cover image The Neighborhood

The Neighborhood

Mario Vargas Llosa, trans. from the Spanish by Edith Grossman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-374-15512-4

Llosa’s lively novel belongs in the pantheon of guilty pleasures by Nobel winners. Set in the waning years of Alberto Fujimori’s Peru, a time of “kidnappings, the curfew, blackouts, the whole nightmare,” the novel is structured as a breezy thriller but takes as its real subject the crimes and corruption of the Fujimori regime and its enforcer, the mysterious “Doctor.” It begins with Enrique Cárdenes, a wealthy engineer, receiving a visit from Rolando Garro, editor of the tabloid Exposed, regarding a salacious series of photographs of Enrique that have fallen into his possession and could be conveniently forgotten if Enrique chooses to invest in the yellow press. Outraged, Enrique violently rejects Rolando’s overture. When the photos are published and Enrique appears on the cover “naked from head to toe,” the scandal kills his reputation. When Garro turns up dead a few days later, Enrique is the prime suspect. While for most of the novel the prose is straightforward and in the manner of a page-turner, toward the end, Llosa includes an extended fugue of his trademark interweaved dialogue to great effect. Reminiscent of Pynchon’s Inherent Vice in its use of genre fiction for higher purposes, this is an audacious and skillful novel. [em](Feb.) [/em]