cover image Sabers and Utopias: Visions of Latin America

Sabers and Utopias: Visions of Latin America

Mario Vargas Llosa, trans. from the Spanish by Anna Kushner. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-25373-8

Written between 1979 and 2014, these 38 penetrating essays by Pulitzer-winning novelist Vargas Llosa (The Discreet Hero) shine a light on the social and political realities of contemporary Latin America. Although most are focused on historical moments specific to the countries covered—the fall of dictator Anastazio Somoza in Nicaragua, the sentencing of dictator Alberto Fujimori for human-rights crimes in the author’s native Peru, the injustices of Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution, president Felipe Calderón’s war against narco-trafficking in Mexico—they are united by recurring themes: rejection of authoritarianism, championing of the free press, and disdain for nationalism (which Vargas Llosa refers to as “the culture of the uneducated”). The author’s opinions are informed by his staunch humanism, expressed most passionately in “Hunting Gays,” his caustic denunciation of the cultural promotion of homophobia, as well as by his formidable sense of historical perspective, seen to best advantage in “Dreams and Reality in Latin America,” in which he describes “the empire of myth and fiction” that the Americas historically served as for their European discoverers. The otherwise politically minded collection concludes with a short section celebrating the literature of Latin America. As this book eloquently reminds readers, Vargas Llosa himself is an important part of the region’s literary canon. [em](Feb.) [/em]