Summary and book reviews of The Discreet Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa

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
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2015, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2016, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Alta Ifland
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About this Book

Book Summary

The latest masterpiece—perceptive, funny, insightful, affecting—from the Nobel Prize–winning author

Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa's newest novel, The Discreet Hero, follows two fascinating characters whose lives are destined to intersect: neat, endearing Felícito Yanaqué, a small businessman in Piura, Peru, who finds himself the victim of blackmail; and Ismael Carrera, a successful owner of an insurance company in Lima, who cooks up a plan to avenge himself against the two lazy sons who want him dead.

Felícito and Ismael are, each in his own way, quiet, discreet rebels: honorable men trying to seize control of their destinies in a social and political climate where all can seem set in stone, predetermined. They are hardly vigilantes, but each is determined to live according to his own personal ideals and desires—which means forcibly rising above the pettiness of their surroundings. The Discreet Hero is also a chance to revisit some of our favorite players from previous Vargas Llosa novels: Sergeant Lituma, Don Rigoberto, Doña Lucrecia, and Fonchito are all here in a prosperous Peru. Vargas Llosa sketches Piura and Lima vividly—and the cities become not merely physical spaces but realms of the imagination populated by his vivid characters.

A novel whose humor and pathos shine through in Edith Grossman's masterly translation, The Discreet Hero is another remarkable achievement from the finest Latin American novelist at work today.

Excerpt
The Discreet Hero

Felícito Yanaqué, the owner of the Narihualá Transport Company, left his house that morning, as he did every morning Monday to Saturday, at exactly seven thirty, after doing half an hour of qigong, taking a cold shower, and preparing his usual breakfast: coffee with goat's milk and toast with butter and a few drops of raw chancaca honey. He lived in the center of Piura, and on Calle Arequipa the noise of the city had already erupted, the high sidewalks filled with people going to the office or the market, or taking their children to school. Some devout old women were on their way to the cathedral for eight o'clock Mass. Peddlers hawked their wares: molasses candies, lollipops, plantain chips, empanadas, and all kinds of snacks; and Lucindo the blind man, with the alms can at his feet, had already settled in at the corner under the eaves of the colonial house. Everything just as it had been every day from time immemorial.

With one ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Discreet Hero is mostly perfectly constructed, and even though it doesn't stand next to Llosa's masterpieces—The War of the End of the World, Conversation in the Cathedral, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter—the gradation of the events, the dialog and the way the two stories come together prove that the author is a master storyteller. Translator Edith Grossman is a perfect match for his sober voice. The novel is proof that Nobel-prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa still has stories to tell and still knows how to do it.   (Reviewed by Alta Ifland).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
This master storyteller ensures that the book is continually intriguing and charming. Yet taken together, the two narratives don't make a strong whole, rather more a theme and variation that can seem sometimes dangerously close to what Rigoberto at one point calls his side of the story: a soap opera.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. . A vivid tale of fathers and sons, rich and poor, this novel gives the world another reason to celebrate Llosa.

Library Journal
Starred Review. Well paced with a rhythm that gradually builds to the denouement, this is one of the most appealing and realistic Vargas Llosa novels.

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Beyond the Book

Mario Vargas Llosa, Writer and Citizen

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...

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