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Thread: Mario Vargas Llosa: The Green House

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    Peru Mario Vargas Llosa: The Green House

    (way too many American flags here....)

    The prolific Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa is according to many, THE Voice of Latin American literature. He is well known for his political activism and has a long tenure as a high profile spokesman for Spanish language letters. In 1994 he was the recipient of the prestigious Miguel De Cervantes Prize. His oeuvre spans journalism, fiction, criticism and drama. Having only read his War at the End of the World oh so many years ago, I picked his second novel 1965?s, The Green House to review. Some critics hold this up as his most important work. Being a glutton for punishment, I opted for it since its also thought of as his most difficult novel.
    Viscera.
    There is no single protagonist per se, rather there are intertwined narratives focusing around six major characters who are all inhabitants of the Piura region of northwest Peru. Their story is gradually re-constructed in Llosa?s narrative kaleidoscope which I will visit in Bones. The novel?s plot, which as readers of Traces know by now usually is not summarized, is complicated. Suffice to say its synopsis would be a feat in itself?But since it IS a challenge, here is a rough sketch anyway:
    In the rural village of Santa Mar?a de Nieva, lives Bonifacia, a young Aruguna Indian who is a nun-in-waiting. She lets two Aruguna Indian girls out of the convent?s enclosed yard to escape, as they were forcibly taken from their jungle huts by soldiers in an attempt to ?civilize? them. After she is expelled from the convent one narrative follows her trajectory from Nun to prostitute (as ?Wildflower?) and her relationships that will affect the five other main characters. Meanwhile another storyline follows the life of Don Anselmo, a stranger who appears one day and endears himself to the townspeople, later he becomes the proprietor of The Green House, a brothel he has built at the edge of town. After a debacle and tragedy (no plot spoiled here) he undergoes a transformation of sorts and becomes a quasi-orphic figure known as ?the harp player?. Simultaneously related is the story of the fugitive Japanese Trader Fush?a and his part in the development of the region against the backdrop of the story of the Lituma, a soldier and local home town favorite who becomes a ?cop? and is sent by the corrupt Governor to put a stop to the exploitation by the Rubber traders (who compete with the equally corrupt Governor) of the indigenous Indian tribes. Then we have the side story of Lalita, wife of first Fush?a, then Adr?an Nieves, who uses the men as they use her. Lastly is the story of the river ?pilot? Adr?an Nieves, whose actions interrelate with all the above mentioned as he is relied on as a navigator who plies his boat on the jungle rivers, facilitating at different points, both the illegal traders and the soldiers who will later hunt him.

    Complete Review here.




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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Mario Vargas Llosa: The Green House

    Well, I read this novel so long ago (I'd say, six or seven years) that I don't remember much of it, and that is the main problem, I think it's the only Vargas Llosa novel I don't remember. By some reason or another all the other novels seemed to stick in my mind and this one failed. I wouln't say it's the most complex or the most ambitious, it is a mix of those two qualities that for me it didn't totally work. At the end I had the feeling that all the characters, stories and situations didn't fit together as well as the author would've wanted. The puzzle he intented to solve remained unsolved. Characters are not as well defined as many others he has, and the story in my point of view, was monotone and tedious. Maybe I'm being very hard with The Green House, but I think even tough I can say it still a good book, it is the weakest novel I've read from him along his last one Travesuras de la Ni?a Mala.
    If he ever wins the Nobel, it has to be for works like La Guerra del Fin del Mundo, La Fiesta del Chivo or El Para?so en la Otra Esquina.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Mario Vargas Llosa: The Green House

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel del Real View Post
    Well, I read this novel so long ago (I'd say, six or seven years) that I don't remember much of it, and that is the main problem, I think it's the only Vargas Llosa novel I don't remember. By some reason or another all the other novels seemed to stick in my mind and this one failed. I wouln't say it's the most complex or the most ambitious, it is a mix of those two qualities that for me it didn't totally work. At the end I had the feeling that all the characters, stories and situations didn't fit together as well as the author would've wanted. The puzzle he intented to solve remained unsolved. Characters are not as well defined as many others he has, and the story in my point of view, was monotone and tedious. Maybe I'm being very hard with The Green House, but I think even tough I can say it still a good book, it is the weakest novel I've read from him along his last one Travesuras de la Ni?a Mala.
    If he ever wins the Nobel, it has to be for works like La Guerra del Fin del Mundo, La Fiesta del Chivo or El Para?so en la Otra Esquina.
    I'm reading Green House, the most complex Llosa's novel. Every line seems single at the same time it makes sense with the whole text. I like this novel, Llosa's writing process is wonderful because he can take my attention. My edition has a text which the publisher tells that this green house trully existed in Piura. I can't get my eyes out. I'm really excited wuth this novel, Daniel. I didn't know Llosa 'til I work in the bookshop.

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    Default Re: Mario Vargas Llosa: The Green House

    La Casa Verde (The Green House) is one of Vargas Llosa's strongest novels from his early period and stands, alongside La Ciudad y los Perros, as one of the greatest so-called Boom novels. As far as I can recall (I read it more than twenty years ago!) it is also one of Vargas Llosa's most experimental pieces of fiction, stylistically speaking. It is said to be quite influenced by Faulkner.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Mario Vargas Llosa: The Green House

    Quote Originally Posted by Stiffelio View Post
    La Casa Verde (The Green House) is one of Vargas Llosa's strongest novels from his early period and stands, alongside La Ciudad y los Perros, as one of the greatest so-called Boom novels. As far as I can recall (I read it more than twenty years ago!) it is also one of Vargas Llosa's most experimental pieces of fiction, stylistically speaking. It is said to be quite influenced by Faulkner.
    You're completely right. What Llosa did in The Green House is really fantastic. He described truefully Peruvian people and their habits of living. Of course you can find my favorite process of writing: stram of consciousness.

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    Peru Mario Vargas Llosa: La casa verde

    Extraordinary first real masterpiece by Vargas Llosa. Fascinating from a technical point of view here for the first time Vargas Llosa showed that he had a novelistic capacity probably without equal in the second half of the XX century. Just a sentence and you’re in the middle of a situation or an ambience, just a short answer in a dialogue and you have a whole character.

    By its hypnotic quality it equals to anything by Dostoievsky, by its advanced techniques and complex structure it comes directly from Faulkner. Its language is as rich McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and with the same taste for savage actions and desolate landscapes.

    Here for the first time Vargas Llosa mixes in one sentence different times and actions, just for the same effect than metaphors in poetry. He discovers the deep relationship among diverse elements, facts which happened in distant times only reach their real dramatic dimension when compared or alternated. An answer from a dialogue can have its very true meaning when read before a question asked 20 years later.

    And Vargas Llosa knows how to dose his information. For example, one of the main stories in the novel takes place in two very different places and times. Vargas Llosa carefully separates them even to the point of naming the characters in a different way, underlining the whole gap which separates those two points. It’s only on page 400 when after the reader has slowly realized that it’s the same people and the same story, and the reader has filled the in betweens with all the details, that Vargas Llosa finally decides to give the proof about it.

    La Casa verde (the Green House) is an enormous leap after La ciudad y los perros (The city and the dogs), this is an absolute masterpiece. The prose style, every sentence is so expressive and beautiful, but we almost don’t realize as we’re amazed by the technical skill and the intriguing plot. Conversación en la Catedral will be the definite treatment, with the most adequate plot and naked language. The definite masterpiece.

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    Default Re: Mario Vargas Llosa: La casa verde

    Piura and Iquitos if I remember correctly. Two totally different cities with climatological differences, distant landscapes and other type of people. One is a desertic place, the other more in touch with the jungle. Two geographies set apart but then joint by the prose of a still young Vargas Llosa; he was 30 years old when he wrote La Casa Verde. It is an effort almost as complex and magnificent as Carlos Fuentes who wrote La Región más Transparente when he was 27 years old. If you haven't read that one Manuel, I really recommend it. It also plays with voices and places in a similar way than Vargas Llosa. It is evident that both writers where influenced by Faulkner.
    Last edited by Daniel del Real; 08-Dec-2010 at 23:31.

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    Default Re: Mario Vargas Llosa: La casa verde

    Jaja, please Daniel edit that last "a" from my name...(/).

    Yes I read that one, but found it terribly difficult. I think I didn't understand it quite well. Always had that problem with Fuentes. I prefer La casa verde from Vargas Llosa, but think that La region más transparentye was incredibly good. I just prefer Vargas Llosa more poetic and emotional approach than Fuentes more intelectual and exigent style.

    By the way I think that novel was the start point of all the "boom" new novel movement from Latinamerica (which was perhaps the most interesting novelistic fact of the second half of the XX century).

    I tried another novel by Carlos Fuentes, Cambio de piel, but while fascinated with his prose style I couldn't finish it because it was too difficult for me. I'll try it again.

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    Default Re: Mario Vargas Llosa: La casa verde

    Quote Originally Posted by Manuel76 View Post
    Jaja, please Daniel edit that last "a" from my name...(/).
    Oh my, I'm sorry. All corrected now my friend

    Yeah, you're right, Fuentes can be a little anoying sometimes, just like his character in real life. He's the kind of author showing-off in every page, like telling the reader "look how smart I am". The worst of it all is that you end thinking, yes you are you bastard!
    Takes some time to get into Fuentes but once you do it he is extraordinary. I hope one day to have the courage to read Terra Nostra, a novel everyone praises a lot. However I'm sure not so many people read it because it hasn't been re-printed in Spanish for years, a hard to find book in its own language.

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    Default Re: Mario Vargas Llosa: The Green House

    The Green House is one of the most memorable works of literature I've ever read. When I read it back in 2008 I told myself that Vargas Llosa deserves the Nobel Prize for this work alone, and now that he is a Nobel Laureate I'm hoping others will pick up this novel and discover what I discovered.

    When I first started reading I was fascinated by the intertwining narratives, and like most readers I asked the question -- where are all these stories going? Towards the middle I became frustrated as the stories lacked some clarity and did not appear to be meshing into a complete narrative. Then I suddenly realized that Vargas Llosa was dictating the stories the way that his characters were experiencing life. The content of the novel was the same as the style in which Vargas Llosa was writing. Although I am not acquainted first hand with life in South America, The Green House seems to be a portrait of the turmoils and difficulties that many Peruvians face. But Vargas Llosa goes beyond mere description, he actually blends content and style into a grand narrative that is both beautiful and affecting.

    As I haven't read the novel in over two years, I'm at a loss for specific details that would make this review stronger. But I believe that a post celebrating this wonderful novel is very much in order. The stories told in The Green House are grounded in reality, yet Vargas Llosa's style takes that reality and turns it into a metaphor for how we experience life.

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    Default Re: Mario Vargas Llosa: The Green House

    It must be a great novel since it has two threads, one with the title in Spanish and the other in English

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    Default Re: Mario Vargas Llosa: The Green House

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel del Real View Post
    It must be a great novel since it has two threads, one with the title in Spanish and the other in English
    Sorry, it was me who started the other thread. I ussually search before opening a new thread...I forgot this time. It's such a good novel it could have a third thread. I agree with everything Dog-Eared-Pages has said, and if likes that style-content blending I'm sure he will love Conversation in The Cathedral (I know I'm always recomending this novel but it's so great!).

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    Default Re: Mario Vargas Llosa: The Green House

    Thanks Manuel76 for the recommendation. My next Vargas Llosa novel will actually be The War at the End of the World - it is sitting on my shelves waiting to be read. Conversation in the Cathedral does appeal to me though, and I'm sure I'll read it eventually.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Mario Vargas Llosa: La casa verde

    This romance is truly impressive. The way Llosa took his own experiences and make them to become a literary way of living. I think it's one of the hardest book I've ever read and also one of the most pleasure.

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    Default Re: Mario Vargas Llosa: The Green House

    I've started reading this novel today. It seems that Vargas Llosa will be alternating sections in stream-of-consciousness with sections in ordinary prose and dialogue between quotation marks. This duality, sometimes plurality, of styles is his most obvious mark. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. I think, for instance that the novel Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is uneven because half of it is devoted to the soap opera plots of the scriptwriter, and they're awful, turgid pap (deliberately so, but still). The other half, involving Varguitas and Julia, is great.

    So we'll see how this one pans out.

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    Default Re: Mario Vargas Llosa: The Green House

    Quote Originally Posted by Heteronym View Post
    I've started reading this novel today. It seems that Vargas Llosa will be alternating sections in stream-of-consciousness with sections in ordinary prose and dialogue between quotation marks. This duality, sometimes plurality, of styles is his most obvious mark. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. I think, for instance that the novel Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is uneven because half of it is devoted to the soap opera plots of the scriptwriter, and they're awful, turgid pap (deliberately so, but still). The other half, involving Varguitas and Julia, is great.

    So we'll see how this one pans out.
    You'll need a bit of extra concentration in order to read The Green House but once you've figured out it's structure and each charecter's main theme you'll be in for a wonderful ride. Good luck :-)

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    Default Re: Mario Vargas Llosa: The Green House

    Yeah, I noticed that I had to slow down my reading speed for this novel, just to keep up with the action, characters, plot. It's dense. But I'm sure it'll be worth it. Vargas Llosa has seldom disappointed me.

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    Default Re: Mario Vargas Llosa: The Green House

    Everyone in the novel seems obsessed with regionalism. It's like no one utters a sentence without mentioning what part of Peru they're from, and insisting it's the best region of Peru.

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    Default Re: Mario Vargas Llosa: The Green House

    Quote Originally Posted by Heteronym View Post
    Everyone in the novel seems obsessed with regionalism. It's like no one utters a sentence without mentioning what part of Peru they're from, and insisting it's the best region of Peru.
    LOL . Maybe it was meant for Peruvians to read the novel aloud and by imitating the different regional accents they wouldn't lose their bearings so easily!

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    Default Re: Mario Vargas Llosa: The Green House

    Well, it's not the best MVL I've read, that's for sure. The elliptical style has a lot to be admired for, but I question the complicated non-linear narrative. I have the suspicion Vargas Llosa was just trying to hide the dullness of the story. I loved the Anselmo subplot, the construction, destruction and restoration of The Green House. But the rest didn't seem to fit together seamlessly.

    I think it's curious that the novel exists on two planes, the jungle and the city, and shows the gradual modernization of Peru and how progress also leads to the breakdown of community bonds. In a way it reminds me of The Storyteller, also because of the compassion he shows for the indians' plight and the destruction of their culture.

    I don't think it was an improvement on his first novel, The Time of the Hero, and I think a novel like The War of the End of the World gives the reader more to chew on about the social, political and historical conditions of South America, and the story was more enthralling.

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