Troy Patterson
January 18, 2002 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Feast of the Goat

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Mario Vargas Llosa
publisher
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
genre
Fiction

We gave it an B+

Combining the bottomless compassion of Stalin with the gentlemanly restraint of Herod, His Excellency Rafael Trujillo — a.k.a. The Chief, a.k.a. The Goat, a.k.a. Generalissimo of the Dominican Republic (1930-61) — was a despot par excellence. Moving vividly from the satisfactions of the monster’s morning bath through the graft and murder of his workday and onto the seignorial depravities of the tropical night, Vargas Llosa conveys the full humanity of a Shakespeare-worthy villain and conjures, not without comedy, the terrors of his reign. The book is a thriller, gaining speed and depth as it follows the plans of anti-Trujillista assassins; a slightly hazy historical exploration; and a gross-out comedy, lavishly describing a scared old man who can control a country but not his bladder.

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