Accidentally visiting Llosa's exhibition on the street of Lima, I made up my mind to find Señor Llosa's work wherever I went throughout Perú. But unfortunately, I could neither find the books in English with a reasonable price nor nada at all.
Luckily, I found it half a globe away in Bookman store, Taipei, said to be the sole and only one La Ciudad y Los Perros novel in Taiwan. I finish reading the book within two weeks span, perhaps the time span was the shortest for me to finish an English fiction.
The scene of the novel is set in Leoncio Prado Military College, Lima. The main characters are the cadets in the first section of the Fifth Year
El Jaguar - The Jaguar
El Poeta - The Poet (Alberto Fernández)
El Esclavo - The Slave (Ricardo Arana)
El Boa - The Boa
Along with the lieutenant that supervises the first section, Lt. Gamboa (Teniente Gamboa).
It's fairly difficult to start reading the first chapters since Mario Vargas Llosa did not write the name of the subject usually, using the pronoun, he, instead. Thus, it makes even more confusing to the readers who first understand the characters.
The main plot narrates the newly-enrolled cadets (the fourth year) in Leoncio Prado Military College are always bullied by their senior cadets, being called "dogs" (los perros) and are humiliated to do various act such as fighting as dogs, beaten or mounted on the back by the seniors. The Jaguar leads his classmates to fight against the senior, defeating the strongest senior cadet and got the nickname of "The Jaguar" instead of the rest of the cadets as dogs. Afterwards, he formed a four-men group as "The Circle" after Lt. Gamboa ordered them not to turn the whole section as a huge gang. The Jaguar, the leader of The Circle, along with The Boa, Cava and Rulos begins to sell illegally-stolen exams, cigarettes, and alcohol to earn money and reputation among their cadet classmates.
The Slave is the weakest, and maybe the finest in heart, not willing to fight against the Circle so he gets bullied by the Circle and the Jaguar always, eventually giving rise to his ultimate death.
The Poet, being the only friend of the Slave, is deeply sadden by Slave's accidental death and assumes the Circle and the Jaguar are to blame for his friend's death. Therefore, he stands up fighting ......
Also their lives outside of Leoncio Prado Military College is equally exciting as the ones inside as the three main character, the Jaguar, the Slave and the Poet are intermingled with a female character, Teresa, who plays an important and indispensable role in their lives and throughout the fiction.
There's not a single villain throughout the fiction in the end. Each of the character has their own weakness and merits. Cava, although stealing the chemistry exam, stands up facing his punishment (being expelled from the college) without giving the names of the Circle. The Slave who has the integrity and who is pushed to extreme decides to squeal on his classmates. The Poet, not defending the Slave when he's still alive, feels so guilty about his friend's death. The Jaguar, though killing the Slave for revenge of Cava, understands the Slave is much better than the rest of the cowards eventually and turns out to be a good person at the end of the novel, not ending up in the jail as his mother had predicted. The military hierarchy is as rotten in Lima as I had seen here. The officers regards the prestige of the school much more important than the truth of the accident. Even Lt. Gamboa, the only hope in the system, was forced to reassigned to the mountains after confronting his superiors on the death of the Slave.
Why Mario Vargas Llosa gave the name of the novel "La Ciudad y los Perros"? La ciudad (the city) definitely refers to Lima and the Leoncio Prado Military College and Los Perros (the dogs) indicates the cadets inside the colleges. Nevertheless, it also implies the rotten hierarchy in both the army and society of Lima and Perú of the 1960s.
The Jaguar is the only character in the book that doesn't have a real name, implying he's the only hero echoing the title of the English translation "The Time of the Hero".
The author , Mario Vargas Llosa, uses stream of consciousness depicting the plots. He also focuses often on the monologues from the Jaguar and the Boa to elaborate the storyline, which make the fiction world-known and best-seller for Mario Vargas Llosa.
That being said, Time of the Hero (La Ciudad y Los Perros) as the first novel published by Llosa, also helps him to establish his reputation on the stage of world literature. Not only did the fiction win various literature prize, such as Premio de la Crítica Española and el segundo puesto del Prix Formentor the same year 1963, but also adopted into the same-title cinema La Ciudad y Los Perros, directed by Francisco José Lombardi.
I felt glad to travel to Lima in November and found out about Mario Vargas Llosa accidentally. Now Mr. Llosa is undoubtedly one of my favorite writer and this book certainly serves as one of my favorite collection. Now, I am already looking forward to my next collection, The Green House, also by Mario Vargas Llosa....Continua