Friday, March 28, 2008

Mario Vargas Llosa: The Bad Girl

Jason Wilson reviews Mario Vargas Llosa's The Bad Girl.
"You turn me into a character in a soap opera," says Ricardo to the bad girl.

But it's the bad girl who is the soap's femme fatale in Mario Vargas Llosa's novel. She first appears in 1950 in the narrator's teens in Miraflores, a smart Lima suburb, during the mambo craze, with her "mischievous laugh and mocking glance". There is no delicate exploration of character, just that laugh, that glance and an unfolding chain of erotic encounters, in which she is passive and elusive.

Vargas Llosa's subtly crafted novels divide into deeply serious ones, like the recent The Feast of the Goat, and more light-hearted, teasing ones, sometimes combining both as in his brilliant Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter.

Here, the bad girl tantalises her absurdly loyal romantic lover in different guises. She is Comrade Arlette, guerrilla fighter in Paris and Havana, then Madame Arnoux in Paris, then Mrs Richardson in Newmarket, and Kuriko, shady businessman's moll in Tokyo. We appreciate Vargas Llosa's skill in delaying her dramatic entrances and latest mutation, although she remains the same.
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