I read this back in 2004 or so, I think, and enjoyed it, certainly remembered it, but one reading left me rather confused as to the structure and characters. Anther reading group chose it for June of this year and I decided to revisit. ai’m quite pleased I did. Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2010 and although he has quite an oeuvre, The Feast of the Goat is probably the work he’s best known for.
Because this was first published in 2000 about events which occurred less than forty years prior, it’s not quite historical fiction, but rather very well researched and carefully considered fiction about a time the author lived through, followed, took note of, and surely considered carefully at the time. It’s is fiction, much of the material is made up, even two of the major characters, Urania Cabral and her father Agustin Cabral, a powerful Senator.
This is not a tale for the squeamish or faint of heart. It’s a fairly graphic portrait of the brutal behavior of one of the most violent dictatorships of Latin America. This is the adult version of Julia alvarez’ In the Time of the Butterflies about the Mirabal sisters and their role in the revolution ( or coup), Vargas mentions them several times.
In addition to being a very well researched work of historical fiction, Vargas explores the themes of dictatorship and bruality, the psychology of both the dictator snd what that does to the people on a very personal level. There is also the theme of memory playing out in Urania and the assassins. I think Agustin Cabral also remembers in a limited way.
The action follows three plot lines. The first and last is that of Urania Cabral returning to the Dominican Republic and remembering, telling. The second plot line is that of Trujillo’s last day and his memory, thoughts. The final plot line is that of the assassins, thie backstories, motivations, actions until the end. This is the most difficult of the plot lines so I made some notes.
The characters at the scene of Trujillo’s assassination (not including Trujillo’s car):
1st car – Chevy Biscayne:
Salvador Estrella Sadhalá (the Turk because he was from Turkey) back seat – religious, related to Amadito by marriage, long term friends. The Catholic church’s Pastoral Letter signed by 5 bishops and delivered by the Archbishop renounced the dictatorship and that was Salvador’s sign. Trujillo’s violent reaction against the church was the final straw for him. A passage from Thomas Aquinas vindicated him. Sees Trujillo as an ally of Satan.
Amadito Malacon Garcia Guerrero – backseat – a uniformed lieutenant for Trujillo’s guards – denied request to marry his love – test of loyalty, he was promoted and had to kill girlfriend’s younger brother.
Antonio (Tony) Imbert – driving. Manages a Trujillo factory. Has been planning an assassination in various ways for a long time. The invasion of June 14th and its repercussions including the deaths of the Mirabal sisters radicalized him – he knew them. His brother is in exile. The contradictions and crazy thinking get to him, make him sick. Trujillo took away free will. (p. 144).
Antonio de la Maza – front passenger because his skill in shooting. Owns both 1st and 2nd cars. Tavito (Octavio) his brother, was killed by Trujillo and Antonio made a vow to family – “sold his brother” according to Salvador- historically anti-Trujillo family. Joined Trujillistas and deeply regretted it as he essentially turned his own brother in (to be killed) because of anti-T. activity – complex kidnapping, then propaganda against Tavito. Then Trujillo “honored” the de la Maza and family -so there was humiliation. Family is ashamed of him. De la Maza knows everyone involved.
2nd car – Oldsmobile
Pedro Liveo Cedeño – (Nigger) – US military training, works at Trujillo plant. Trujillo gave custody of daughter to ex wife, but it is the murder of the Mirabal sisters which bothers him. Wounded in attack on Trujillo.
Huáscar Tejeda Pimentel –
3rd car – Mercury:
Robert Pistoriza Neret (Fifi)
Except for Tony Imbert and Antonio de la Maza, I guess all were captured and tortured, finally died.
I was just doing this for my own clarification. On my first reading this story was pretty much mishmash with so many people in it, but on the second reading I was curious to see wahat Vargas had done with it. The 4 characters in the 1st car each had his own story and his own personality, but the narrative was so tense at that point it was hard to distinguish.