"In this country, in one way or another, everyone had been, was, or would be part of the regime. "The worst thing that can happen to a Dominican is to be intelligent or competent," he had once heard Agustín Cabral say ...and the words had been etched in his mind: "Because sooner or later Trujillo will call upon him to serve the regime, or his person, and when he calls, one is not permitted to say no." [Agustín Cabral] was proof of this truth....As Estrella Sadhalá always said, the Goat had taken from people the sacred attribute given to them by God: their free will." (143).
By some obscure chance you're a Joe Budden fan (or know who he is, if you keep up with those ridiculous reality shows), you've probably heard of a song called "Three Sides to a Story". Now, that's besides the point, because Budden and Llsoa basically have nothing in common with each other than the understanding of the need for perspective.
Unlike books with separate parts, The Feast of the Goat does not have such separations, and simply bounces around from character to character. "Main" character, Urania Cabral, returns to the Dominican Republic after a thirty-five year absence, which spurs the rest of the book on. For argumentative purposes, it's unlikely for this story to be brought out the way it is, as it's her spontaneous return alongside deep knowledge of the Trujillo era (made possible by what I'm assuming to be a reflection of the intense research done by Llosa for this novel), that really holds this book together. The other two perspectives are that of the governments (the semi-final moments of the Trujillo era and post-assasination) and the assassins. In particular I had a bit of a difficult time keeping track of all of the names listed when it came to the chapters involving the governments, however characters who are pivotal become fleshed out and developed within their chapters. When it came to the stories of each of the assassins, they were all introduced together at once, and then really detailed in two or more chapters. One of the things I found impressive is just how much history Llosa managed to work into this piece of fiction, including the actual pasts and their (understandable) reasons for wanting to get rid of Trujillo.
I don't want to ruin the book, because it is pretty difficult to talk about without spoilers. In comparison with Julia Alvarez's "In The Time of Butterflies" and Junot Díaz's "The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao", it's not obvious what is going to happy. Yes, Trujillo does end up dead, but the other stories of all the other characters come to light too. The trauma experienced by Urania, the reason behind her hatred for her father (and probably her uncle too), the torture at the hands of the SIM, the struggle for freedom and redemption of the assassins…it all packs quite a heavy punch. One that I was really not expecting.
I can't remember what page I read it on, but Llosa did mention that some Dominicans after the fall of Trujillo's tyrannous reign complained that the country was no longer as prosperous, had the same job opportunities, or safe (instances of petty crimes were noted to be on the rise). This didn't exactly surprise me, but it didn't stop from annoying me. Like the Israelites who complained about not having the same luxuries of garlic and onions (Numbers 11:5, I don't think the Bible version matters) once delivered from Egypt (where mind you they'd been enslaved for many, many years), this supposed lamenting attitude shown by some is a reflective, and boggles my mind.
Labels: historical fiction, mario vargas llosa, the feast of the goat