The Feast Of The Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa

(I need to add a note that I wrote this before seeing Mark’s item on Lincoln and Burr below – I’ve read both and should really have thought to mention them in this.)

This is a compelling account of the end of Trujillo’s dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, told with extraordinary conviction and force. I’ve no idea how much of it is factually based and how much is entirely fictional, and I doubt I’ll trouble to try to find out – frankly my interest in it is as a piece of fiction, not as documentary, and I have no special interest in its subject matter.

But I also wanted to mention something else, sparked off by the TLS‘s quote that it displaces One Hundred Years Of Solitude from its place at the head of Latin American literature. Not simply to disagree, though I would if I were inclined to think that way, but to object to the way that ‘Latin American literature’ has become some kind of genre, something to be only compared an assessed internally. Garcia Marquez’s novel is a hopeless comparison for this, an entirely different kind of novel with little of interest in common with a realistic political novel. Why not compare this to Updike’s The Coup or Roth’s Our Gang or George Higgins’s political novels, just off the top of my head? This seems to me very like the way that novels by women are so often compared to other female authors, or similarly with black authors. It’s something that has always irritated me, not so much because it strikes me as pretty much amounting to racism (or sexism in one of my examples) but because it’s lousy, sloppy criticism that avoids seeing useful parallels and points of comparison and contrast in favour of whatever is closest to hand – and what is closest to hand for these lazy critics is not a similar kind of book but books by similar people. Thinking of Latin American authors as Latin American so much more than as writers strikes me as an appalling abnegation of basic responsibility, if you’re a literary critic.