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Conversation in the Cathedral

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  6,865 ratings  ·  536 reviews
A Haunting tale of power, corruption, and the complex search for identity, Conversation in The Cathedral takes place in 1950s Peru during the dictatorship of Manuel Apolinario Odría Amoretti. Over beers and a sea of freely spoken words, the conversation flows between two individuals, Santiago and Ambrosia, who talk of their tormented lives and of the overall degradation an ...more
Paperback, 608 pages
Published February 1st 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published 1969)
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Trovato Solo Are confusing dialogues, overlapped. Untidy. Created inside a bar, in Lima, Peru. Probably under influence of alcohol. It should shade your curiosity.…moreAre confusing dialogues, overlapped. Untidy. Created inside a bar, in Lima, Peru. Probably under influence of alcohol. It should shade your curiosity. [...] In the context, is described a general illusion of people losers: a lack of vision of their rights, because of an ineffective government.(less)

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May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spanish-american
Bumbling Towards Hell

None of us is ever prepared for what is happening in our lives; nor are the choices presented to us - political, personal, spiritual - ones that we formulate. We move randomly, provoked by half-formed dreams and aspirations; but it simply isn’t possible to foresee the consequences of each move. So we react, with even less reason than immediate desire, to circumstances as they unfold. We call the result a life, or career, or accomplishment, but it is really only a series of u
Michael Finocchiaro
Mario Vargas Llosa's third book is a marvelously terrorising romp through Peru of the 50s and 60s and yet all told in a bar called La Cathedral in the space of a few hours over a couple of beers and several packets of cigarettes. The narration of the first chapter is particularly confusing with each sentence being associated with a different narrator and timeline with sometimes no contextual help as to where they fit. And yet, the reader is carried along on these rapidly moving words as on a whi ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Conversación en La Catedral = Conversation in the Cathedral, Mario Vargas Llosa

Conversation in the Cathedral is a 1969 novel by Peruvian writer and essayist Mario Vargas Llosa, translated by Gregory Rabassa.

One of Vargas Llosa's major works, it is a portrayal of Peru under the dictatorship of Manuel A. Odría in the 1950's, and deals with the lives of characters from different social strata.

The ambitious narrative is built around the stories of Santiago Zavala and Ambrosio respectively; one the
Roozbeh Estifaee
Fantastic! Fan-tastic! "Conversation in the Cathedral" was definitely a big work of art, a real masterpiece. It was the first book by Llosa that I read (after a suggestion by my friend, Moeen) and I'm now eager to read some more of his. It was none of a magic realism but yet a pure South-American way of story telling, with so many "stories" happening.
The book starts when Santiago Zavala, journalist, meets with his rich father's former chauffeur, Ambrosio, and they go to the bar "Cathedral" to ha
Aldo Ramírez
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the best novel I’ve read in my 45 years of life. It is probably due to the fact that being Peruvian makes me feel deeply identified in it. I see it as a huge painting about the mentality and feelings of people in Peru and why not of people in many other countries in Latin America and probably around the world since the search of absolute power inevitably leads to corruption everywhere.
This is a huge painting and indeed the most memorable intent to reach a “Total Novel” that I witnessed.
Vit Babenco
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Conversation in the Cathedral is a story of decline and fall – deterioration of family, ultimate ruination of hopes and pursuits.
“The voice, the body are his, but he looks thirty years older. The same thin lips, the same flat nose, the same kinky hair. But now, in addition, there are purple bags on his eyelids, wrinkles on his neck, a greenish-yellow crust on his horse teeth. He thinks: they used to be so white. What a change, what a ruin of a man. He’s thinner, dirtier, so much older, but that’
Mar 08, 2011 added it
Shelves: read-in-2011
I must admit that I got off to a rocky start with Mario Vargas Llosa's Conversation in the Cathedral: after a dachshund is brutally clubbed to death in Chapter One* and a woman gets drugged and sexually assaulted in Chapter Two (by, moreover, sympathetic characters who don't ever seem quite to grasp the offensiveness of their actions), I was feeling a mite unfriendly toward the novel. By Chapter Three, though, I was reluctantly softening my stance, and by Chapter Four I was fully immersed in Var ...more
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, peru
If Mario Vargas Llosa, had never written anything else, Conversation in the Cathedral would by rights earn him the Nobel Prize for Literature. It is a hefty novel (600 pages or so), but it is worth spending the time reading.

The novel is set during the dictatorship of Manuel Odria (1948-1956). The major characters are Santiago Zavala, nicknamed Zavalita, and Ambrosio Pardo. The first is the eldest scion of a rich family that is well tied in with the dictator; the second, a black former chauffeur
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a big, well-structured book that reflects the 1950's of Vargas Llosa's native Peru. The title actually refers to a conversation betweean two main characters, Santiago and Ambosio and how their lives are intertwined in the power and politics of the day. Santiago, son a of a powerful family throws everything away to become a journalist. His stance stirs up issues in his family while, Ambrosio is a dark-skinned poor man who works as a driver for two rival men. Stir in the dictatorship, poli ...more
Jun 05, 2019 rated it liked it
My third book by Mario Vargas Llosa and the history lessons continue. 1950's Peru is the focus when General Odria led a successful coup against Jose Bustamante installing his oppressive and ridiculously corrupt regime.

Two friends, who've lost touch over the years, encounter each other at a dog pound and decide to have a celebratory reunion drink. The first chapter is the start and end of the conversation, which lasts about 20 pages. Everything after this are the memories/flashbacks they discuss
Mar 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels, great-ones
When ever I come to names such as “Liosa”, “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. Liosa 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 Liosa uses a highly sophisticated techniques with a very delicate language in multiple viewpoint, as if I’m listening ...more
Rick Harsch
Oct 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best novels to come out of South America, Conversation in a Cathedral combines dark political and social commentary with a technique that is stunning, as a series of conversations take place, some with up to about 100 pages between responses, all of which are riveting to such a degree that at all times the reader is caught up in them, even when that 100 pages has passed at long last and the sentence drops like a quarter through a telephone. The novel dissects the power structure of Pe ...more
Jan 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've started this book several times before and have never been able to get very far. But this time I slowly got myself into its rhythm and enjoyed it. It certainly does have a lot to say about the search for personal identity in a corrupt world under a corrupt government which oppresses every attempt to proclaim a personal identity. In this case it's Peru in the 1950's, but one gets the sense that it could be aywhere, anytime. It's a masterwork of character development and, indeed, an example o ...more

Mario Vargas Llosa didn't make it easy. I read chapters 2 (rather disturbing) and 3 three times. I finally got my bearings by reading another reviewer's review.

It doesn't take long to figure out the Cathedral is a bar, but figuring out that Santiago Zavilita (also called Skinny by his family) and Ambrosio are the speakers takes a bit longer. Longer yet is the placing the other characters and getting used to the format. The best way to envision the conversation is thinking of a movie with the par
Aug 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
I started this book in 1988 (when I had more time). I gave up.

I picked it up again in 2008. I'm not sure I'm happy with that decision.

I read a fair amount, and I read some reviews. I don't know if I've ever read a novel where I felt that reviewers were so systematically full of shit. Further, I've plugged people for their ideas about this novel, and found their opinions sorely lacking. I think a lot of them faked it. I didn't. Here's what I think.

Yes, there is a set of interesting storylines her
Victoria Kellaway
May 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I wish Goodreads allowed you to give a book six stars. This is the best novel I have read in years. It required a bit of concentration at first but once I realised what was happening (the clue is in the title) I was hooked. It took a while to read but that was only because it was so rich, I didn't want to miss a thing. By the end I was flying through faster than I would have liked. Conversation in The Cathedral is a book about life, as the best books always are, told in the way life is told. Hal ...more
Yasmin Moghadamnia
I am so glad I talked myself into reading this book. It honestly had "everything". There was drama, politics, romance, unexpectedness, you name it. It was the first time I read a book like this, the literature and the way of story telling was quite amusing. It needed more attention than the other books, kinda like a physics text book you know? You need to learn this "thing" here, cuz later on you will be needing it to understand that other thing. I am so happy about reading it, and kinda sad for ...more
Rebeca Marcés everness
This book is spectacular. It's not an easy book, and requires much concentration from the reader. Also, it's quite long and has a lot of characters. But the difficulty is absolutely worth it! It is beautifully written, has you making all sort of connections in your head, going from point A to point K to point Z back to point B.... It's the kind of book that stops you reading so you can think about life, about YOUR life, about society.... you finish it and even on the last page you start missing ...more
Ali Nazifpour
Oct 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This books follows a conversation in a bar called Cathedral. The conversation spans entire history of Peru as narrated by people who are engaged in politics, love, and paternal relationships. All of these narrations are interwoven, and sometimes the dialogues of different eras are woven together, but ultimately this is not a pretentious form of narration but makes the novel great because it emphasizes the inner relationship of past and present and the lives of different people. This novel could ...more
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is definitely one of the books that you don't forget: the complexity and unfolding of characters, the play with time and points of view, the interlacing of dialogues. Even the punctuation, the use of direct and indirect speech made reading this novel and exciting adventure. Several different stories in the first two parts and then the pieces of the puzzle fall in place.
I feel that even if I read a few books on the history of Peru I wouldn't have learnt so much about the politics and the peop
Jul 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book that changed the world, and it continues to do so. At first, I was concerned; I kept hearing just how difficult it is to read. To a certain extent, it was challenging because one sentence intertwines people, decades, events....but even so, once you get the "hang" of the narrative, you can't put it down. I think Mario Vargas Llosa achieved the something I believed wasn't possible- to summarize an entire history of Peruvian (and Latin American in general)society, its problems, turbulent pas ...more
MVL was obviously heavily influenced by the stream-of-consciousness style of Faulkner. I prefer his work over Faulkner's any day and especially this novel. It has much more to say about society than the work of most writers. It's not just some sort of creative writing exercise, it is a portrait of Peruvian politics and culture from the era of Odría. Like some of his other early work, it is also a novel about Lima.
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great book, as always with Varga Llosa. I am interested in social and political regimes and how these impact the lives of ordinary and not so ordinary people. Combine this topic with amazing writing and a nice story, and I cannot put the book down :).
 Δx Δp ≥ ½ ħ
I will not lie. It's not Mario Vargas Llosa's essential novel The Time of the Hero--the winner of the Nobel Prize, the literary inspiration that made me go to Peru. It is the adventure of my beloved reporter Tintin in Prisoners of the Sun. Ha-ha.

The first time I read it when I was nine at the local library, Herge's comic had persuaded me to dream that someday I must go to the Andes Mountain. And now, I stand on the sacred hill to feel every bead of sweat and every ache of sunburn, to witness the
John Gurney
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A chance encounter at a dog pound brings two former acquaintances together. They go to a bar called the Cathedral where Santiago, son of a once rich and powerful government minister, and Ambrosio, his father's former chauffeur, talk. Santiago wants to know what role his father had in the murder of his former mistress, a one-time Lima showgirl with shadowy connections. This 1969 book is rightly famous because, though the flashback Point-of-View narrative style takes some getting used to, it is a ...more
Jul 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely fascinating novel, not easy to read, but captivating...An introspective ”view” in Santiago*s self-becoming...It treats about political and social problems with an enormous sense of justice and objectivism...It deals also with strong feelings (such as love and hate)presented in an unique light - normal, without any exagerations...It speaks honestly about a ”wild” society, haunted by diverse interests...At last, but not at least, it*s a book of SURVIVAL...A MASTERPIECE!
Vasi Maier
May 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
absolutely impressed.
i feel i need to brake this down into: how i tried, couldn't, wouldn't even want to pick it up again..basically hating the first 400pages,but then breaking through, to the "other side", from where all things seem clear, logical.

it is a difficult read. it's the unpolished Llosa, clearly an earlier attempt at his intricate story weaving style.

what does strike me: he tells you from the start, from the first moment a new character appears what is going to happen to him, and t
Tom Nixon
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
At this point, I don't really know what else I can say about Mario Vargas Llosa. Every book of his I've ever read has been powerful, incredible and straight up amazing. It's been awhile since I've read any Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Amado or Isabel Allende- and I still need to sit down and read more of Jorge Luis Borges- but Vargas Llosa belongs with the best of them- if for no other reason than his novels make you learn things you didn't necessarily know before. (Especially about the history ...more
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J Arthur G
Aug 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
‘At what precise moment had Peru fucked itself up? … Peru all fucked up, Carlitos all fucked up, everybody all fucked up. He thinks: there’s no solution.’

Conversation in the Cathedral surprised me, mostly because, though I don’t exactly know why, I wasn’t expecting too much from it. This was my first Vargas Llosa, and I only really read it because I was in Peru travelling and, having vaguely meant to read something of his for several years, found an English translation.

The book offers a multi-la
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Goodreads Librari...: Mistakes in title 3 234 May 10, 2019 12:24PM  
Club de Lectura B...: Conversación en La Catedral, Mario Vargas Llosa 1 18 May 21, 2016 09:28AM  
Blacks in Conversation ... 3 42 Feb 18, 2013 07:39AM  
محشره 1 19 Jan 05, 2008 01:33AM  
Film and / or Novel 3 44 Feb 27, 2007 04:56PM  

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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

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