The War of the End of the World
|Author||Mario Vargas LLosa|
This time I’ve read a good novel by Mario Vargas Llosa. For some reason, I don’t like the man. One of them must be his depiction in Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao as a friend of dictators, among which the infamous Trujillo. (That was a good novel, by the way.) I think I’ve also read somewhere of his fascist tendencies. But does this mean he can’t write? I must say, the guy’s got something.
This section contains spoilers, skip if you haven’t read the book!
The story is inspired by true facts.
The book is set in Brazil at the end of the nineteenth century. A man wanders in the region known as sertão (arid area in the north-east of the country), preaching poverty and charity, according to the teachings of Jesus. He makes sure that the church of each village he visits, however poor, is taken care of, and that the dead are well-buried in a cemetery. The poor dwellers of those villages, after a while, conquered by his words, leave their home to follow him on his pilgrimages. He starts getting followers, and after many years, he settles with them in a fazenda, stealing it to a rich nobleman.
The preacher come from nowhere, Antônio, known as the Counselor, gains a following by preaching the Gospel. Apart from common people, among his followers, there are some of the most dangerous criminals that have terrorized the sertão for decades. In Salvador de Bahia, the old aristocracy, led by the Baron de Canabrava, whose power is suddenly restricted by the fall of the Empire, the abolition of slavery, and the rise of the Republic, fights against the Republicans, led by Epaminondas Gonçalves, between the walls of the local parliament.
There are a ton of characters, that become the followers of Antônio along his path:
- Rufino and Jurema.
- Baroness of Canabrava and her chambermaid Sebastiana.
- Big João, Abbot/Satan João, the Lion of Natuba, Maria Quadrado, Pajeú
- The nearsighted journalist.
- Circus: The dwarf, the bearded woman, the idiot, the cobra, the Gypsy.
- A Scot, Galileo Gall, anarchist with the passion for phrenology, finds himself interested in the revolution of Canudos.
- Moreira César and his idea of Republic.
A long war ensues between the settlers of the fazenda and the Republic of Brazil. After a few attacks that embarrass the government, defeated, who thought to find an easy victory, the settlers are defeated, killed, and humiliated.
Good book. The stories of the characters have a nice and fluid way of intertwining. I didn’t like the fact that at some point the war was over and being subject of discussion in one of the threads, while it was continuing in another. Also, the depiction of the war, even though enticing, must have lasted something like 200 pages, which at times felt long and gave rise to those When the hell does this get over with? moments. But a good, sad book. Not totally convincing, but still recommended.
By the same author, I’ve also read Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. It was better than this one (and briefer, too). Still the same touch of the intertwining threads of the plot. I recommend that one over this long and bloody war.