The Feast of The Goat by Nobel winner Mario Vargas Llosa is considered as a landmark Latin American novel. It is a semi historical novel set in Dominican Republic and deals with the thirty one year’s rule of Rafael Trujillo. The novel can be called as a study of Dictatorial rule world over, as it portrays psychological, social, economical and political situations while and after a long dictatorial rule. Novel portrays the starting and hey days of the Dictatorship, assassination of Trujillo and the aftermaths of it that extends to the next generation. In the true history of Rafael Trujillo, the author has interlaced several fictional elements. Many of the events and major personalities of the novel are real, while many subplots and characterizations are fictional.
The novel follows three different story lines. In the first story line set in 1996, there is Urania Cabral, a successful attorney in USA, returning to Dominican Republic to visit her father decades after the fall of Trujillo. Her father used to be a confidante of Trujillo, who fell from the grace due to some unknown reason. Her confrontation with her ill father and her conversation with her aunt and cousins reveals a secret about her to the reader. Here we come to know of the political turmoil and general degradation in the society after the fall of the Goat, as Trujillo is known inside Dominican Republic. In the second story line, the last day of Trujillo is revealed, from his waking up to his eventual assassination. It is told from the view point of the dictator himself. In this story line we are shown the inside working of the regime- the fear and obedience that the dictator commands and how it is maintained. The third story line starts with the assassins waiting for Trujillo to appear, the subsequent killing and their eventual fates. The curious fact here is that all the assassins were once true and loyal Trujillistas, but turns back when the vulgarity of the rule is revealed to them in varied circumstances.
The Feast of the Goat is one of the most intriguing novels that I have read in years. The non linear narration builds up the atmosphere towards the twist ending. By setting three parallel story lines, the writer succeeds in giving a three dimensional, all encompassing view of the time period. Several themes concerning dictatorial rule are explored in the book. Prominent among them is the fear psychology used to maintain power and loyalty among others. It is well summed up in this line in the novel told by Imbert, one of the conspirators.
“They kill our fathers, our brothers, our friends. And now they are killing our women. And here we sit, resigned, waiting our turn.”
Finally I would strongly recommend this dark and powerful novel as a must read for all.
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