Feast of the Goat-Mario Vargas Llosa
novel, in translation
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 l961, when the capital was still called Trujillo City and one old man terrorized a nation of three million. 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 a way of life. But Trujillo's grasp is slipping. 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
This is an excellent book that sucks you in and leaves you with this tension deep in your bones. Llosa does an unusual thing-he makes a horrible dictator, Trujillo, a human without tempering his evil. Interspersed with the inside of the goat, Llosa explores his assassinators and his (fictional) minister's estranged daughter, Urania. Llosa really conveys the tension and irrationality that goverened the Dominican Republic in a way that undercuts any nostalgia one could possibly have (you end up wondering how could anyone be nostalgic for it).
In a society that uses sex as a weapon, Urania's story is invaluable to understand the gender injustices. Llosa also tackles class with the assassinators' varied motivations. In the occasionally dragging first half, there is a grim gallows humor (perfectly hispanic) about the whole enterprise that descends into pure horror as the novel turns almost cinematic and deeply gruesome as the regime's full costs come to light.