Monday 5 September 2022

Vargas Llosa, Mario "The Feast of the Goat"

Vargas Llosa, Mario "The Feast of the Goat" (Spanish: La fiesta del chivo) - 2000

We read this in our international online book club in August 2022.

This was one of the toughest books I ever read. The descriptions of the torture are quite vivid and detailed. I wouldn't recommend it to someone who has a weak heart.

Rafael Trujillo was the dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1930 until his assassination in 1961. Of course, I had heard about the dictatorship and recently read "In the Time of the Butterflies" by Julia Alvarez, so I should have been forewarned enough. But I wasn't. The way, this dictator ruined almost everybody's life and what people can do to other human beings, it's just unbelievable.

The story is told by Trujillo himself, by Urania Cabral who is the daughter of one of his followers, and by his assassinators taking turns and making the story even more suspenseful than it is already. We see the different points of view - not that it makes us understand the dictator any better, I wouldn't want to anyway. Supposedly, he loved his country and its people but how can you treat someone like that if you love them.

It is unbelievable how the author managed to put this remarkable story on paper, I guess you have to be a Nobel Prize winning writer for that.

Comment from one of our book club members.
"This book provides wonderful insights into Rafael Trujillo, once dictator of the Dominican Republic. The reader can see his strength, his discipline, his idealism and the corruption of all that into a hideous corrosive force degrading himself, his collaborators and the innocent alike. The writing and storytelling are compelling. This is the best book I have read in a long time."

She is right. Unfortunately, her description fits many dictators.

Another comment:
"Reading the book started out quite slow for me, because of the different time and point of view changes, but after about half the book I could not put it down again until I finished it. It was really horrifying and revealing about history and places I had no idea about. And I dont understand at all how people can be so evil, cruel, manipulative. I absolutely also can recommend this book!"

I totally agree. It is unbelievable what people can do to each other.

"One of the most valuable things about this superb piece of literature is that it gives us a close-up, vivid, and personal view, partly factual and partly imagined, of the perpetrators of gross injustice so we can begin to understand how people can be so evil, cruel and manipulative. It worked for me."

Book Description:

"Haunted all her life by feelings of terror and emptiness, forty-nine-year-old Urania Cabral returns to her native Dominican Republic - and finds herself reliving the events of 1961, when the capital was still called Trujillo City and one old man terrorized a nation of three million people. Rafael Trujillo, the depraved ailing dictator whom Dominicans call the Goat, controls his inner circle with a combination of violence and blackmail. In Trujillo's gaudy palace, treachery and cowardice have become the way of life. But Trujillo's grasp is slipping away. There is a conspiracy against him, and a Machiavellian revolution already underway that will have bloody consequences of its own. In this 'masterpiece of Latin American and world literature, and one of the finest political novels ever written' ('Bookforum'), Mario Vargas Llosa recounts the end of a regime and the birth of a terrible democracy, giving voice to the historical Trujillo and the victims, both innocent and complicit, drawn into his deadly orbit."

Mario Vargas Llosa received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010 "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat".

Mario Vargas Llosa received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 1996.

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.


  1. I don't think I can read this one; I don't do well with torture.

    1. That's the reason I mentioned it. I think it should have a warning on the cover. It was very well written, though, maybe too well. I can recommend his other novels, though, I really like the author.

  2. I cannot read detailed things about torture. Not for me it seems. Although I would like to read something by Vargas Llosa. Have to find another one I think.

    1. Yes, Anon (I guess you didn't intend to comment anonymously, the blogsites should get their act together!) Should you read this, my favourite is Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter but I liked all of his books.