Archive for March 7th, 2013

by Jaime Grijalba

Even if the last time I was reviewing a Mario Vargas Llosa novel I said that ‘Conversations in the Cathedral’ was the one book that he had to write for him to receive the Nobel, I think that I’m finally understanding why people like this peruvian writer so much, specially after reading this particularly funny follow-up novel. Being funny was something that Mario Vargas Llosa has always flirted with, but he had never made a completely funny (in the sense of laughing out loud) novel until this one came along, I’m not sure if he repeated the formula, and even if I don’t think that this particular experiment in writing is as good as his serious novels, and specially not as good as his previous effort, it is something different from the Nobel prize winner, and for a dubious and always criticizing reader, I find it miraculous when a writer can turn around its image and reputation to the one who is following him, maintaining a great level of quality and at the same time hinting here and there to the same themes that he has always been pointing at, but with a much more needed refreshing new look at things, as well as a new spin to the dialogue, the writing style and the genre, that is what Mario Vargas Llosa has given us with his wonderful and surprisingly touching/funny/weird/hot novel ‘Captain Pantoja and the Special Service’, whose original title is the much more simple ‘Pantaleón y las visitadoras’, and here, once again, we have a title that is lost in translation, but at the same time I can understand the changes made… for example, we have that the original title translates literally to english as ‘Pantaleón and the visitors’, and while Pantaleón and Captain Pantoja are exactly the same person, I can think that Pantoja is somewhat a more relatable surname than the name Pantaleón, the inclusion of an accent in the name makes it distant inmediatly for the english market. Then we have the issue of ‘the visitors’, and for those who are unfamiliar with the novel, and when you read ‘visitadoras’, the only thing you can think of is female visitors, but who are they? In the english title they have gone above the problem that the ‘visitors’ couldn’t possibly had a genre attached to them (au contraire in the spanish language, where almost every noun has a genre attached to it, and an equivalent in the opposite genre), so they just nickname the ‘visitors’, the ‘special service’, something more akin to the title of ‘Captain’, but what does it actually refer to? Well, let’s see. (more…)

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