Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Green House by Mario Vargas Llosa

Where the jungle meets civilization

Peruvian soldiers chase rubber smugglers down a jungle river; Indian girls are kidnapped and “civilized”; men patronize a brothel, listening to music and getting drunk. The passionate characters carry the reader along, although I wish I had prepped better before reading the book. I didn’t realize The Green House would be anything but a straight read, but Llosa uses some Modernist techniques such as mixing time periods up within a scene and obscuring identities with nicknames so as a result I had a few head scratching moments. Are there two characters named Lalita? And why do so many of the women have green eyes? Overall, even though at times I was befuddled, I enjoyed the book. The scope was monumental. Europeans versus Indians, men versus women, and power/pleasure seekers versus the religious. The book was full of life.

The people in the town strive after money or love or eternal salvation. Llosa is good at creating full blooded full bodied characters, and is a master of “show, don’t tell.” The book is full of casual violence against women. In fact, I think the primary plot is how male society conspires to pulverize the life of a sweet innocent Indian girl. The gang rapes are horrifying and presented as somewhat light hearted boys will be boys behavior. In this town, girls should travel in packs if they don’t want to be raped. But the women’s pain from the treatment of the men (who are in the grip of machismo) is so clearly rendered. That’s a dissonance that says a lot.

This book demands a rereading.



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