Saturday, August 11, 2018

Mario Vargas Llosa, The Green House (1966)

So this is Vargas Llosa's second novel. If you want a li'l look behind the scenes at why I'm reading the specific things I'm reading, I'm actually probably going to be working abroad again as of this Fall, and while I can certainly bring some books along, I'll mostly be reliant on the ol' ereader at that time. So right now, I'm reading as many books as I can that aren't available in that format. And, for whatever reason, of Vargas Llosa's novels, the only ones that aren't thus available are this and Conversation in the Cathedral. The last book I read in ereader format was The War of the End of the World. Look back, and you'll see that all the ones since then have been books without e-versions. And now you know. What a fascinating story this was.

Sooooo...The Green House is in some ways similar to Conversation in that it's non-linear and (sometimes) moves forwards and backwards in time within scenes without warning. It's kind of more extreme in that regard, though; there are also long, stream-of-consciousness paragraph-free sections. The novel concerns a rural Peruvian town and a brothel--the titular Green House--that's built there, and the aftermath of that. But that's not all: it also takes place in the jungle in the years before and after (it's kind of hard to chronologically place a lot of this with any exactitude), and concerns trade with the native Peruvians, including--later--contraband trading in rubber (contraband because during World War II, it's illegal to sell to anyone but the military). And that's about that.

To me, the most interesting thing here was the way Hispanic characters think of themselves as "white" as compared to the Indians. This is not a minor or subtle theme; the word comes up constantly, and it really drives home a point: these are exactly the people that our thug president would demonize, but here they're the ones on top. Whiteness really, really is a fiction based entirely on power relations, and don't let any bitchass ofay nazi motherfuckers tell you different.

But as for this novel...I've gotta say, I found it pretty indigestible. It seems to have a reputation as one of Vargas Llosa's least accessible. It reminded me a lot of middling Faulkner, which is not an appetizing descriptor as far as I'm concerned. And--also as in a lot of Faulkner--there's just absolutely no one to care about even a little. And if you can tell me why I should have cared about anything that was happening...well, then I'll know. Which is more than I do now. I'm not done with Vargas Llosa, but I'm not sure about my previous idea of reading all this novels. I may just stick with a few of the better-regarded ones.

Oh, and I'm getting kind of tired of reading just Latin American novels, so next up: something else. That's not to say that I'm done with Latin America; just a li'l hiatus for now.


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