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Set in an isolated, run down community in the Peruvian Andes, Vargas Llosa’s riveting novel tells the story of a series of mysterious disappearances involving the Shining Path guerrillas and a local couple performing cannibalistic sacrifices with strange similarities to the Dionysian rituals of ancient Greece. Part-detective novel and part-political allegory, it offers a panoramic view of Peruvian society; not only of the current political violence and social upheaval, but also of the country’s past, and its connection to Indian culture and to pre-Hispanic mysticism. As in his other novels, Vargas Llosa breathes into this work a magical assemblage of narrators, time frames and subplots. We meet Senderista guerrillas, disenfranchised Indians, jaded army officers, eccentric townspeople and cult worshippers, among many unforgettable characters. The result is a work of broad sweep, powerful narrative drive, and keen insight into one of Latin America’s most fascinating and complex countries.
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