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Conversación en La Catedral Mario Vargas Llosa's third book is a marvelously terrorising romp through Peru of the 50s and 60s and yet all told in a bar called La Cathedral in the space of a few hours over a couple of beers and several packets of cigarettes The narration of the first chapter is particularly confusing with each sentence being associated with a different narrator and timeline with sometimes no contextual help as to where they fit And yet the reader is carried along on these rapidly moving words as on a whitewater raft The second chapter and fourth chapters are slightly linear whereas the third chapter describes a coup kind of like in chapter one with events and actors changing every other sentence At the heart of all of this are the aristocrat and friend of the Odria regime Don Gold Ball Fermin his son Skinnny Superbrain Santiago Don Fermin's chauffeur et plus si affinité Ambroisio these last two are the ones who are speaking in the present reminiscing the past in the bar There is also a series of prostitutes la uetita and La Musa Hortensia Ambrosio's true love Amelia Santiago's brother Sparky his sister Teté his brother in law Popeye the names are all uite confusing And who could forget Don Cayo Shithead Bermudez and his nefarious origin The rise and fall of a regime lovers uarrels in brothels theater massacresI could never work out who Lorenzo or Ludovico or some of the other drivers and henchmen were And it was not clear to me who really killed Hortensia don't worry that's not a spoiler If it sounds too heady maybe read Feast of the Goat first as the narration is straightforwardIn the same style The Green House by Vargas Llosa is eually complex in narrative structure Gaddis tried this kind of narration in several chapters of The Recognitions but IMHO he did not come close to pulling it off as successfully as Vargas LlosaIn summary a confusing but extremely well written book about Peruvian politics seen through the lenses of the aristocracy and its detractors over beer a fascinating bookNote that some of the origins of this book were explained in MVL's autobiography A Fish in the Water This is really a fascinating read This is the best novel I’ve read in my 45 years of life It is probably due to the fact that being Peruvian makes me feel deeply identified in it I see it as a huge painting about the mentality and feelings of people in Peru and why not of people in many other countries in Latin America and probably around the world since the search of absolute power inevitably leads to corruption everywhereThis is a huge painting and indeed the most memorable intent to reach a “Total Novel” that I witnessed In a parallel way that “One hundred years of solitude” portrays with enormous beauty that Caribbean sentiment through Macondo this masterpiece depicts ruthlessly its own reality without any magic in it even though some facts could appear incredible to many western eyes As time goes by this monument endures and even gets better in predicting human behavior and the proof is that the same facts just with different protagonists occurred again in Peru at the end of the 90’s with Fujimori and MontesinosThe style can be complicated but don’t take it personal read it as you were enjoying your spare time be patient slowly make the pieces of this perfect and huge puzzle fit and you’ll see how everything starts to make sense start to appreciate the whole panorama and to detect the profound implications of this simple bunch of papers that in the hands of one of the best gifted writers of this world turns in a timeless message of lifeSince that day in the middle 80’s when I read it for the first time my life changed irreversibly my juvenile and optimistic visions crashed the sad wall of reality but for good It can be seen as unnecessarily bleak and it is certainly sad but even though reading it can be similar to listen to a doctor tell you that you have just few months of life remaining you can obtain an invaluable gift of it It can help you to focus on what is really important You can also see it as a mediocrity eulogy when it implies decency that is finally what Santiago chooses for himself after being deeply disappointed of his surroundingsI’ve read it many times and every time I close its last page I confirm that almost everything is just sadly ephemeral and that it is very limited what we can do about it everything will decay and get eventually screwed with or without you just focus on what you can do to be better off and try to do it and when it fails move on It is very likely that after 500 hundred years and onwards this novel will be still read it and appreciated as it deserves To my personal taste it is one fundamental column of the universal literature building Esta es la mejor novela ue he leído en mis 45 años de vida probablemente siendo peruano sea esta la consecuencia de sentirme profundamente identificado con ella al percibirla como un mural ue retrata con tal precisión las mentalidades sentimientos y vivencias tan propios de este país pero con seguridad también de muchos otros países sobretodo latinoamericanos Es una pintura de tal magnitud ue engloba un mundo en sí misma el más memorable intento de novela total del ue he sido testigo Así como en forma paralela Cien años de soledad también una maravillosa novela retrata ese sentir tan Caribe y expresa con tan enorme belleza ese mundo a través de Macondo Conversación retrata con la frialdad de un forense su propia realidad ue no tiene nada de mágica aunue para algunos pueda parecer a veces increíble Con una sensación de tiempo pendular la misma historia con los mismos métodos pero diferentes protagonistas se repetiría hacia fines de los 90 con Fujimori y MontesinosDel estilo ya se ha hablado mucho hay ue tener paciencia ya ue cual conversación entre dos personas ue se ven después de mucho tiempo las anécdotas y recuerdos se mezclan diálogos y personajes de tiempos y lugares diferentes en una misma página en párrafos diferentes poco a poco vamos reconstruyendo mentalmente este rompecabezas y aunue muchas veces sabemos el final de muchas de sus peueñas historias lo importante no es precisamente el final sino el detalle de cómo se llega al mismo una sensación de caída luego de haber llegado al punto más alto una montaña rusa de acontecimientosDespués de auel lejano día en los 80 en ue la leí por primera vez y uizás porue lo hice precisamente cuando el Perú andaba tan jodido mi vida no volvió a ser la misma mi visión juvenil sobre mi país y sobre el mundo se estrelló contra la perversa realidad años después a fines de los 90 comprobé ue nuestra naturaleza no cambia los métodos se estilizan pero los fines permanecen Es cierto ue puede ser vista como una novela pesimista incluso negra pero es absurda y vomitivamente real leerla es como escuchar al médico decirte ue te uedan meses de vida al estilo de Hesse en El Lobo Estepario puede asaltarte un sentimiento de desasosiego o como con Murakami en Tokyo Blues hasta un impulso hacia el suicidio pero en el fondo puedes interpretarla hasta como un elogio a la mediocridad cuando esta es al menos medianamente decente ue es lo ue finalmente se impone a sí mismo Santiago Por el contrario Ambrosio es una víctima más del clasismo racismo y demás taras de esta sociedad ue hasta hoy aunue atenuadas ligeramente aún persisten Hay ue leerla con criterio y sacar tus propias conclusiones incluso hasta un mensaje positivoAunue tenga poco ue ver con este género Asimov en Fundación acuña una frase genial en boca de los sicomatemáticos ue predicen una inminente caída del imperio La inercia de una civilización es más grande ue las voluntades de sus miembros todo se va a joder contigo o sin ti todos nos vamos a morir sin importar lo ue hagamos para evitarlo puede parecer descorazonador pero interiorizar esta realidad te obliga a ver el mundo de otra forma a fijar tus prioridades sé consciente de tu peueña magnitud y trata de hacer algo ue valga la pena con tu efímera vidaLa he vuelto a leer varias veces la he terminado otra vez hace dos semanas y creo como dijo alguien por ahí ue es una novela en la ue uno esperaría ue su autor muera inmediatamente después de haber escrito su última palabra haberlo hecho antes de los 30 años sólo nos confirma aunue no podamos ser testigos de ello ue muy probablemente pasarán 500 años y se seguirá leyendo a Mario Vargas Llosa Esta novela junto a la Guerra del Fin del Mundo y la Fiesta del Chivo son a mi gusto tres ladrillos fundamentales del gran muro de la literatura universal Conversación en La Catedral Conversation in the Cathedral Mario Vargas LlosaConversation in the Cathedral is a 1969 novel by Peruvian writer and essayist Mario Vargas Llosa translated by Gregory Rabassa One of Vargas Llosa's major works it is a portrayal of Peru under the dictatorship of Manuel A Odría in the 1950's and deals with the lives of characters from different social strata The ambitious narrative is built around the stories of Santiago Zavala and Ambrosio respectively; one the son of a minister the other his chauffeur A random meeting at a dog pound leads to a riveting conversation between the two at a nearby bar known as the Cathedral hence the title During the encounter Zavala tries to find the truth about his father's role in the murder of a notorious Peruvian underworld figure shedding light on the workings of a dictatorship along the wayتاریخ نخستین خوانش ماه آگوست سال 2005 میلادیعنوان گفتگو در کاتدرال؛ نویسنده ماریو وارگاس بارگاس یوسا؛ مترجم عبدالله کوثری؛ مشخصات نشر مشهد، نشر نما، چاپ نخست 1370، در دو جلد، چاپ دوم، تهران، لوح فکر، 1384 در 704ص، فروست شاهکارهای ادبیات جهان، شابک 9648578052؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان پرویی سده 20مداستان با دیدار دو تن از شخصیتهای اصلی کتاب به نامهای «سانتیاگو زاوالا» و «آمبرسیو پرادو» در کافه ای به نام «کاتدرال» آغاز میشود، و به نوعی تا پایان کتاب ادامه دارد؛ داستانها و گفتگوهایی در داستان، به ویژه در فصل نخست، از نظر مکالمه شگفت انگیز هستند؛ رمانی سیاسی ست و «بارگاس یوسا» نویسنده ی این اثر، برنده جایزه نوبل ادبیات سال 2010میلادی شده‌ است؛ زبان اصلی نگارش این کتاب «اسپانیایی» است و کشور منتشر کننده آن جمهوری «پرو» است؛ گفتگو در «کاتدرال» سومین رمان نویسنده، که در محیط شهر «لیما» شکل می‌گیرد؛تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 17051399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا شربیانی Fantastic Fan tastic Conversation in the Cathedral was definitely a big work of art a real masterpiece It was the first book by Llosa that I read after a suggestion by my friend Moeen and I'm now eager to read some of his It was none of a magic realism but yet a pure South American way of story telling with so many stories happeningThe book starts when Santiago Zavala journalist meets with his rich father's former chauffeur Ambrosio and they go to the bar Cathedral to have some beer and talk They talk about their pasts and remember different stories from the very old times till the present The whole book about 700 pages is the stories these two old fellas remember and retellApart from the great tales Llosa has put in his characters' mouths and brains Conversation in the Cathedral is a big achievement in story telling As the two get drunk they start mixing things up The result is that almost everywhere in the book we have parallel stories all being narrated at the same time Specially at the time when the pals are most drunken there are chapters in which four stories are being told simultaneously in a way that each sentence belongs to one of them and these sentences are not put in any specific order Actually there are times that you should decide that the sentence you are reading belongs to one story or the other It seems even that the author gets drunk with his characters too since from time to time he starts telling tales about places in which none of the fells were present This parallel story telling is kept throughout the book though it changes the style ie when the guys regain a part of their consciousness they continue telling their stories in turns and in bigger slices two pages each turnLlosa's great style of writing has made this book a brilliant oeuvre of literature a big must read for novel lovers and a real coursebook for whoever wants to write anything literal one day He has made a great source of joy and surprise which I doubt that will ever get outdatedPS I should thank God for giving us Abdollah Kosari I read his translation of the book and I should confess that it was a very great one letting me devour the novel wholeheartedly and confidently I must admit that I got off to a rocky start with Mario Vargas Llosa's Conversation in the Cathedral after a dachshund is brutally clubbed to death in Chapter One and a woman gets drugged and sexually assaulted in Chapter Two by over sympathetic characters who don't ever seem uite to grasp the offensiveness of their actions I was feeling a mite unfriendly toward the novel By Chapter Three though I was reluctantly softening my stance and by Chapter Four I was fully immersed in Vargas Llosa's unusual but compelling narrative voice What won me over? It certainly wasn't a cessation of the brutality in this tale of disillusionment and corruption in 1950s Peru although the sexual politics did redeem themselves somewhat What really tipped the scales and had me devouring Vargas Llosa's novel in 100 page chunks was its uniue combination of compelling storyline and experimental narration style Vargas Llosa does something with his storytelling here that I've never exactly encountered before and it's a techniue I found both exciting and effectiveLike many novels in which the main characters are looking back and attempting to untangle events of the past Conversation in the Cathedral is multi layered in its presentation Within the first chapter we get a sketch of everything that happens in the book's present day early 1960s disillusioned newspaper columnist Santiago Zavala goes to fetch his dog at the pound encounters an older man named Ambrosio who once worked for Santiago's father and the two go for an extended talking and drinking session in a nearby dive bar At the end of Chapter One Santiago now falling down drunk initiates an angry confrontation with Ambrosio about some event in their mutual past but Ambrosio denies responsibility Santiago then stumbles home with his dog and promises his wife that he won't stay out drinking without calling her againThat's the extent of the present day action which is over in the first 20 pages Throughout the rest of the 600 page novel we get multi layered multi voiced flashbacks reaching back to the years before dictator Manuel Odria's 1948 rise to power when Santiago was an idealistic upper middle class high school student preparing to enter San Marcos University Gradually of course the reader begins to piece together the relationships surrounding Santiago and Ambrosio and just what happened to cause the dynamics seen in the opening chapter What sets Conversation in the Cathedral apart from most other flashback to the past multiple voiced novels I've read is that any given passage from one sentence to the next can see saw among three or four different scenes taking place not just between different sets of people but at radically different times The result is a sometimes challenging but always compelling juxtaposition In extreme cases Vargas Llosa's techniue can look like the following passage which features four different scenes layered on top of each other Santiago and Ambrosio's rehashing of the past in the present day Cathedral bar; an early 1950 political rally in support of the Odríist candidate Emilio Arévalo staffed by strong man Trifulcio; a mid 1950 conversation among the now Senator Arévalo Senator Landa and Santiago's father Don Fermín about the rigging of the recent elections and the increasing political power of Presidential favorite Cayo Bermúdez; and a police interrogation carried out by two of Ambrosio's sometime colleagues hired thugs Hipólito and Ludovico sometime in the early 1950s       I'm not being nosy but why did you run away from home that time son? Ambrosio asks Weren't you well off at home with your folks?      Don Emilio Arévalo was sweating; he was shaking the hands that converged on him from all sides he wiped his forehead smiled waved embraced the people on the platform and the wooden frame swayed as Don Emilio approached the steps Now it was your turn Trifulcio      Too well off that's why I left Santiago says I was so pure and thick headed that it bothered me having such an easy life and being a nice young boy      The funny thing is that the idea of putting him in jail didn't come from the Uplander Don Fermín said Or from Arbeláez or Ferro The one who convinced them the one who insisted was Bermúdez      So pure and thick headed that I thought that by fucking myself up a little I would make myself a real little man Ambrosio Santiago says      That all of it was the work of an insignificant Director of Public Order an underling I can't swallow either Senator Landa said Uplander Espina invented it so he could toss the ball to someone else if things turned out badly      Trifulcio was there at the foot of the stairs defending his place with his elbows spitting on his hands his gaze fanatically fastened on Don Emilio's feet which were approaching mixed in with others his body tense his feet firmly planted on the ground his turn it was his turn      You have to believe it because it's the truth Don Fermín said And don't tar him so much Whether you like it or not that underling is becoming the man the General trusts the most      There he is Hipólito I'm making a present of him to you Ludovico said Get those ideas of being headman out of his brain once and for all      Then it wasn't because you had different political ideas from your papa? Ambrosio asks      He believes him implicitly he thinks he's infallible Don Fermín said When Bermúdez has an opinion Ferro Arbeláez Espina and even I can go to the devil we don't exist That was evident in the Montagne affair      My poor old man didn't have any political ideas Santiago says Only political interests AmbrosioI know this is a very extended uote but it takes some time to get into the swing of what Vargas Llosa can do with this kind of staggered syncopated dialogue Like a choreographer working with four groups of dancers on stage simultaneously he subtly shifts the focus from one to another of the four scenes while still keeping all of them in motion at once Even in the relatively short segment above one can see the focus shifting slightly from SantiagoAmbrosio to the conversation among the senators and back again like the intermittent interference that happens when a listener drives along the boundary between two radio stations broadcasting on the same freuency Together these four threads become than the sum of their parts not only is there an aesthetically affecting rhythm to their interplay but the immediate juxtaposition of different characters and times is an interesting way to bring out the novel's themes Here for example we have two competing analyses of the political events on one station there is Santiago's disgust with his father's opportunism and with his own youthful self righteousness; while on the other we get Don Fermín's self interested but pragmatic play by play assessment of the unfolding political scene At the same time like palimpsests over which these conversations are layered are the two scenes of action of real life cause and effect which I visualize as sandwiching the senators' conversation the lead up to the elections they're discussing and the stark reality of police brutality and oppression under the Odría regime So too we get the juxtaposition of two fatherson pairs Trifulcio the thug is Ambrosio's father so a second filial dynamic is present echoing the dominant theme established by Santiago and Don Fermín Conversation in the Cathedral has much interesting commentary to offer on the class dynamics of Peruvian society and we can see some of that coming out here Santiago with the bourgeois background he spends the entire novel trying to escape has nonetheless the privileged person's sense of entitlement he feels betrayed by the person he has discovered his father to be and he holds that against the man's memory because he feels he somehow deserves a father different from the one he got Ambrosio on the other hand is remarkably free from bitterness despite Trifulcio being a much negligent and immoral father to him than Don Fermín was to Santiago Santiago's statement that his father didn't have any political ideas only political interests is ironic given how much truer it is when applied to Ambrosio's father rather than his own Moreover throughout their entire conversation Ambrosio reinforces rather than uestions the emphasis on the SantiagoDon Fermín relationship while the two bar patrons discuss both their lives Ambrosio seems to have had of a relationship with Santiago's father than he had with Trifulcio and is invested in defending his former employer to the man's son This continues to be true despite a number of narrative reveals later in the book the circumstances of Trifulcio's eventual death; details about the dynamic between Don Fermín and Ambrosio which might lead a reader to assume Ambrosio would have his own axe to grind with Don Fermín Ambrosio though has been trained not to uestion his own status as a secondary player on the stage of life; he doesn't believe he deserves any particular treatment or uality of life These issues of class hierarchy and feelings of entitlement are in turn reflected in the senators' discussion of the commoner Cayo Bermúdez whose social standing earns their contempt but whose influential role in the President's inner circle commands their fear and respect Meanwhile on the other ends of the class and paternity spectrums menial laborer Trinidad López is being beaten to death by Odría's and Bermúdez's goons just as he is about to become a father himselfObviously it would be easy to write about Conversation in the Cathedral all night its epic scope and unusual presentation make for a rich thought provoking ride Long story short I'm glad my reading buddies provided me with the motivation to stick with this book through the initial off putting chapters since Vargas Llosa's overall humanity and impressive writing chops than made up for them in the endI admit to being a little over sensitive to the issue of animal brutality particularly since my dog happens also to be a dachshund and a former stray just like the one that gets clubbed to death in Chapter One of Conversation in the Cathedral Graphic cruelty toward animals is a huge turnoff for me even if it's a realistic depiction intended to demonstrate the desperation of the people perpetrating said cruelty To be fair I believe this scene has a valid rationale behind it it shows in a visceral way that Ambrosio has fallen to the bottom of the employment barrel and has to choose between starvation and doing a job that's horrific and dehumanizing As we find out later Ambrosio doesn't even seem to believe that he deserves control over his own life or body; he can't be expected to believe in that right when applied to a dog Still it was upsetting to me out of proportion with what I believe Vargas Llosa intended Which is a little bit funny considering that Ambrosio also works as a thug beating up humans and that doesn't bother me at all I suppose we all have our triggers Conversation in the Cathedral is a story of decline and fall – deterioration of family ultimate ruination of hopes and pursuits“The voice the body are his but he looks thirty years older The same thin lips the same flat nose the same kinky hair But now in addition there are purple bags on his eyelids wrinkles on his neck a greenish yellow crust on his horse teeth He thinks they used to be so white What a change what a ruin of a man He’s thinner dirtier so much older but that’s his big slow walk those are his spider legs His big hands have a knotty bark on them now and there’s a rim of saliva around his mouth”The novel reminded me of Absalom Absalom by William FaulknerThose who persevere in staying on the dark side of history are doomed A conversation is held in the Cathedral during the Manuel A Odrma dictatorship in Peru; over beers and a sea of freely spoken words the conversation describes the degradation and the frustration of a town Through a complicated web of private lives the author analyzes the mental and moral mechanisms that govern power and the people behind it Conversacisn en la Catedral is than a point of reference; it is a landmark in the history of present Literature If Mario Vargas Llosa had never written anything else Conversation in the Cathedral would by rights earn him the Nobel Prize for Literature It is a hefty novel 600 pages or so but it is worth spending the time readingThe novel is set during the dictatorship of Manuel Odria 1948 1956 The major characters are Santiago Zavala nicknamed Zavalita and Ambrosio Pardo The first is the eldest scion of a rich family that is well tied in with the dictator; the second a black former chauffeur for Zavalita's father and also for the infamous Cayo Bermudez Odria's security chief Ostensibly the conversation of the title is between Zavalita and Ambrosio who have just met at the dog pound where the latter now works It takes place at bar called the CathedralFor the first third of the novel numerous conversations between several of the characters are interleaved conversations taking place at different times and in different places Then Vargas Llosa continues in a conventional vein picking up various threads of the story Every once in a while however threads of the conversation between Zavalita and Ambrosio appearThe cast of characters is extensive ranging from Cayo Bermudez down to chauffeurs maids whores party girls and various hoods employed by Bermudez Estranged from his wealthy family after a flirtation with communism as a student Zavalita breaks free and becomes a reporter for The Cronica a Lima daily newspaper where he gets involved with murders stories about lottery winners and other lowlife minutiae to the disgust of his family He gets married to a nurse who his mother claims is little better than a maidIn the end we see numerous stories of blighted ambitions and hopes arising from the heavy hand of President Odria and his enforcers all taking place over a period of approximately a decade If you read any one novel by Vargas Llosa this is the one to select Even if it is a big ass book This is a big well structured book that reflects the 1950's of Vargas Llosa's native Peru The title actually refers to a conversation betweean two main characters Santiago and Ambosio and how their lives are intertwined in the power and politics of the day Santiago son a of a powerful family throws everything away to become a journalist His stance stirs up issues in his family while Ambrosio is a dark skinned poor man who works as a driver for two rival men Stir in the dictatorship politics violence brothels and family and you have the recipe for examining corruption This is an older book written in 1969 and shows his tour de force plot and I can't say much about it without a spoiler alert At the same time I have to admit that early on I did get a little confused as to what is going on Part of this confusion comes from the fact that it often flips back in forth from present to past without warning The subtlies make it challenging if not difficult to know what is going on at first but keep in mind it is a dialogue Keep reading and context sorts it outThe plot is both elaborate and takes awhile to unravel the book is 600 pages long The characters are very strong but how they are intertwined is both intriguing and insidious but that is what makes Vargas Llosa such a good read Nothing boring here My third book by Mario Vargas Llosa and the history lessons continue 1950's Peru is the focus when General Odria led a successful coup against Jose Bustamante installing his oppressive and ridiculously corrupt regimeTwo friends who've lost touch over the years encounter each other at a dog pound and decide to have a celebratory reunion drink The first chapter is the start and end of the conversation which lasts about 20 pages Everything after this are the memoriesflashbacks they discuss during their chat I can only imagine they’re super fast talkers as not much time seems to elapse between them entering and exiting the bar and yet we get two whole life storiesThe first point to mention is the writing style as they’ll be 2 or 3 conversations taking place at the same time with each sentence of dialogue alternating between the different conversations It took me until chapter 4 to realise what was going on I did get used to the style but it was annoying especially as it wasn’t necessary and diminished my reading experience This does change for part two with a standard one section per character format being used but the craziness is re introduced later onWriting style aside this is a decent novel with all of the emotional distress I’d expect from a story of a country under a Dictators rule There’s a good spectrum of characters with the powerfully corrupt and the despairingly poor clashing with each other Most of all this is a slice of real life during a troubling period of Peru’s history and how lives are shaped by governmentsConversation in the Cathedral isn’t as impressive as The Feast of the Goat or War of the End of the World At times it was addictive but for every extended period of brilliance there was a 30 page interval of annoyance usually at the writing style but at times the story becomes scattered and confusing If I was to read this again my rating would probably be higher as a second go would be rewarding and the whole story would make sense But until that happens it’s a lower score than i anticipated

  • Paperback
  • 768 pages
  • Conversación en La Catedral
  • Mario Vargas Llosa
  • Spanish
  • 03 August 2015
  • 9788466304566

About the Author: Mario Vargas Llosa

Mario Vargas Llosa born in Peru in 1936 is the author of some of the most significant writing to come out of South America in the past fifty years His novels include The Green House about a brothel in a Peruvian town that brings together the innocent and the corrupt; The Feast of the Goat a vivid re creation of the Dominican Republic during the final days of General Rafael Trujillo’s insidiou