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The Discreet Hero    by Mario Vargas LLosa order for
Discreet Hero
by Mario Vargas LLosa
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2016 (2015)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Mario Vargas Llosa is a 2010 winner of the Nobel Prize and a world-renowned Peruvian author with many works to his credit. He is 79 years old, and this isn't even his last novel! Over the years he has been very politically engaged, even running for the office of president of Peru. Currently he lives mainly in Spain.

The Discreet Hero is a novel set in Peru, and it exhibits a distinctive Vargas Llosa literary technique: interlacing dialogues. This is where two conversations occurring at different times are combined. To this reader, it took a bit of getting used to, but it is a very powerful way to tell the story.

The novel is a pleasure to read, which calls for a deep tip of the hat to the translator, Edith Grossman. She even manages to convey the patois of the people of Piura, a provincial town. There, Don Felícito Yanaqué, the hard-working owner of a transport company, has received a threatening note. Hours away in Lima, the manager of an insurance company, Rigoberto, has lunch with the owner, who asks a surprising favor. Vargas Llosa's epigram reads: 'Our beautiful task is to imagine there is a labyrinth and a thread,' a quote from Jorge Luis Borges. The labyrinth is not too intricate, but to find the thread takes most of the book.

While we are wondering about the connection, we meet vivid characters and get a good feel for these people's lives. Rigoberto loves European art, literature and music, so we are on familiar ground there. Felícito's tastes are closer to home and perhaps even more interesting. There is also a related story that doesn't get resolved until the last lines. A very interesting book!

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