Harsh Times: A Novel (Paperback)
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The true story of Guatemala’s political turmoil of the 1950s as only a master of fiction can tell it
Guatemala, 1954. The military coup perpetrated by Carlos Castillo Armas and supported by the CIA topples the democratic government of Jacobo Árbenz. Behind this violent act is a lie that will have drastic consequences for the entire region: the accusation by the Eisenhower administration, determined to protect American commercial interests in Central America, that Árbenz encouraged the spread of Soviet Communism in the Americas.
Harsh Times is a story of international conspiracies and conflicting interests in the time of the Cold War, echoes of which still reverberate today. In this thrilling novel, the Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa invents vivid characters who go to the heart of the dilemmas of Guatemala’s history in a deeply textured blending of fact and fiction that is his alone. Not since The Feast of the Goat, his classic novel about the downfall of the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic, has Vargas Llosa combined political intrigue and suspense so compellingly.
Adrian Nathan West is a novelist, an essayist, and a translator based in Spain. His work has appeared in many publications, including The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, The London Review of Books, McSweeney’s, and more. He is the author of The Aesthetics of Degradation and a contributing editor at the translation journal Asymptote.
Named a Best Book of the Year by Financial Times
"Classic Vargas Llosa . . . An unsettling reminder of the complicated relationship between storytelling and politics." —Booklist (Starred Review)
"[A] vivid story centered on the U.S.-backed 1954 coup in Guatemala . . . History here gets a compelling human face through an artist’s dramatic brilliance.” —Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Harsh Times, which covers the same years as The Feast of the Goat, is not so much a sequel to the earlier book as an expansion of it, the new novel interwoven with the previous one, filling in gaps and deepening our understanding . . . Vargas Llosa has constructed a compelling and propulsive literary thriller, deeply informed by his experience as a public intellectual and a practicing politician." —Hari Kunzru, The New York Times Book Review
"As always with Vargas Llosa . . . the political is rendered personal through a cast of vivid, grotesque characters and through a narrative structure that is as complex and labyrinthine as the world it describes . . . It’s not just the subject matter that thrills, though; this is a novel that impresses at sentence level, too . . . [A] wildly enjoyable book; the 85-year-old Vargas Llosa is as sharp and mordantly funny as ever." —Alex Preston, Financial Times
"From Paul Revere’s ride to the storming of the Bastille to last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, the spirit of revolution has stirred the hearts of those yearning for justice—and yet freedom never comes for free, as the Nobel laureate wrenchingly observes in his intricately plotted new novel . . . Harsh Times explores evergreen themes–skirmishes between the powerful and powerless, how war erodes our humanity—with gallows humor." —Hamilton Cain, Oprah Daily