawn into a web of systematic oppression of their compatriots. The life-choice seems limited to being either oppressed or oppressor. A neutral position doesn’t exist. “Doubts were fatal,” A young idealist says, “...they paralyze you and you can’t do anything, ...[S]pending your life digging around, would that be right? torturing yourself, would that be a lie? instead of acting?” But acting, even with good intentions, means acting against others, “And in this country a person who doesn’t fuck himself up fucks up other people.” Tyrants or reformers, it doesn’t matter; all act the same with power. Power isn’t simply correlated with evil; power is the evil which is everywhere and nowhere. It transforms those who merely seek it into carriers of a morbid infection.

    Unsurprisingly nothing goes the way it should for anyone, neither for those in charge nor those oppressed by those in charge. No one is reliable, even oneself; everyone evolves into a parasite on their family, friends, associates, and their own past. A transcendent demonic presence seems to infect the entire country. Indeed, the people change but things never do. This is normality in Vargas Llosa’s Peru, a profoundly hopeless normality about which nothing can be done. Santiago, the protagonist, is obsessed by the mysterious force behind his and everyone else’s failure: “All the doors open, he thinks, at what moment and why did they begin to close?”

    Ambrosio, the black chauffeur of Santiago’s family, is a Horatio-like interlocutor in conversation with Santiago as Hamlet. They each reveal the facts that the other never knew about both their families’ roles in the country’s continuing misery. Santiago can only drop more deeply into despair and spiritual ennui; he is traumatized: “My whole life spent doing things without believing, my whole life spent pretending....And my whole life spent wanting to believe in something, ... And my whole life a lie, I don’t believe in anything... APRA [the Leftist Party] is the solution, religion is the solution, Communism is the solution, and believing it. Then life would become organized all by itself and you wouldn’t feel empty anymore.” Looking to fill a spiritual, social and political flaw with anything at hand seemed the only strategy.

    Echoes of Trump’s America or Berlusconi’s Italy or Erdogan’s Turkey or Putin’s Russia? The political sensibilities of Vargas Llosa’s Peru seem to have become a worldwide phenomenon. Racism, unarticulated class warfare, the cooperation of religion in the service of power, seem to be the coming norms. It is difficult not to adopt Santiago’s mood of despair. Religious belief cannot create solidarity; neither can global consumerism. When did all the doors begin to close and why? Can they ever be opened again?

  2. says:

    Mario Vargas Llosa's third book is a marvelously terrorising romp through Peru of the 50s and 60s and yet all told in a bar called La Cathedral in the space of a few hours over a couple of beers and several packets of cigarettes. The narration of the first chapter is particularly confusing with each sentence being associated with a different narrator and timeline with sometimes no contextual help as to where they fit. And yet, the reader is carried along on these rapidly moving words as on a whitewater raft. The second chapter and fourth chapters are slightly more linear whereas the third chapter describes a coup kind of like in chapter one with events and actors changing every other sentence. At the heart of all of this are the aristocrat and friend of the Odria regime Don Gold Ball Fermin, his son Skinnny Superbrain Santiago, Don Fermin's chauffeur (et plus si affinité) Ambroisio - these last two are the ones who are speaking in the present reminiscing the past in the bar. There is also a series of prostitutes - la Quetita and La Musa Hortensia, Ambrosio's true love Amelia, Santiago's brother Sparky, his sister Teté, his brother-in-law Popeye - the names are all quite confusing. And who could forget Don Cayo Shithead Bermudez and his nefarious origin. The rise and fall of a regime, lovers quarrels in brothels, theater massacres...I could never work out who Lorenzo or Ludovico or some of the other drivers and henchmen were. And it was not clear to me who really killed Hortensia (don't worry, that's not a spoiler.)

    If it sounds too heady, maybe read Feast of the Goat first as the narration is more straightforward.

    In the same style, The Green House by Vargas Llosa is equally complex in narrative structure. Gaddis tried this kind of narration in several chapters of The Recognitions, but IMHO, he did not come close to pulling it off as successfully as Vargas Llosa!

    In summary, a confusing but extremely well-written book about Peruvian politics seen through the lenses of the aristocracy and its detractors over beer - a fascinating book.

    Note that some of the origins of this book were explained in MVL's autobiography, A Fish in the Water. This is really a fascinating read.

  3. says:

    Conversación en La Catedral = Conversation in the Cathedral, Mario Vargas Llosa

    Conversation in the Cathedral is a 1969 novel by Peruvian writer and essayist Mario Vargas Llosa, translated by Gregory Rabassa.

    One of Vargas Llosa's major works, it is a portrayal of Peru under the dictatorship of Manuel A. Odría in the 1950's, and deals with the lives of characters from different social strata.

    The ambitious narrative is built around 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 riveting conversation between the two at a nearby bar known as the Cathedral (hence the title).

    During the encounter Zavala tries to find the truth about his father's role in the murder of a notorious Peruvian underworld figure, shedding light on the workings of a dictatorship along the way.

    تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه آگوست سال 2005 میلادی

    عنوان: گفتگو در کاتدرال؛ نویسنده: ماریو وارگاس (بارگاس) یوسا؛ مترجم عبدالله کوثری؛ مشخصات نشر مشهد، نشر نما، چاپ نخست 1370، در دو جلد، چاپ دوم، تهران، لوح فکر، 1384 در 704ص، فروست: شاهکارهای ادبیات جهان، شابک 9648578052؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان پرویی سده 20م

    داستان با دیدار دو تن از شخصیتهای اصلی کتاب به نامهای «سانتیاگو زاوالا» و «آمبرسیو پرادو» در کافه ای به نام «کاتدرال» آغاز میشود، و به نوعی تا پایان کتاب ادامه دارد؛ داستانها و گفتگوهایی در داستان، به ویژه در فصل نخست، از نظر مکالمه شگفت انگیز هستند.؛ رمانی سیاسی ست و «بارگاس یوسا» نویسنده ی این اثر، برنده جایزه نوبل ادبیات سال 2010میلادی شده‌ است.؛ زبان اصلی نگارش این کتاب «اسپانیایی» است و کشور منتشر کننده آن جمهوری «پرو» است.؛ گفتگو در «کاتدرال» سومین رمان نویسنده، که در محیط شهر «لیما» شکل می‌گیرد.؛

    تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 17/05/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  4. says:

    Fantastic! Fan-tastic! Conversation in the Cathedral was definitely a big work of art, a real masterpiece. It was the first book by Llosa that I read (after a suggestion by my friend, Moeen) and I'm now eager to read some more of his. It was none of a magic realism but yet a pure South-American way of story telling, with so many stories happening.
    The book starts when Santiago Zavala, journalist, meets with his rich father's former chauffeur, Ambrosio, and they go to the bar Cathedral to have some beer and talk. They talk about their pasts and remember different stories from the very old times till the present. The whole book (about 700 pages) is the stories these two old fellas remember and retell.
    Apart from the great tales Llosa has put in his characters' mouths and brains, Conversation in the Cathedral is a big achievement in story telling. As the two get drunk, they start mixing things up. The result is that almost everywhere in the book, we have parallel stories, all being narrated at the same time. Specially at the time when the pals are most drunken, there are chapters in which four stories are being told simultaneously, in a way that each sentence belongs to one of them, and these sentences are not put in any specific order. Actually, there are times that you should decide that the sentence you are reading belongs to one story or the other. It seems even that the author gets drunk with his characters too, since from time to time he starts telling tales about places in which none of the fells were present. This parallel story telling is kept throughout the book, though it changes the style, i.e. when the guys regain a part of their consciousness, they continue telling their stories in turns, and in bigger slices: two pages each turn.
    Llosa's great style of writing has made this book a brilliant oeuvre of literature, a big must read for novel lovers and a real coursebook for whoever wants to write anything literal one day. He has made a great source of joy and surprise, which I doubt that will ever get outdated.

    P.S: I should thank God for giving us Abdollah Kosari! I read his translation of the book, and I should confess that it was a very great one, letting me devour the novel wholeheartedly and confidently.

  5. says:

    This is the best novel I’ve read in my 45 years of life. It is probably due to the fact that being Peruvian makes me feel deeply identified in it. I see it as a huge painting about the mentality and feelings of people in Peru and why not of people in many other countries in Latin America and probably around the world since the search of absolute power inevitably leads to corruption everywhere.
    This is a huge painting and indeed the most memorable intent to reach a “Total Novel” that I witnessed. In a parallel way that “One hundred years of solitude” portrays with enormous beauty that Caribbean sentiment through Macondo, this masterpiece depicts ruthlessly its own reality without any magic in it even though some facts could appear incredible to many western eyes. As time goes by this monument endures and even gets better in predicting human behavior and the proof is that the same facts just with different protagonists occurred again in Peru at the end of the 90’s with Fujimori and Montesinos.
    The style can be complicated but don’t take it personal, read it as you were enjoying your spare time, be patient, slowly make the pieces of this perfect and huge puzzle fit and you’ll see how everything starts to make sense, start to appreciate the whole panorama and to detect the profound implications of this simple bunch of papers that in the hands of one of the best gifted writers of this world turns in a timeless message of life.
    Since that day in the middle 80’s when I read it for the first time my life changed irreversibly, my juvenile and optimistic visions crashed the sad wall of reality but for good. It can be seen as unnecessarily bleak and it is certainly sad but even though reading it can be similar to listen to a doctor tell you that you have just few months of life remaining, you can obtain an invaluable gift of it. It can help you to focus on what is really important. You can also see it as a mediocrity eulogy when it implies decency that is finally what Santiago chooses for himself after being deeply disappointed of his surroundings.
    I’ve read it many times and every time I close its last page I confirm that almost everything is just sadly ephemeral and that it is very limited what we can do about it, everything will decay and get eventually screwed with or without you, just focus on what you can do to be better off and try to do it and when it fails move on. It is very likely that after 500 hundred years and onwards this novel will be still read it and appreciated as it deserves. To my personal taste it is one fundamental column of the universal literature building.
    Esta es la mejor novela que he leído en mis 45 años de vida, probablemente siendo peruano sea esta la consecuencia de sentirme profundamente identificado con ella al percibirla como un mural que retrata con tal precisión las mentalidades, sentimientos y vivencias tan propios de este país pero con seguridad también de muchos otros países, sobretodo latinoamericanos. Es una pintura de tal magnitud que engloba un mundo en sí misma, el más memorable intento de novela total del que he sido testigo. Así como en forma paralela Cien años de soledad, también una maravillosa novela, retrata ese sentir tan Caribe y expresa con tan enorme belleza ese mundo a través de Macondo, Conversación retrata con la frialdad de un forense su propia realidad que no tiene nada de mágica aunque para algunos pueda parecer a veces increíble. Con una sensación de tiempo pendular la misma historia, con los mismos métodos pero diferentes protagonistas se repetiría hacia fines de los 90 con Fujimori y Montesinos.
    Del estilo ya se ha hablado mucho, hay que tener paciencia ya que cual conversación entre dos personas que se ven después de mucho tiempo, las anécdotas y recuerdos se mezclan, diálogos y personajes de tiempos y lugares diferentes en una misma página en párrafos diferentes, poco a poco vamos reconstruyendo mentalmente este rompecabezas y aunque muchas veces sabemos el final de muchas de sus pequeñas historias, lo importante no es precisamente el final sino el detalle de cómo se llega al mismo, una sensación de caída luego de haber llegado al punto más alto, una montaña rusa de acontecimientos.
    Después de aquel lejano día en los 80 en que la leí por primera vez, y quizás porque lo hice precisamente cuando el Perú andaba tan jodido, mi vida no volvió a ser la misma, mi visión juvenil sobre mi país y sobre el mundo se estrelló contra la perversa realidad, años después a fines de los 90 comprobé que nuestra naturaleza no cambia, los métodos se estilizan pero los fines permanecen. Es cierto que puede ser vista como una novela pesimista, incluso negra pero es absurda y vomitivamente real, leerla es como escuchar al médico decirte que te quedan meses de vida, al estilo de Hesse en El Lobo Estepario puede asaltarte un sentimiento de desasosiego o como con Murakami en Tokyo Blues hasta un impulso hacia el suicidio pero en el fondo puedes interpretarla hasta como un elogio a la mediocridad cuando esta es al menos medianamente decente, que es lo que finalmente se impone a sí mismo Santiago. Por el contrario Ambrosio es una víctima más del clasismo, racismo y demás taras de esta sociedad que hasta hoy, aunque atenuadas ligeramente, aún persisten. Hay que leerla con criterio y sacar tus propias conclusiones, incluso hasta un mensaje positivo.
    Aunque tenga poco que ver con este género, Asimov en Fundación acuña una frase genial en boca de los sicomatemáticos que predicen una inminente caída del imperio La inercia de una civilización es más grande que las voluntades de sus miembros, todo se va a joder contigo o sin ti, todos nos vamos a morir sin importar lo que hagamos para evitarlo, puede parecer descorazonador pero interiorizar esta realidad te obliga a ver el mundo de otra forma, a fijar tus prioridades, sé consciente de tu pequeña magnitud y trata de hacer algo que valga la pena con tu efímera vida.
    La he vuelto a leer varias veces, la he terminado otra vez hace dos semanas y creo como dijo alguien por ahí que es una novela en la que uno esperaría que su autor muera inmediatamente después de haber escrito su última palabra, haberlo hecho antes de los 30 años sólo nos confirma (aunque no podamos ser testigos de ello) que muy probablemente pasarán 500 años y se seguirá leyendo a Mario Vargas Llosa. Esta novela junto a la Guerra del Fin del Mundo y la Fiesta del Chivo son a mi gusto, tres ladrillos fundamentales del gran muro de la literatura universal.

  6. says:

    Conversation in the Cathedral is a story of decline and fall – deterioration of family, ultimate ruination of hopes and pursuits.
    “The voice, the body are his, but he looks thirty years older. The same thin lips, the same flat nose, the same kinky hair. But now, in addition, there are purple bags on his eyelids, wrinkles on his neck, a greenish-yellow crust on his horse teeth. He thinks: they used to be so white. What a change, what a ruin of a man. He’s thinner, dirtier, so much older, but that’s his big, slow walk, those are his spider legs. His big hands have a knotty bark on them now and there’s a rim of saliva around his mouth.”
    The novel reminded me of Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner.
    Those who persevere in staying on the dark side of history are doomed.

  7. says:

    I must admit that I got off to a rocky start with Mario Vargas Llosa's Conversation in the Cathedral: after a dachshund is brutally clubbed to death in Chapter One* and a woman gets drugged and sexually assaulted in Chapter Two (by, moreover, sympathetic characters who don't ever seem quite to grasp the offensiveness of their actions), I was feeling a mite unfriendly toward the novel. By Chapter Three, though, I was reluctantly softening my stance, and by Chapter Four I was fully immersed in Vargas Llosa's unusual but compelling narrative voice. What won me over? It certainly wasn't a cessation of the brutality in this tale of disillusionment and corruption in 1950s Peru, although the sexual politics did redeem themselves somewhat. What really tipped the scales and had me devouring Vargas Llosa's novel in 100-page chunks was its unique combination of compelling storyline and experimental narration style. Vargas Llosa does something with his storytelling here that I've never exactly encountered before, and it's a technique I found both exciting and effective.

    Like many novels in which the main character(s) are looking back and attempting to untangle events of the past, Conversation in the Cathedral is multi-layered in its presentation. Within the first chapter we get a sketch of everything that happens in the book's present day (early 1960s): disillusioned newspaper columnist Santiago Zavala goes to fetch his dog at the pound, encounters an older man named Ambrosio who once worked for Santiago's father, and the two go for an extended talking-and-drinking session in a nearby dive bar. At the end of Chapter One, Santiago, now falling-down drunk, initiates an angry confrontation with Ambrosio about some event in their mutual past, but Ambrosio denies responsibility. Santiago then stumbles home with his dog, and promises his wife that he won't stay out drinking without calling her again.

    That's the extent of the present-day action, which is over in the first 20 pages. Throughout the rest of the 600-page novel, we get multi-layered, multi-voiced flashbacks reaching back to the years before dictator Manuel Odria's 1948 rise to power, when Santiago was an idealistic, upper-middle-class high school student preparing to enter San Marcos University. Gradually, of course, the reader begins to piece together the relationships surrounding Santiago and Ambrosio, and just what happened to cause the dynamics seen in the opening chapter. What sets Conversation in the Cathedral apart from most other flashback-to-the-past, multiple-voiced novels I've read is that any given passage, from one sentence to the next, can see-saw among three or four different scenes, taking place not just between different sets of people but at radically different times. The result is a sometimes-challenging but always compelling juxtaposition. In extreme cases, Vargas Llosa's technique can look like the following passage, which features four different scenes layered on top of each other: Santiago and Ambrosio's rehashing of the past in the present-day Cathedral bar; an early-1950 political rally in support of the Odríist candidate Emilio Arévalo, staffed by strong-man Trifulcio; a mid-1950 conversation among the now-Senator Arévalo, Senator Landa, and Santiago's father Don Fermín about the rigging of the recent elections and the increasing political power of Presidential favorite Cayo Bermúdez; and a police interrogation carried out by two of Ambrosio's sometime-colleagues, hired thugs Hipólito and Ludovico, sometime in the early 1950s.

          I'm not being nosy, but why did you run away from home that time, son? Ambrosio asks. Weren't you well off at home with your folks?

          Don Emilio Arévalo was sweating; he was shaking the hands that converged on him from all sides, he wiped his forehead, smiled, waved, embraced the people on the platform, and the wooden frame swayed as Don Emilio approached the steps. Now it was your turn, Trifulcio.

          Too well off, that's why I left, Santiago says. I was so pure and thick-headed that it bothered me having such an easy life and being a nice young boy.

          The funny thing is that the idea of putting him in jail didn't come from the Uplander, Don Fermín said. Or from Arbeláez or Ferro. The one who convinced them, the one who insisted was Bermúdez.

          So pure and thick-headed that I thought that by fucking myself up a little I would make myself a real little man, Ambrosio, Santiago says.

          That all of it was the work of an insignificant Director of Public Order, an underling, I can't swallow either, Senator Landa said. Uplander Espina invented it so he could toss the ball to someone else if things turned out badly.

          Trifulcio was there, at the foot of the stairs, defending his place with his elbows, spitting on his hands, his gaze fanatically fastened on Don Emilio's feet, which were approaching, mixed in with others, his body tense, his feet firmly planted on the ground: his turn, it was his turn.

          You have to believe it because it's the truth, Don Fermín said. And don't tar him so much. Whether you like it or not, that underling is becoming the man the General trusts the most.

          There he is, Hipólito, I'm making a present of him to you, Ludovico said. Get those ideas of being headman out of his brain once and for all.

          Then it wasn't because you had different political ideas from your papa? Ambrosio asks.

          He believes him implicitly, he thinks he's infallible, Don Fermín said. When Bermúdez has an opinion, Ferro, Arbeláez, Espina and even I can go to the devil, we don't exist. That was evident in the Montagne affair.

          My poor old man didn't have any political ideas, Santiago says. Only political interests, Ambrosio.

    I know this is a very extended quote, but it takes some time to get into the swing of what Vargas Llosa can do with this kind of staggered, syncopated dialogue. Like a choreographer working with four groups of dancers on stage simultaneously, he subtly shifts the focus from one to another of the four scenes, while still keeping all of them in motion at once. Even in the (relatively) short segment above, one can see the focus shifting slightly from Santiago/Ambrosio to the conversation among the senators and back again, like the intermittent interference that happens when a listener drives along the boundary between two radio stations broadcasting on the same frequency.

    Together, these four threads become more than the sum of their parts: not only is there an aesthetically affecting rhythm to their interplay, but the immediate juxtaposition of different characters and times is an interesting way to bring out the novel's themes. Here, for example, we have two competing analyses of the political events: on one station, there is Santiago's disgust with his father's opportunism and with his own youthful self-righteousness; while on the other, we get Don Fermín's self-interested but pragmatic play-by-play assessment of the unfolding political scene. At the same time, like palimpsests over which these conversations are layered, are the two scenes of action, of real-life cause and effect, which I visualize as sandwiching the senators' conversation: the lead-up to the elections they're discussing, and the stark reality of police brutality and oppression under the Odría regime.

    So too, we get the juxtaposition of two father/son pairs: Trifulcio the thug is Ambrosio's father, so a second filial dynamic is present, echoing the dominant theme established by Santiago and Don Fermín. Conversation in the Cathedral has much interesting commentary to offer on the class dynamics of Peruvian society, and we can see some of that coming out here: Santiago, with the bourgeois background he spends the entire novel trying to escape, has nonetheless the privileged person's sense of entitlement: he feels betrayed by the person he has discovered his father to be, and he holds that against the man's memory because he feels he somehow deserves a father different from the one he got. Ambrosio, on the other hand, is remarkably free from bitterness, despite Trifulcio being a much more negligent and immoral father to him than Don Fermín was to Santiago. (Santiago's statement that his father didn't have any political ideas, only political interests is ironic given how much truer it is when applied to Ambrosio's father rather than his own.)

    Moreover, throughout their entire conversation, Ambrosio reinforces rather than questions the emphasis on the Santiago/Don Fermín relationship: while the two bar patrons discuss both their lives, Ambrosio seems to have had more of a relationship with Santiago's father than he had with Trifulcio, and is invested in defending his former employer to the man's son. This continues to be true despite a number of narrative reveals later in the book (the circumstances of Trifulcio's eventual death; details about the dynamic between Don Fermín and Ambrosio) which might lead a reader to assume Ambrosio would have his own axe to grind with Don Fermín. Ambrosio, though, has been trained not to question his own status as a secondary player on the stage of life; he doesn't believe he deserves any particular treatment or quality of life. These issues of class hierarchy and feelings of entitlement are in turn reflected in the senators' discussion of the commoner Cayo Bermúdez, whose social standing earns their contempt but whose influential role in the President's inner circle commands their fear and respect. Meanwhile, on the other ends of the class and paternity spectrums, menial laborer Trinidad López is being beaten to death by Odría's and Bermúdez's goons just as he is about to become a father himself.

    Obviously, it would be easy to write about Conversation in the Cathedral all night: its epic scope and unusual presentation make for a rich, thought-provoking ride. Long story short, I'm glad my reading buddies provided me with the motivation to stick with this book through the initial off-putting chapters, since Vargas Llosa's overall humanity and impressive writing chops more than made up for them in the end.


    *I admit to being a little over-sensitive to the issue of animal brutality, particularly since my dog happens also to be a dachshund and a former stray just like the one that gets clubbed to death in Chapter One of Conversation in the Cathedral. Graphic cruelty toward animals is a huge turnoff for me, even if it's a realistic depiction intended to demonstrate the desperation of the people perpetrating said cruelty. To be fair, I believe this scene has a valid rationale behind it: it shows in a visceral way that Ambrosio has fallen to the bottom of the employment barrel, and has to choose between starvation and doing a job that's horrific and dehumanizing. As we find out later, Ambrosio doesn't even seem to believe that he deserves control over his own life or body; he can't be expected to believe in that right when applied to a dog. Still, it was upsetting to me out of proportion with what I believe Vargas Llosa intended. Which is a little bit funny considering that Ambrosio also works as a thug beating up humans, and that doesn't bother me at all. I suppose we all have our triggers.


  8. says:

    If Mario Vargas Llosa, had never written anything else, Conversation in the Cathedral would by rights earn him the Nobel Prize for Literature. It is a hefty novel (600 pages or so), but it is worth spending the time reading.

    The novel is set during the dictatorship of Manuel Odria (1948-1956). The major characters are Santiago Zavala, nicknamed Zavalita, and Ambrosio Pardo. The first is the eldest scion of a rich family that is well tied in with the dictator; the second, a black former chauffeur for Zavalita's father and also for the infamous Cayo Bermudez, Odria's security chief. Ostensibly, the conversation of the title is between Zavalita and Ambrosio, who have just met at the dog pound where the latter now works. It takes place at bar called the Cathedral.

    For the first third of the novel, numerous conversations between several of the characters are interleaved -- conversations taking place at different times and in different places. Then Vargas Llosa continues in a more conventional vein picking up various threads of the story. Every once in a while, however, threads of the conversation between Zavalita and Ambrosio appear.

    The cast of characters is extensive, ranging from Cayo Bermudez down to chauffeurs, maids, whores, party girls, and various hoods employed by Bermudez.

    Estranged from his wealthy family after a flirtation with communism as a student, Zavalita breaks free and becomes a reporter for The Cronica, a Lima daily newspaper, where he gets involved with murders, stories about lottery winners, and other lowlife minutiae, to the disgust of his family. He gets married to a nurse who his mother claims is little better than a maid.

    In the end we see numerous stories of blighted ambitions and hopes arising from the heavy hand of President Odria and his enforcers -- all taking place over a period of approximately a decade.

    If you read any one novel by Vargas Llosa, this is the one to select. Even if it is a big-ass book.

  9. says:

    This is a big, well-structured book that reflects the 1950's of Vargas Llosa's native Peru. The title actually refers to a conversation betweean two main characters, Santiago and Ambosio and how their lives are intertwined in the power and politics of the day. Santiago, son a of a powerful family throws everything away to become a journalist. His stance stirs up issues in his family while, Ambrosio is a dark-skinned poor man who works as a driver for two rival men. Stir in the dictatorship, politics, violence, brothels and family and you have the recipe for examining corruption.

    This is an older book written in 1969 and shows his tour de force plot and I can't say much about it without a spoiler alert. At the same time, I have to admit that early on I did get a little confused as to what is going on. Part of this confusion comes from the fact that it often flips back in forth from present to past without warning. The subtlies make it challenging if not difficult to know what is going on at first but keep in mind it is a dialogue. Keep reading and context sorts it out.

    The plot is both elaborate and takes awhile to unravel - the book is 600 pages long! The characters are very strong but how they are intertwined is both intriguing and insidious but that is what makes Vargas Llosa such a good read. Nothing boring here.

  10. says:

    My third book by Mario Vargas Llosa and the history lessons continue. 1950's Peru is the focus when General Odria led a successful coup against Jose Bustamante installing his oppressive and ridiculously corrupt regime.

    Two friends, who've lost touch over the years, encounter each other at a dog pound and decide to have a celebratory reunion drink. The first chapter is the start and end of the conversation, which lasts about 20 pages. Everything after this are the memories/flashbacks they discuss during their chat. I can only imagine they’re super-fast talkers as not much time seems to elapse between them entering and exiting the bar and yet we get two whole life stories!

    The first point to mention is the writing style as they’ll be 2 or 3 conversations taking place at the same time with each sentence of dialogue alternating between the different conversations. It took me until chapter 4 to realise what was going on. I did get used to the style but it was annoying, especially as it wasn’t necessary and diminished my reading experience. This does change for part two with a more standard one section per character format being used but the craziness is re-introduced later on.

    Writing style aside this is a decent novel with all of the emotional distress I’d expect from a story of a country under a Dictators rule. There’s a good spectrum of characters with the powerfully corrupt and the despairingly poor clashing with each other. Most of all this is a slice of real life during a troubling period of Peru’s history and how lives are shaped by governments.

    Conversation in the Cathedral isn’t as impressive as The Feast of the Goat or War of the End of the World. At times it was addictive but for every extended period of brilliance there was a 30 page interval of annoyance, usually at the writing style but at times the story becomes scattered and confusing. If I was to read this again my rating would probably be higher as a second go would be more rewarding and the whole story would make more sense. But until that happens it’s a lower score than i anticipated.

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