The War at the End of the World
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Here is a link to my review.
Ha! Thanks for the warning. I'll be starting this book soon, too, so thanks for setting up the thread.
I found the differences between the characters' opinions of their own thoughts/motivations/behavior and their actions to be jarring. I'm thinking, in particular, of all the rape scenes. And there were lots of them. Not so much the ones with the soldiers, but ***SPOILERS AHEAD*** Galileo Gall's and the Baron's. I had liked both characters up to the points where they commit their rapes, but then their justifications ("its no big deal in the grand scheme of things" and "but I'm doing this for you, honey"?) are horrifying. Gall, especially. He claims to be all pro-worker and class-struggle and all that, but then his actions toward a member of that class and his total lack of remorse show that he really isn't out to help the proletariat, despite what he tells himself. Not that Rufino was any better. These scenes in particular made me wonder whether MVL was trying to make a point (both upstanding members of society, the baron and Gall, just don't care what their victims want, unlike the criminal-turned-saint Pajeu, who wants Jurema if she comes willingly), or if he is one of those authors who just doesn't see rape as that big a deal.
Sorry about harping on this one point, but I found those scenes really hard to read, mostly because I couldn't believe that this character who I had liked would act like that. But then they did.
It took me a little while to get into this book, as Vargas Llosa introduces a lot of characters and a lot of plot segments, but oh it is wonderful as they all start to come together.
This is the story of a group of misfits/criminals/suffering people of all types who fall under the sway of a charismatic preacher and who create their own community on land taken from an aristocratic landowner in the northeastern Bahia region of Brazil at the end of the 19th century. The existence of this community gives rise to all kinds of political theories, plots, and reactions among the new republican leaders of Brazil, the aristocracy, revolutionary dreamers, and the army, leading to a series of wars. Vargas Llosa's ability to get inside the heads of all these people, each of whom believes his way of viewing the situation is correct, often to the point of fanaticism and delusion, is marvelous, and the novel is both moving and thrilling. Also wonderful is the vivid sense of the remote and harsh environment in which the story unfolds.