First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
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. 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” (Bookworm), Mario Vargas Llosa recounts the end of a regime and the birth of a terrible democracy, giving voice to the historical Trujilllo and the victims, both innocent and complicit, drawn into his deadly orbit.
And, it is finally the weekend. Yes, we’re able to survive yet another taxing work week! Wah, today is also the last Friday of May. In three days, a new month will start. I hope everyone is doing well, both physically and mentally. For those who are going through some tough times, I hope that you will soon find the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. These are tough and uncertain times we are going through. I hope and pray for everyone’s wellbeing, for everyone’s healing. With this, I am also one with the entire world in praying that this pandemic will end soon.
But before we can move to the weekends, it is time for my final First Impression Friday update for the month of May. As you all very well know, I am in the midst of a Latin American and Caribbean literature literary journey. I have been traveling all over the world (at least through literature) these past few months and I have been enjoying the ride. Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Feast of the Goat is my current read and has transported me to the Caribbean, to Dominican Republic. This is my second novel written by the Nobel Laureate in Literature. Coincidentally, both of these novels (along with The War of the End of the World) are his only works set outside of his native Peru. Initially, I found it surprising that he wrote novels set outside of Peru. It turns out that this was due to my choices. I do still have some Vargas Llosa novels in my bookshelf so I still have more chances of learning his insights about his own country.
Before I lose my train of thought, let us go back to The Feast of the Goat. I bought the book about three or four years ago from a friend who also recommended it. It has been gathering dust for years but I am finally reading it as part of my Latin American Literature month. Just like The War of the End of the World, it is a historical novel. It was also molded from the same from as a recent Latin American literature read I had. It was during my Latin American Literature journey that I came across the genre “dictator novel” through Augusto Roa Bastos’ I The Supreme and The Feast of the Goat falls into the same category. Dictator novels are seminal parts of Latin American literature. We do learn new things every day don’t we.
The Feast of the Goat commenced with forty-nine-year old Urania Cabral who, in 1996, decided to return to her native Dominican Republic. Despite traveling on a whim, she went to visit her ailing father. Thirty five years earlier, she managed to escape from the tentacles of the “El Jefe” (“The Chief”), Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina. Trujillo was a Dominican dictator who reigned over Dominican Republic for over thirty one years, from February 1930 until his assassination in May 1961. I first encountered Trujillo through Junot Diaz’s Pulitzer Prize winning work, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
From the present, the novel travels back to the past as a new storyline emerged. This second storyline introduces the readers to the El Jefe, or the Goat as some referred him to as. It details his inner circle and gives deeper insights into his character, whilst at the same time portraying the abhorrent acts he committed in order to maintain control over the leadership post. He is a deceitful man who twists words to favor him, which echo the same descriptions of dictators all over the world – their megalomania and their strongman motivations.
I am just about a hundred pages into the story but the profile of Trujillo is becoming clearer through Vargas Llosa’s fine writing. As we all very well know, no regime is strong enough to withstand the call of the people. Years of abuse, violence, and bloodshed always come to a tipping point. From the synopsis, I understand that a lot is still about to happen. I know that the novel details the minutiae before his assassination and the tenterhook is gripping me. Somehow, I find conspiracies interesting, especially when individuals converge for a common goal.
In terms of writing, I find The Feast of the Goat easier to comprehend and appreciate than The War of the End of the World. Both were excellently written but the former is a breeze, so far. How about you fellow reader, what book are you going to read this weekend? I hope it is a book that you’ve been looking forward to and I hope you enjoy it. Keep safe, and happy weekend!