Sunday, March 29, 2009
THE TIME OF THE HERO by Mario Vargas Llosa
Vargas Llosa's first novel The Time of the Hero (as the English publishers inexplicably translate the Spanish title La Ciudad et los Perros, literally The City and the Dogs, a much better title) is a good book with some extraordinary individual scenes, but it's weakened by a few errors seemingly endemic to first novels. There are some unnecessary scenes, a certain laxness in the narration, and the desire to say 'too much,' not only about the particular military school at the heart of the book but about Peruvian--and, by implication, modern--society as a whole. The oddest and most perplexing element was my inability to distinguish between the voices (and thus the lives) of a few of the characters. It's tempting to assume that this is the translator's fault, but it may well be the young MVL's. Also, he was capable of inventing well-rounded male characters at this point, but his girls and women are more one-dimensional and kept to the edges of the story. Theresa seems more rounded only because she's the intersection point of three different storylines, a formal choice that, while wonderfully economical, causes confusion in this reader's mind. It's a good book overall, though, an interesting and daring-for-its-day look at Peruvian youth in the 1950s.