Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mario Vargas Llosa: The Dream of the Celt

Richard Eder reviews Mario Vargas Llosa's The Dream of the Celt
Vargas Llosa gives a painful account of Casement’s tormented indecisions, switches of plans, and stumbles over his own feet. He also describes numerous sexual encounters with young men. Some, presumably, are drawn from the so-called Black Diaries, circulated by the British government to diminish sympathy for him. For many years these were denounced as forgeries; a few years ago an independent group of experts analyzed the handwriting and text and pronounced them genuine. Vargas Llosa, without mentioning the study, agrees that they seem authentic, while suggesting that much of the contents were more fantasy than fact.
Fictionalized history is a perilous genre, and not often done well. Tolstoy, Stendhal, and Hilary Mantel are shining examples of how it can extend itself into a new dimension. Vargas Llosa’s attempt here is more a matter of embroidery.
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