Mario Vargas Llosa, Writer and Citizen: Background information when reading The Discreet Hero

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Discreet Hero

A Novel

by Mario Vargas Llosa, Edith Grossman

The Discreet Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa, Edith Grossman X
The Discreet Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa, Edith Grossman
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2015, 336 pages

    Mar 2016, 336 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Alta Ifland
Buy This Book

About this Book

Mario Vargas Llosa, Writer and Citizen

This article relates to The Discreet Hero

Print Review

Mario Vargas Llosa When Peruvian-born writer Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010, the committee praised "his cartography of structures of power, and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat." Indeed, these themes have been present in his work from his first novel, The Time of the Hero (1963) until The Discreet Hero. The two novels share more than the word "hero" in the title: The Time of the Hero was inspired by Vargas Llosa's traumatic experience at the Leoncio Prado Military Academy in Lima where his father, afraid that he might become a writer, had sent him; likewise, the protagonist in The Discreet Hero sends one of his sons to a military academy in order to teach him discipline, and as a result, the son harbors a lifelong resentment against his father.

The Time of the Hero was condemned by Peru's generals, who ordered the burning of a thousand copies, but this act of involuntary publicity didn't hurt the book, which received several European awards. Two other major novels, both considered by some critics as Vargas Llosa's greatest, followed: The Green House (1965)—about a brothel—and Conversation in the Cathedral (1969)—a pessimistic political book describing a conversation between the son of a government minister and his driver.

Peru Political Poster Showing Mario Vargas Llosa and Fredemo Party After these early books, all containing some kind of social critique, Vargas Llosa's writings in the seventies became lighter and more influenced by popular culture. His most important novel from this period was Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, a partly autobiographical work about a writer of soap operas who marries his aunt. In 1981 he published his first historical novel, The War of the End of the World, about a nineteenth-century Brazilian millenarian cult, an extremely complex work that marked the beginning of his interest in messianism (belief in a savior or redeemer). A series of mystery books and political thrillers followed, of which the most important was The Feast of the Goat (2000) based on the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, who governed in the Dominican Republic.

One of the major Latin American writers of the past fifty years, Mario Vargas Llosa was in his youth, like most of his contemporaries, a Marxist and a supporter of Fidel Castro. But, unlike other Latin American writers, he grew disillusioned with the latter and with socialism in general, and began to support free-market societies. It is believed that political differences led to a fallout with friend and lifelong communist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who was the subject of Vargas Llosa's doctoral dissertation. In 1990 Vargas Llosa ran for the Peruvian presidency as the candidate of the center-right FREDEMO coalition, but lost to Alberto Fujimori, who was later imprisoned for corruption. After his defeat, Vargas Llosa moved to Madrid, where he has been living since and is now a Spanish citizen. In 2011, the year after winning the Nobel Prize, the King of Spain bestowed him with the hereditary title of marquis.

Picture of Mario Vargas Llosa from German Academic Exchange Service
Picture of FREDEMO poster from Partidos Politicos

Filed under Books and Authors

Article by Alta Ifland

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Discreet Hero. It originally ran in February 2015 and has been updated for the March 2016 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start discovering exceptional books!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Salvage This World
    Salvage This World
    by Michael Farris Smith
    In the near-future universe of Michael Farris Smith's Salvage This World, life-threatening ...
  • Book Jacket: Where Coyotes Howl
    Where Coyotes Howl
    by Sandra Dallas
    Where Coyotes Howl may appear to be a classically conventional historical novel — a wide-eyed ...
  • Book Jacket: After the Miracle
    After the Miracle
    by Max Wallace
    Many people have heard one particular story about Helen Keller—how the saintly teacher, Annie ...
  • Book Jacket: The Lost Wife
    The Lost Wife
    by Susanna Moore
    The Lost Wife is a hard-hitting novella based in part on a white settler named Sarah Wakefield's ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Nazi Conspiracy
by Brad Meltzer & Josh Mensch
Currently a New York Times bestseller: The true story of a Nazi plot to kill FDR, Stalin, and Churchill during WWII.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Little Italian Hotel
    by Phaedra Patrick

    Sunny, tender and brimming with charm, The Little Italian Hotel explores marriage, identity and reclaiming the present moment.

Win This Book
Win Girlfriend on Mars

30 Copies to Give Away!

A funny and poignant debut novel that skewers billionaire-funded space travel in a love story of interplanetary proportions.



Solve this clue:

Y S M Back A I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.