The Storyteller
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The Storyteller

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  1,835 ratings  ·  151 reviews
At a small gallery in Florence, a Peruvian writer happens upon a photograph of a tribal storyteller deep in the jungles of the Amazon. He is overcome with the eerie sense that he knows this man...that the storyteller is not an Indian at all but an old school friend, Saul Zuratas. As recollections of Zuratas flow through his mind, the writer begins to imagine Zuratas's tran
Paperback, 256 pages
Published November 3rd 2001 by Picador (first published 1987)
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i spend much time creating my own right-to-exist argument for modern civilization. can anything justify the horrors we've inflicted on the globe, on one another, on the animals? doubt it. but nobody is better. ain't no noble savage. ain't nothing. just the least of all evils. and we might be it. pathetic, huh? in feast of the goat and war of the end of the world vargas llosa lays down the evil and stupidity and fanaticism that finds its permanent residence in the human heart. similarly, the stor...more
Sep 26, 2007 K. rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: writers
A work of genius, and in my opinion, the best from this author. It's not an easy read, but on the second or third read-through it yields treasures that have permanently inflected my ways of seeing the world and the people in it, of telling stories, and of finding voice. Most of my students hated it, despite my enthusiasm for it, but the brightest ones gradually realized its power.
The story's narrator visits an art gallery where there is an exhibit of photographs of the Machiguenga, an indigenous Amazonian tribe living in southeastern Peru. The Machiguenga are gathered around a storyteller who looks like Saul Zuratas, his friend when he was a university student. Zuratas had been called Mascarita (Mask face) because he had a port wine birthmark covering half his face. The narrator realizes that Mascarita had left the modern world to live with the Machiguenga. Although the...more
When ever I come to names such as “Llosa”, “Borges”, “Cortazar”, “Fuentes”... I wish I knew Spanish language, as I’m sure works by these authors would have a different aroma and melody in their own tongues. Llosa is, for me, one of the greatest story tellers, whose works give me deliciousness in Persian as well, (if it’s translated by Abdollah Kowsari, for example). Mario Bargas Llosa uses a highly sophisticated techniques with a very delicate language in multiple viewpoint, as if I’m listening...more
Jun 21, 2007 Kay rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Anybody who cares about how we see those different to ourselves
I've long been a fan of Mario Vargas Llosa, and this book confirmed for me what stature he has as a writer. It's a novel with two voices; utterly separate, utterly distinct and one so 'other' that the reader never doubts that s/he is immersed in a culture totally alien to his/her experience. It's a novel about lost friendship, the driving forces of life, and the purpose of existence. Of the two voices, one is 'high' culture, in the world of Dante and the South American diaspora, the other a noma...more
I kept asking myself as I read The Storyteller, "Is this really fiction or non-fiction?" The author, Mario Vargas Llosa, is a character in the story. At first, we learn of his fascination with the Machighuenga, an Amazonian people of the Upper Urubamba, and specifically of the role of storytellers (habladores) in their culture.

For good measure, he includes several large chunks of Machiguenga myth, mostly featuring the adventures of one Tasurinchi, and later of an actual storyteller, who seems to...more
I am a great fan of Mario Vargas Llosa but I was disappointed in this book, not so much for its subject matter but in the way it was presented.

In the opening chapter, the unknown narrator (Llosa?) who is only referred to as “pal” or “old boy,” comes across a painting in Florence depicting the Machiguenga Indians of Peru. The painting portrays a white-skinned oral storyteller with red hair, a disfiguring birthmark on his face, sitting in the middle of a circle of Machiguenga. The narrator wonders...more
A somewhat uncomfortable and multilayered take on anthropology and the search for identity in the modern world. A sad book because history has subsumed prehistory and moves only in one direction.

Vargas Llosa is a brilliant and clear-eyed novelist, yet the three longish chapters that tell the story being told by the storyteller are not easy to read. They are presented in a narrative style appropriate to a primitive Amazonian tribe and one must read them slowly to begin to pick out all the threads...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This was not an easy book to read, in fact I put it down frequently to read other books. The concept is interesting, about a Peruvian writer who goes to a photography exhibit of Machiguenga tribal members and is convinced one of the men is somehow his colleague from school. This story is interwoven with folk tales from the Machiguenga, as well as the story told from another perspective about storytellers in the jungle.

These elements were interesting, but ultimately were not woven together enoug...more
Two strands make up this phantasmagorical braid: one, a contemporary search for the truth behind the mythical "hablador" of the Machiguengas, an Amazonian tribe forgotten and lost in time; the other, the stories of the storyteller ("hablador") himself-- all of them incredibly fantastical and brilliant, origin stories and adventure stories, together glued to the oral tradition.

MVL is definitely using the technique he so articulately defined in "Letters to a Young Novelist" as communicating vessel...more
The only thing I really remember about this book is that it featured a giant penis and something about a bee sting.
Praveen Palakkazhi
Mario Vargas Llosa is one of the foremost authors from Latin America and a Nobel Prize winner, but one which I came across quite recently only. I've read three of his books so far and what has struck me is the eclectic nature of the subjects he chooses. There is no fixed style per se which I can attribute to him, and yet each of his books pulse with a veneer of brilliance.

This book is a fascinating foray into the wilderness, both in terms of geography as well as human nature. A Peruvian writer...more
I liked this more than I first expected to - in fact I nearly put it down and didn't pick it up again. But eventually I got caught up in the very different rhythms of the two kinds of story - one told by a man remembering his college friend in Peru who disappeared into the Amazon jungle & became one of the Machiguenga. (Guess I should say Spoiler Alert! - but it becomes obvious pretty early on). Interspersed with this narrator's story of his friend are stories told by a tribal keeper of lore...more
Nicole Gervasio
I was ambivalent about this one. On the one hand, I liked Sául, when the narrator was describing him, much more than the narrator himself, who can seem naive, self-indulgent, and petty at times. On the other hand, I didn't like Sául in those at-least-twice-removed, meta-fictional autobiographical testimonies of "his" that we get through the narrator's imaginings of what Sául-as-Storyteller would be like. The storytelling sections were mostly tedious and easy to zone out in. Granted, it is never...more
Kate Woods Walker
Even after learning more about this book and author at a library program, even knowing Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, even though each page fairly dripped with ponderous Literary Importance, I proudly claim my middlebrow status by disliking this mess of a book.

What was the author trying to say? There is no story in The Storyteller. There are plenty of folk stories, creation myths, and well-known plots retold from a primitive perspective, but they are presented in a...more

Subject: " story teller "

the ultimrte tribute you can pay to a culture is to adopt and embrace it unconditionally

here is a NY Times review without giving away too much of the suspenseful conclusion of the book

oh, a diferent book cover from an earlier publication - awesome !!

Feeling the Hot Breath of Civilization

By Mario Vargas Llosa.
John Gurney
In Peruvian Amazonia, the pre-modern Machiguenga tribe is confronted by modernity, first, through missionaries and anthropologists, and later by Mestizos who bring Western culture and enterprise. The Machiguenga wander in an Amazonian diaspora, in a parallel to the Jews. The tribe relies on Storytellers, who walk the jungle from settlement to settlement. The Storytellers are part postal service, bringing news of births, deaths, and news from relatives, part entertainer, but above all, repositori...more
A thrilling find. So it turns out that Vargas Llosa, a famous neoliberal, wrote the great novelistic elegy for oral, tribal cultures destroyed by modernity. His unsympathetic stance probably helps him succeed. The reader, no matter how sentimental, is pulled in both directions-- enchanted by ways of life he can't understand, but de facto allied to the culture of industrial agriculture, mass media, and rubber booms. Vargas Llosa absolves us by offering a protagonist who, much like the author, bel...more
Laura J. W.
“After, the men of earth started walking, straight toward the sun that was falling. Before, they too stayed in the same place without moving. The sun, their eye of the sky, was fixed…They were peaceable and without anger. Before the time afterwards…Then why, if they were so pure, did the men of earth begin walking? Because one day the sun started falling. They walked so that it wouldn’t fall any farther, to help it to rise. So Tasurinchi says…That, anyway, is what I have learned— (from pages 37...more
Chitra Divakaruni
Beautifully written, with themes that I believe will continue to resonate for a long time. I loved the use of multiple narrative modes, the mystery of the college friend who disappears and then reappears in the deep, magical jungle as a tribal storyteller. Asks some tough questions about modernization of ancient cultures--the benefit & the cost. Llosa's descriptive abilities are excellent. He's been a big influence on my own writing.

I am currently re-reading this book--slowly, to savor the...more
A story within a story about a culture that is failing and a man that refuses to see it fall. I loved the ancient peruvian creation story but felt that the background story line got lost in translation (originally written in Spanish)
Not an easy read, but it made me think. Vargas Llosa interweaves an easy-to-follow narrative with ramblings from a Machiguenga storyteller on a wide variety of topics. The narrator looks back at Peru in the 1950's and the changes for Indian people with the expansion of industry and mission work into the jungle. SIL and its translation work played a significant role. At the same time, I re-read Ron Snell's memoir of growing up with the Machiguenga people while his parents worked on literacy proje...more
The tradition of oral storytelling is a very important one. For one it was probably the first artistic form to be developed by humans after the initial drawings in caves. The word 'storytelling' itself conjures many images, from a wizened old man sitting in front of the fire along with a group and telling them stories, to the stories one heard in their childhood from their grandparents. More importantly these oral traditions of story telling offer a different perspective of history in several ca...more
Ryan Lawson

Mario Vargas Llosa's The Storyteller
Wk.38; Bk.38

Deep down, I am conflicted by books such as this one. What is it considered? Fiction? Historical fiction? Non-fiction? Folklore?

Llosa speaks with such authority on the subject matter.

The Storyteller documents the myths, religion, and lifestyle of an indigenous Peruvian tribe called the Machiguengas. Llosa describes the Machiguengas as a nomadic people who are in a perpetual state of movement. They don't stay in one place all too long and they have...more
El hablador. El cuenta-historias. La figura mítica que mantiene unida a una tribu dispersa por la Amazonia peruana. El inicio de la ficción. La confirmación que las palabras formas historias, que forman mitologías, que forman a los pueblos y naciones. El ancestro del novelista moderno.
El narrador de "El Hablador" nos relata su obsesión que inició en el Perú de los años cincuenta, gracias a un amigo etnólogo fascinado con los machiguengas. A través de los años y de diversos acercamientos y traba...more
Anne Tinklenberg
This book is a rare find for me -- the last third turned the tide of my negative take on the beginning. The first portion of the book, I was bored with the seeming oversimplification of indigent versus western culture. The frame was too distant and the conclusion too inevitable. The story turned when the storyteller told his own story of rebirth. The glimpse he provides of one who finds his way and carries out his obligation was incredibly beautiful. There is something enchanting about walking,...more
Tanuj Solanki
I read the hindi translation which, to my surprise, was good enough to keep me convinced of its sanctity till the last page.

The highlight of the novel is its unique subject, which concerns itself with the flux, and inevitable extinction, of aboriginal cultures caught in the advent of civilization in 60's and 70's Peru. Citing the endangered traditions, iconoclasms and superstitions of one such group of people (the Machigwenga tribe, who have survived for five thousand years by moving further and...more
I picked up this book because of the mystery and enigma indicated on the back-cover. As I sat down to read it, I realized that the book was quite different from the expectations I had in my mind. There was a mystery, not the kind you will find in a thriller, but a more deep-seated mystery of identities and cultures.
I am not particularly fond of conservation or preservation. In general I don't believe that there could be a virtue in preserving alternative tribal cultures which have missed the tra...more
Isabel Maia
Ao longo de 245 páginas, Mario Vargas Llosa cria duas realidades distintas que se vão alternando ao longo das mesma. Numa primeira realidade temos a personagem principal que, após visitar uma exposição fotográfica sobre a tribo machigenga em Florença, começa a escrever as suas memórias ligadas a essa mesma tribo. Dessas memórias fazem parte o casal Schneil, membros do Instituto Linguístico de Verão que dedicaram 25 anos da sua vida à tribo, e Saul Zuratas, filho de pai judeu, colega do narrador...more
This year, following book blogs more closely, I waited with impatience for the Nobel Prize of Literature to be awarded…. to discover, at my own shame, that I had NEVER read anything by this author, and maybe even never heard his name.

This novel was the only one left at my library – so it seems that other readers DO pay attention to literary awards-.

I have to say I had a hard time going into it, because of the translation I’m sure – lots of weird constructions, not flowing well, mainly at the beg...more
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Mario Vargas Llosa, born in Peru in 1936, is the author of some of the most significant writing to come out of South America in the past fifty years. His novels include The Green House, about a brothel in a Peruvian town that brings together the innocent and the corrupt; The Feast of the Goat, a vivid re-creation of the Dominican Republic during the final days of General Rafael Trujillo’s insidiou...more
More about Mario Vargas Llosa...
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“But what do I have? The things I'm told and the things I tell, that's all. And as far as I know, that never yet made anyone fly.” 46 likes
“The sort of decision arrived at by saints and madmen is not revealed to others. It is forged little by little, in the folds of the spirit, tangential to reason, shielded from indiscreet eyes, not seeking the approval of others—who would never grant it—until it is at last put into practice. I imagine that in the process—the conceiving of a project and its ripening into action—the saint, the visionary, or the madman isolates himself more and more, walling himself up in solitude, safe from the intrusion of others.” 4 likes
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