Review: Mario Vargas Llosa’s ‘The Discreet Hero’

April 10, 2015 11:42 AM

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Review: Mario Vargas Llosa’s ‘The Discreet Hero’

As a chronicler of South American deaths and lives foretold, Mario Vargas Llosa has no peer. Honing a style pitched between the mock grandiloquent and the declarative force of journalism, his career has lurched from the rococo splendor of 1989’s In Praise of the Stepmother, with prose fit to match the prints of Old Masters included, and the matter of fact retelling of horrors in such novels as Death in the Andes. The Peruvian’s 17th novel isn’t at that level, and the situations and characters don’t hum with the possibilities of yore. But the meticulousness with which he works out the interlocking plots generates its own pleasure.

Exploiting the audience’s collective memory of fictions written and characters treasured is one of a novelist’s shrewder devices, and Vargas Llosa populates The Discreet Hero with familiar faces. Don Rigoberto and his family from In Praise of the Stepmother and its lesser sequel The Notebooks of Don...

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