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The Feast of the Goat

The Feast of the Goat

4.7 17
by Mario Vargas Llosa, Edith Grossman (Translator)

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Haunted all her life by feelings of terror and emptiness, forty-nine-year-old Urania Cabral returns to her native Dominican Republic — and finds herself reliving the events of 1961, when the capital was still called Trujillo City and one old man terrorized a nation of three million. Rafael Trujillo, the depraved, ailing dictator whom Dominicans call the Goat,


Haunted all her life by feelings of terror and emptiness, forty-nine-year-old Urania Cabral returns to her native Dominican Republic — and finds herself reliving the events of 1961, when the capital was still called Trujillo City and one old man terrorized a nation of three million. Rafael Trujillo, the depraved, ailing dictator whom Dominicans call the Goat, controls his inner circle (including Urania's father, a secretary of state now in disgrace) with a combination of violence and blackmail. In Trujillo's gaudy palace, treachery and cowardice have become a way of life. But Trujillo's grasp is slipping. There is a conspiracy against him, and a Machiavellian revolution is already under way that will have bloody consequences of its own.

In this magisterial and long-awaited novel, Mario Vargas Llosa recounts the end of a regime and the terrible birth of a democracy, giving voice to the historical rujillo and to the victims, both innocent and complicit, who were drawn into his deadly orbit.

Mario Vargas Llosa's novels include Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, In Praise of the Stepmother, and The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto. He lives in London.

Edith Grossman has translated the poetry and prose of major Spanish-language authors, including Gabriel García Marquez, Alvaro Mutis, and Mayra Montero, as well as Mario Vargas Llosa.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"This wasn't an enemy he could defeat like the hundreds, the thousands he had confronted and conquered over the years, buying them, intimidating them, killing them." So thinks Rafael Trujillo, "the Goat," dictator of the Dominican Republic, on the morning of May 30, 1961 a day that will end in his assassination. The "enemy" is old age at 70, Trujillo, who has always prided himself on his grooming and discipline, is shaken by bouts of incontinence and impotence. Vargas Llosa divides his narrative between three different story lines. The first concerns Urania Cabral, the daughter of one of Trujillo's closest associates, Agustmn Cabral. She is 14 at the time of the Trujillo assassination and, as we gradually discover, was betrayed by her father to Trujillo. Since then, she has lived in the U.S. At 49, she impulsively returns on a visit and slowly reveals the root of her alienation. Urania's character is a little too pat, however. Vargas Llosa's triumph is Trujillo's story. We follow the sly, vile despot, with his petty rages, his lust, his dealings with his avaricious family, through his last day, with mingled feelings of repulsion and awe. Like Stalin, Trujillo ruled by turning his rage without warning against his subordinates. Finally, Vargas Llosa crosscuts Urania's story and Trujillo's with that of Trujillo's assassins; first, as they wait to ambush him, and then as they are tracked down, captured and tortured to death, with almost medieval ferocity, by Trujillo's son, Ramfis. Gathering power as it rolls along, this massive, swift-moving fictional take on a grim period in Dominican history shows that Vargas Llosa is still one of the world's premier political novelists. (Nov.) Forecast:Vargas Llosa is on solid ground with The Day of the Goat, mining a rich vein. The former Peruvian presidential candidate's author tour should attract crowds, and a striking jacket will seduce browsers. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Vargas Llosa's fictional portrait of ruthless Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo focuses on the end of the old "goat's" life. Trujillo, who well understood that his power depended upon the United States, is said to have sought his protection and promotion by paying Congressmen and other U.S. "leeches" the equivalent of the annual military aid his nation received from Washington. Although the United States eventually got fed up with his excesses, its fear of a second Communist regime in the Caribbean kept him in power. So entirely ruthless was Trujillo that he even dispatched his physician off the docks of Santo Domingo, at the time named Ciudad Trujillo, when he was told that his prostate was cancerous. Vargas Llosa relates Trujillo's story from the perspective of Urania Cabral, a successful New York lawyer who has spent a lifetime in exile but returns to her homeland when the tyrant is finally murdered. Urania hopes to rid herself of the demons that have possessed her since 1961, when as a teenager she was battered and humiliated by the impotent and vindictive old dictator. Vargas Llosa, one of Latin America's master storytellers, has retold this nightmare with evenhanded eloquence and exuberant detail. Recommended for all but squeamish readers. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/01.] Jack Shreve, Allegany Coll. of Maryland, Cumberland Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The Peruvian master (The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto, 1998, etc.) now turns to the bloody reign (1930-61) of the Dominican Republic's dictatorial president Rafael Trujillo-and its aftermath. The story consists of three parallel narratives. The first employs the viewpoint, and especially the memory, of Urania Cabral, a 49-year-old Manhattan attorney whose return to the homeland from which she had been exiled is juxtaposed against the story of her father, a callow politician who had curried favor by "giving" his then-adolescent daughter to the notoriously libidinous Trujillo. A second plot details the machinations of several conspirators, whose genuine love for their beleaguered country contrasts strongly with the personal enmity they bear toward their enemy-and eventual victim. Through a dexterous manipulation of rhetorical devices (notably, direct addresses to its characters by both an omniscient narrator and themselves) and shifting viewpoints (even within lengthy flashbacks), Vargas Llosa evokes a multiplicity of responses to the aforementioned characters-and especially to "the goat" (Trujillo), whose own thoughts and memories comprise the third-and strongest-strand. This is a Nixon-like egotist who puts the best possible face on his worst excesses: the priapic appropriation of dozens of virgins (a necessary exercise of his manly vigor, even though he has become incontinent); the ruthlessness with which political enemies are tortured and murdered (viewed as a moral cleansing vital to the health of the state); even the genocidal slaughter of Haitian immigrants working in the Republic's canefields (justified as a defense of his nation's racial and ethnic purity). Oddly enough, thismonster of various appetites takes on a flawed, pathetic humanity. Vargas Llosa's exhaustively detailed portrayals of both the carnage he wreaks and his own sins, self-delusions, fears, and fantasies rival, perhaps even surpass, that of the unnamed dictator in Garcia Marquez's great novel The Autumn of the Patriarch. A landmark in Latin American fiction.
From the Publisher

“A fierce, edgy and enthralling book...Mr. Vargas Llosa has pushed the boundaries of the traditional historical novel, and in doing so has written a book of harrowing power and lasting resonance.” —The New York Times

“[Vargas Llosa] is one of our greatest and most influential novelists. His new novel confirms his importance. In the world of fiction his continued exploration of the often-perilous intersection of politics and life has enriched 20th century literature...In The Feast of the Goat, Vargas Llosa paints a portrait that is darkly comic, poignant, admirable and horrifying all at once.” —Los Angeles Times

“The book brings readers to the precipice of terror and lets us look into the abyss of cruelty as it poses and answers the question: Why do people not oppose dictators?...He has by his body of work already secured a place as one of the monumental writers of our time.” —The Boston Globe

“With the publication of The Feast of the Goat, Vargas Llosa reassumes his place as one of the world's most important contemporary novelists.” —USA Today

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
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6.28(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.33(d)

Read an Excerpt

1 Urania. Her parents had done her no favor; her name suggested a planet, a mineral, anything but the slender, fine-featured woman with burnished skin and large, dark, rather sad eyes who looked back at her from the mirror. Urania! What an idea for a name. Fortunately nobody called her that anymore; now it was Uri, Miss Cabral, Ms. Cabral, Dr. Cabral. As far as she could remember, after she left Santo Domingo (or Ciudad Trujillo — when she left they had not yet restored the old name to the capital city), no one in Adrian, or Boston, or Washington, D.C., or New York had called her Urania as they did at home and at the Santo Domingo Academy, where the sisters and her classmates pronounced with absolute correctness the ridiculous name inflicted on her at birth. Was it his idea or hers? Too late to find out, my girl; your mother was in heaven and your father condemned to a living death. You'll never know. Urania! As absurd as insulting old Santo Domingo de Guzman by calling it Ciudad Trujillo. Could that have been her father's idea too?

She waits for the sea to become visible through the window of her room on the ninth floor of the Hotel Jaragua, and at last she sees it. The darkness fades in a few seconds and the brilliant blue of the horizon quickly intensifies, beginning the spectacle she has been anticipating since she woke at four in spite of the pill she had taken, breaking her rule against sedatives. The dark blue surface of the ocean, marked by streaks of foam, extends to a leaden sky at the remote line of the horizon, while here, at the shore, it breaks in resounding, whitecapped waves against the Sea Walk, the Malecón, where she can make out sections of the broad road through the palms and almond trees that line it. Back then, the Hotel Jaragua faced the Malecón directly. Now it's to the side. Her memory brings back the image — was that the day? — of the little girl holding her father's hand as they entered the hotel restaurant so the two of them could have lunch together. They were given a table next to the window, and through the sheer lace curtains Urania could see the spacious garden and the pool with its diving boards and swimmers. In the Patio Espanol, surrounded by glazed tiles and flowerpots filled with carnations, an orchestra was playing merengues. Was that the day? "No" she says aloud. The Jaragua of those days had been torn down and replaced by this massive shocking-pink structure that had surprised her so much when she arrived in Santo Domingo three days ago.

Were you right to come back? You'll be sorry, Urania. Wasting a week's vacation, when you never had time to visit all the cities, regions, countries you would have liked to see — the mountain ranges and snow-covered lakes of Alaska, for instance — returning to the island you swore you'd never set foot on again. A symptom of decline? The sentimentality of age? Curiosity, nothing more. To prove to yourself you can walk along the streets of this city that is no longer yours, travel through this foreign country and not have it provoke sadness, nostalgia, hatred, bitterness, rage in you. Or have you come to confront the ruin of your father? To learn what effect seeing him has on you, after so many years. A shudder runs the length of her body. Urania, Urania! What if after all these years you discover that behind your determined, disciplined mind, impervious to discouragement, behind the fortress admired and envied by others, you have a tender, timid, wounded, sentimental heart?

She bursts into laughter. Enough foolishness, my girl.

She puts on sneakers, slacks, a tailored blouse, and pulls back her hair. She drinks a glass of cold water and is about to turn on the television to watch CNN but changes her mind. She remains at the window, looking at the ocean, the Malecón, and then, turning her head, at the city's forest of roofs, towers, domes, belfries, and treetops. It's grown so much! When you left, in 1961, it sheltered three hundred thousand souls. More than a million now. It has filled up with neighborhoods, avenues, parks, hotels. The night before, she felt like a foreigner as she drove a rented car past the condominiums in Bella Vista, and the immense El Mirador Park, where there were as many joggers as in Central Park. When she was a girl, the city ended at the Hotel El Embajador; beyond that point, it was all farms and fields. The Country Club, where her father took her on Sundays to swim in the pool, was surrounded by open countryside, not the asphalt, houses, and street-lights that are there now.

But the colonial city has not been modernized, and neither has Gazcue, her neighborhood. And she is absolutely certain her house has hardly changed at all. It must be the same, with its small garden, old mango tree, and the flamboyán with red flowers bending over the terrace where they used to have lunch outdoors on weekends; the sloping roof and the little balcony outside her bedroom, where she would go to wait for her cousins Lucinda and Manolita, and, during that last year, 1961, spy on the boy who rode past on his bicycle, watching her out of the comer of his eye and not daring to speak. Would it be the same inside? The Austrian clock that sounded the hours had Gothic numerals and a hunting scene. Would her father be the same? No. You've seen him failing in the photos sent to you every few months or years by Aunt Adelina and other relatives who continued to write even though you never answered their letters.

She drops into an armchair. The rising sun penetrates to the center of the city; the dome of the National Palace and its pale ocher walls sparkle gently under a curve of blue. Go now, soon the heat will be unbearable. She closes her eyes, overcome by a rare inertia, for she is accustomed to always being active and not wasting time in what, since her return to Dominican soil, has occupied her day and night: remembering. "This daughter of mine is always working, she even repeats her lessons when she's asleep" That's what Senator Agustín Cabral, Minister Cabral, Egghead Cabral used to say about you when he boasted to his friends about the girl who won all the prizes, the student the sisters always held up as an example. Did he boast to the Chief about Urania's scholarly achievements? "I'd like so much for you to know her, she has won the Prize for Excellence every year since she enrolled at Santo Domingo. It would make her so happy to meet you and shake your hand. Urania prays every night for God to protect that iron health of yours. And for Dona Julia and Dona María as well. Do us this honor. The most loyal of your dogs asks, begs, implores you. You can't refuse: receive her. Excellency! Chief!"

Do you despise him? Do you hate him? Still? "Not anymore," she says aloud. You wouldn't have come back if the rancor were still sizzling, the wound still bleeding, the deception still crushing her, poisoning her, the way it did in your youth, when studying and working became an obsessive defense against remembering. Back then you did hate him. With every atom of your being, with all the thought and feeling your body could hold. You wanted him to suffer misfortunes, diseases, accidents. God granted your wish, Urania. Or rather, the devil did. Isn't it enough that the cerebral hemorrhage brought him a living death? A sweet revenge that he has spent the last ten years in a wheelchair, not walking or talking, depending on a nurse to eat, lie down, dress, undress, trim his nails, shave, urinate, defecate? Do you feel avenged? "No."

She drinks a second glass of water and goes out. It's seven in the morning. On the ground floor of the Jaragua she is assaulted by the noise, that atmosphere, familiar by now, of voices, motors, radios blaring at full volume, merengues, salsas, danzones, boleros, rock, rap, all jumbled together, assailing one another and assailing her with their shrill clamor. Animated chaos, the profound need in what was once your people, Urania, to stupefy themselves into not thinking and, perhaps, not even feeling. An explosion of savage life, immune to the tide of modernization. Something in Dominicans clings to this prerational, magical form: this appetite for noise. ("For noise, not music.")

She doesn't remember a commotion like this in the street when she was a girl and Santo Domingo was called Ciudad Trujillo. Perhaps it didn't exist back then: perhaps, thirty-five years ago, when the city was three or four times smaller, provincial, isolated, made wary by fear and servility, its soul shrinking in terrified reverence for the Chief, the Generalissimo, the Benefactor, the Father of the New Nation, His Excellency Dr. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, it was quieter and less frenetic. Today, all the clamor of life — car engines, cassettes, records, radios, horns, barks, growls, human voices — seems to resound at top volume, producing vocal, mechanical, digital, or animal noise at maximum capacity (dogs bark louder, birds chirp with more enthusiasm). And New York is famous for being noisy! Never, in the ten years she has spent in Manhattan, have her ears been subjected to anything like the brutal, cacophonous symphony in which she has been immersed for the past three days.

The sun burns the silvery tops of towering palms, the broken sidewalk with so many holes it looks bombed, the mountains of trash that some women with scarves tied around their heads sweep up and correct in inadequate bags. "Haitians." They're silent now, but yesterday they were whispering among themselves in Creole. A little farther on, she sees two barefoot, half-naked Haitian men sitting on boxes under dozens of vividly colored paintings displayed on the wall of a building. It's true, the city, perhaps the country, has filled with Haitians. Back then, it didn't happen. Isn't that what Senator Agustín Cabral said? "You can say what you like about the Chief. History, at least, will recognize that he has created a modern country and put the Haitians in their place. Great ills demand great remedies!" The Chief found a small country barbarized by wars among the caudillos, a country without law and order, impoverished, losing its identity, invaded by its starving, ferocious neighbors. They waded across the Masacre River and came to steal goods, animals, houses, they took the jobs of our agricultural workers, perverted our Catholic religion with their diabolical witchcraft, violated our women, ruined our Western, Hispanic culture, language, and customs, imposed their African savagery on us. The Chief cut the Gordian knot: "Enough!" Great ills demand great remedies! He not only justified the massacre of Haitians in 1937; he considered it a great accomplishment of the regime. Didn't he save the Republic from being prostituted a second time by that marauding neighbor? What do five, ten, twenty thousand Haitians matter when it's a question of saving an entire people?

Copyright © 2000 Mario Vargas Llosa
Translation Copyright © 2000 Edith Grossman

Meet the Author

MARIO VARGAS LLOSA was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010 "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat." Peru's foremost writer, he has been awarded the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's most distinguished literary honor, and the Jerusalem Prize. His many works include The Feast of the Goat, The Bad Girl, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, The War of the End of the World, and The Storyteller. He lives in London.

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The Feast of the Goat 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Found myself holding my breath as I read. Horrifying to think this was DR's reality. Highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Truly detailed and horrifying. Couldn't put it down.
Ioan More than 1 year ago
Loved it, I wished more of Vargas Llosa's books were available on Nook.
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Brian Jones More than 1 year ago
Fantastic story telling. I look forward to reading more of Vargas Llosa.
lolita12 More than 1 year ago
"everything mortified him-the assassinations, the disapperances, the tortures, the precariousness of life, the corruption, the surrender of body, soul, and conscience by millions to a single man" From 1930 to 1961, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina ruled the Dominican Republic when thousands were arrested, murdered, disappeared, or tortured for months - by electrocutions, mutilations and beatings. Under his dictatorship, over 20,000 Haitians were massacred and government officials offered up their only daughters as gifts to him and his masochistic sons and brothers. A historical novel against the horrors of tyranny and the lifetime of inner tortures that haunt those who somehow survived.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
if Vargas Llosa was Dominican he could not put it in a better way. i am an avid lector about La Era de Trujillo and this book is the second best i've read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a survivor of Hitler and Stalin in Eastern Europe, this book touched raw nerves and deeply buried chords in me. Vargas Llosa has grasped the roots of many diverse attitudes toward evil. The character of general Roman makes this book worth reading in itself. But of course, there are many others....
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great book. If you are Dominican and interested in your history you MUST read this book. I was reading the book and I was unable to put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this book, Mario Vargas Llosa shows in a very vivid and elegant prosa a photograph of the cruel political situation that were living some latinoamerican countries under the military boot. Vargas Llosa is a writer at the same level of Gabriel Garcia Marquez,Isabel Allende among others.