Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Celtic Dream – Novel by Mario Vargas Llosa

I have just finished reading my favorite writer Mario Vargas Llosa's latest ( oops..published in 2010 ) novel " El sueno del Celta" ( The Celtic dream ) . In this novel, Llosa has reached out to Africa for the first time. He has also covered Europe, going beyond his usual themes of Peru and Latin America. The story is about Roger Casement, the Irish who goes to work in Congo in the beginning of the twentieth century, when it was under the Belgian rule. Recognising his local knowledge and commitment to Africa, the British government make him as Consul there. He is moved by the cruelties suffered by the Congolese in the hands of the Belgian colonisers. He exposes this in his reports which get published in England and Europe and raises an outcry against the Belgian atrocities. After his return from Africa, the British send him as Consul to Brazil and then to the Amazonian part of Peru. In the Amazon, he sees the inhuman cruelties meted out to the local Indians by the Amazon Company of Peru which has shareholders in London. The officials of the company capture the Indians and forcibly use them to collect rubber while subjecting them to horrible treatment. Roger takes up the cause of the Indians and make an inquiry report on behalf of the British government. This report also shocks the British public and raises the profile of Casement as a crusader. The share holders of the company is forced to take action against some officials of the company. After these reports, Roger becomes a celebrity and is sought after by the media and human rights and other organizations.

Roger returns to Ireland to see that his own land is a colony yearning for independence from Britain. He resigns his Consular job and plunges into the movement for Irish independence, becoming a traitor to England and hero to Ireland. He goes to USA to seek the support of the Irish Americans. From there, he goes to Germany and gets the German support for Irish independence. The Germans who are fighting the British during the First World War see an opportunity of Irish independence to divert and bog down the British armed forces. When Roger lands in Ireland through a German submarine, he is promptly arrested by the British. He is tried for treason and hanged.

The novel is based on the real life story of Roger Casement, who is one of the legendary heroes of Irish independence. Llosa has put his own stamp on the life of Roger Casement and made a great story out of it. He has dwelled into Casement's personal life and especially his sexual and religious inclinations and dilemmas and analyzed and interpreted them making the readers to carry on from there. He has given a vivid and poignant description of the condition of the Congolese and the Amazonian Indians. He has made the story authentic with his extensive research in Ireland, England, Congo and the Amazon part of Peru.

With this book covering three continents of the world, Llosa has established himself as more than a writer of Latin American themes. He has handled the Congolese, Belgian, Irish, British, Peruvian and German characters and situations with admirable mastery.

My pleasure in reading this novel was double since I read this time the original writing of Llosa in Spanish. I had read all his earlier books in English translation. It took more time for me to complete the book but it was compensated by the delightful language and lyrical expressions of Llosa.

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