Mario Vargas Llosa is a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and one of Latin America’s most significant novelist. In Harsh Times, he delves into the trauma that engulfs Guatemala when a democratically elected government is toppled by a CIA led coup. The Coup was engineered by United Fruit Company, whose monopoly in Guatemala was threatened by the new government’s plan for land reform, which convinced the US government that Guatemala would become the Soviet Union’s beachhead into Latin America. Vargas Llosa delves deeply into the lives of those who lived and often were killed in the long aftermath of the coup. Perhaps the most intriguing character is an extraordinary women whose life spans the course of the book. The ultimate survivor, she suffers personal tragedy when she is disowned at age 15 because she was raped by an elderly friend of the family. Yet, she becomes the paramour of leaders of two Latin American countries. She survives all her lovers and even most of the brutal men who populate much of the book. It is hard to find a hero in this book. But it is a beautifully written and insightful story about people who must cope with, and often seek to gain, when a society loses its soul to power, greed and corruption.
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