Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord
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Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord (Latin American Trilogy)

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  2,148 ratings  ·  97 reviews
The setting for this iridescent gem of storytelling by the bestselling author of Corelli's Mandolin and The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts is an unnamed South American country where the rule of law has given way to the rule of the lawless and the laws of magic.The young philosophy professor Dionisio Vivo is the only citizen who dares denounce his country's cocaine mafi...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 3rd 1998 by Vintage (first published 1991)
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Madeline
This book is hard to explain. On one hand, it's a genuinely passionate statement about how the cocaine trade has crippled South America and everyone is too afraid to go against the cartels; on the other hand, it's a magical realism story where human women can give birth to cats, gods posses people, and panthers can be domesticated.

Amazingly, these two very different elements combine to make a fantastic story. It doesn't seem like it would work - how can an author make a statement about the real...more
Ema
I had no idea that the thrift store close to home had also second-hand books on sale. I went there a lot of times searching for nice clothes, but never, ever noticed the English books sitting on the shelf. Today I went in this store with a friend and wasn't intending to buy anything when, suddenly, I had a vision: I finally saw the books. And they were soo cheap, like 0.30 cents. Mostly romance, but there was also this book, that I proudly took home. :)
Armelle
I would have given this book four stars had it not been for a couple of horrific chapters which made me so sick I scanned the rest. Otherwise, an enjoyable read. Given this is set in an imaginary south american country it really brought home the struggle against the coca cartels with an interesting story and prose
Angela
The had his usual wonderfully lyrical prose that somehow makes it easier to comprehend or accept the horrific violence that takes place throughout, although I didn't love this one as much as the first and last books in the trilogy. I think that had more to do with the fact that I read the final one before this, being to anxious to keep reading as I waited for my copy of this to arrive in the mail, so much of the tragedy here seemed almost anti-climactic, and the ending seemed strangely rushed or...more
Philip Dickinson
I am definately in the minority in giving this a 2-star rating but I will stick to my guns. This book is mainly an exercise in intellectual mast**bation. I like to learn new words so I didn't mind having to reach for the dictionary every second page and even used online translation for some of the Spanish words.

de Bernier's style is florid and overly self-indulgent, perhaps in an effort to mimic the storytelling style of overexcited Mexican housewives or boastful gauchos. I liked the way the sto...more
Nimue Brown
Beautifully written and amazingly vivid, this is a book that covers a great swathe of narrative, and human experience. Sometimes it made me laugh out loud. One chapter prevented me from sleeping, and still haunts me. When de Berniers is playful, he is charming. When he plunges into the darkest aspects of human nature and behaviour, he is shocking. Through the contrasts, the dramatic shifts betwen light and dark, compassion and horror, he weaves a complex story. There is romance, tragedy, magical...more
Celine
I'm not sure why this one didn't satisfy me as much as the others? I consumed the book and I loved each section as I read it.(did the violence against women finally get to me?? I can't see why as there is equal violence meted out against both sexes and the women portrayed are as strong, kookie and magical as all the men) Was it the fragmented nature of the narrative? ( can't see why, all the narratives have been fragmented) I am willing to concede it may be the horrific and progressively worseni...more
David Cohen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lucy
Philosophy, distilled: "I do not want you to believe any of this because it is all crap, but it is crap in which the piles of our pseudo-European culture are embedded, so you had better understand it because no one who does not understand the history and taxonomy of crap will ever come to know the difference between crap and pseudo-crap and non-crap..." (233).
Harry Woodward
Like its predessecor, 'the War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts', this is a novel that has everything you could want, like a good stew. It's a great love and revenge story set in a fictional Latin American country focused around a philosophy professor named Dionisio Vivo who becomes a local legend when he openly challenges the all-powerful coca trade, with violent consequences. There's love, there's sex, there's horror, there's humour, buckets of imagination and heart rending tragedy. There's one...more
Velvetink
The font in my edition is a tad unpleasant to read. Will see how I go.
Eva Kamm
Fascinating!
Teresa Esteban
3.75/5
Set in the same 'imaginary' (but unfortunately very real) South-American country, this story follows the life of Dionisio Vivo, a philosopher that starts sending letters against coca trade to one of the country's most read newspapers. This, of course, makes him the enemy of El Jerarca, the boss of one of the most important coca cartels. From time to time we also get to know what's going on in the impossible town of Cocha debajo de los Gatos - and catch up with some of the characters of the...more
Nancy Petralia
Writing in the mystical style of South American novelists, Louis de Bernieres creates a story that is hilarious and horrific, sadistic and sad, colorful, fantastic, illuminating, beautiful, mythical and brutal, tragi-comedy and allegorical love story of Columbia.

Senor Vivo, professor of philosophy, unlikely adversary, and Everyman, finds himself the target of retaliation by the brutish drug lord, El Jerarca, who has moved into the area. Vivo's audacious acts of heroism, in the form of anonymous...more
Darla
If they made a Hieronymous Bosch painting into a novel, and set it in South America, this might be the result. (Could be the polar opposite of Downton Abbey or Pride and Prejudice.)

De Bernieres' signature 'combinatorial creativity' in his prose is present throughout this novel-- as is his reality-based satire.

The characters are magical: Dionisio as the tragic hero figure who also happens to be a professor of 'secular philosophy'; Aurelio the indian, a master brujo who knows santeria and communi...more
Books HQ
This is the second in De Bernieres wildly imaginiative Latin American trilogy, after The War Of Don Emmanuels Nether Parts. Whereas the first focuses primarily on politics, this story is a scathing attack on the drug trade. The eponymous hero, Dionisio, is a philosophy professor who provokes the wrath of the cartels with his public letter writing campaign.

Yet, when the drug lords send hit men to get rid of him they inexplicably fail every time. Baffled by his seeming invincibility, a myth builds...more
William
I love this book. It is a great satire describing one man's fight agaist the evil of the drug cartels in a fictional South American country. It sets a beautiful love story against a violent backdrop. With gentle humour and sarcasm he contrasts the simple truths set out by Dionesis Vivo a professor of philosophy with the incomprehensible lunacy filling the country. The story is told in a magic realist style - homage to South American masters but, again, this blunts the impact of the brutality des...more
Clive Thompson
This trilogy gets weirder as it progresses. We have here a magical and/or drug laden story of fantastical proportions. Dionisio Vivo cares not a hoot whether he upsets the all powerful military dictatorship. His letters to the local paper , in opposition to the Coca lords, spark off the story and keep it going. Part of the opening paragraph will give you a flavour of the book.

Ever since his young wife had given birth to a cat as an unexpected consequence of his experiments in sexual alchemy, and...more
Petrucha
I remember falling in love with this book almost instantly. It has a different cover in the Czech Republic and that was what initially drew me to the book and I have not regretted it. It is not my typical story and I had to turn to the Spanish dictionary at the end of a book more often that not..but it was not (that) annoying, surprisingly. I followed the story and looking up the words did not seem like a nuisance, it was exciting (it has something to do with the fact that there was a LOT of "ad...more
Fabian
Utterly engrossing, this is like if Garcia Marquez got off his high horse and lessened his stern seriousness and had some frickin' fun. Carnavalesque- the central love story is embedded like a beautiful diamond in this multi-chaptered saga of magical realism and extra bittersweet poignancy. I loved this revisit to Louis de Bernieres' vivid terrain--the inclusion of Dionosio (Dios---> God?) Vivo to the cast of characters that includes Remedios the Revolutionary and Don Emmanuel is an assurance...more
Siria
Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord is a parody, pastiche and example of magical realism in equal measure—the tale of a philosophy professor, Dionisio Vivo, from a country not unlike Colombia, who begins a war of letters in the newspaper editorial pages against a major drug trafficker, and is forced to end it in great violence. This is not a book for the faint-hearted (I'm not joking about the degree of violence) nor is it a book for someone who finds the magical realism genre tiresome (de Bernières av...more
Jaimie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Brittany
Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord began as an enthralling, funny, well-written book. Then it took a tragic turn, and became deep, philosophic, and thought-provoking. It's characteristic Louis de Bernières, a sequel to The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts (but don't worry if you don't remember most of it; I didn't and still very much enjoyed this one).

The best way to describe this, I think, is to say it's a lot like life: Funny, unpredictable, rich, harrowing, sweet, and sad. But not depressing. It...more
Tina
How do you review a book that is so hard to explain ??? I can't. Unfortunately, I don't have the gift of putting my thoughts onto paper or finding the words needed to describe how I feel. I can only suggest that you read the review of this book on Goodreads by a girl named Madeline. (copy & paste this link to see her review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...) Her review sums up everything I wish I could say. My own review could only be summed up by stating that Louis De Berniéres is a...more
Michelle O'flynn
I really enjoyed this quite bizarre story. It reminded me somewhat of the style of Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" in that the author captured the essence of the landscape and the people with vivid flavour and texture, and gave us a wonderful hero in Senor Vivo. The slightly paranormal experiences of the jungle cats and the ability of the natives in the mountains to astral travel and assume the identities of various deities is partly I suspect due to some hallucinogenic experiences...more
Al
Three stars, due to the amazing ability of de Bernieres to write sentences and paragraphs of great beauty. This book follows after The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts, and is loosely connected to it. But the book floats freely on its own level of fantasy. It's not so much a novel as it is an extended series of surreal events--some spiritual, some sensuous, some horrific, and more--serving to comment on both the positive and negative aspects of life in the cocaine-driven, insane, deliberately...more
Ian
Vastly entertaining first half, second half much darker. Tells of Dionisio Vivo and his struggle to ask searching questions of a south american country's tolerance of cocaine production. There are some lovely lyrical touches and some serious points, but I felt a bit cheated at times. The magic realism aura lulls you into a false sense of security, an atmosphere where coincidence becomes superstition and thence to legend, where romance is the stuff of fairy tales, and people give birth to cats. Y...more
Reid
Having now read all three novels in the South American trilogy, I think Don Vivo is the best. It continues to flesh out the characters so beautifully crafted in the first book while containing more of the romance and heartbreak with a bit less of the magical realism of Don Emanuel. De Bernieres doesnt lose a step in terms of plot, characterization, tone, etc. He is, at this point, probably my favorite contemporary English writer. I haven't read anything of his more recent than Birds Without Wing...more
Cynthia
So many stories in one book. Romance, violence, religion, hope. Dionisio Vivo was a hero after my own (journalism major's) heart. With his mighty pen and letters to the editor, Senor Vivo brings the cocaine trade to their knees and wins the hearts of his countrymen.

I especially loved chapter 16, titled "Memos." It ends with:
"From: The Missionary of Information
To: The Office of His Excellency the President

His Excellency is to be reminded that he abolished this Ministry two months ago."

Without th...more
Adrian
I'm a great fan of Louis de Bernieres, having been introduced to him through the previous novel in this trilogy 'The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts'. I enjoyed this book but ultimately was left wanting for something more from this story's narrative conclusion. Perhaps it's the nature of the Don Vivo myth that builds to epic, magical proportions. It's certainly the stuff of folklore and national legend but is it something more? Felt to some degree that the journey sets out there but never qui...more
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Novelist Louis de Bernières was born in London in 1954. He joined the army at 18 but left after spending four months at Sandhurst. After graduating from the Victoria University of Manchester, he took a postgraduate certificate in Education at Leicester Polytechnic and obtained his MA at the University of London.

Before writing full-time, he held many varied jobs including landscape gardener, motor...more
More about Louis de Bernières...
Captain Corelli's Mandolin Birds Without Wings The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman Red Dog

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“He read his own obituary and an editorial lamenting his demise and praising his fortitude and immediately began to think up witty ways of writing to the paper to announce his continued and uninterrupted existence. The other two joined in the game with enthusiasm, and soon all three of them were howling with laughter and emptying bottles at a rate which would have alarmed even a depressed Scandinavian.” 3 likes
“Dolphins love each other so romantically, so playfully, so completely, that it is obvious that they are sent by God to teach us by their example to do the same.” 2 likes
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