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Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord
ISBN 0436200082 / 9780436200083 / 0-436-20008-2
Publisher William Morrow
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Louis de Bernières is a masterful writer, which is to say his command of the various crafts of writing--creating character, innovative description, telling a whopping good story--weaves a spell and sucks you into the magic. From the moment Dionisio Vivo and Ramón "Cochinillo" Dario attend to the cravate corpse deposited in his garden by the coca lords, you become ensconced in the world of Ipasueño, its passions, ironies, and political intrigues, and cease to be aware of the hand of Bernières behind the scenes.
Dionisio, a professor of philosophy, writes a series of letters, published in the prestigious journal La Prensa, castigating the coca trade, and from there the story spins furiously in many directions and subplots. There's the love affair of the century between Dionisio and Anica Moreno, Lazaro's tragic dance with leprosy, and--to the great pleasure of fans of Bernières's previous novel, The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts--further interactions with the magical jaguars and human inhabitants of Cochadebajo de los Gatos. Events take their course in the way of a grand tragicomedy, with the devastation that's expected followed by the irrepressible joy of life that's never expected and Bernières's tongue-in-cheek touch throughout.
It's a delightfully mesmerizing book. Set in a mythical South American country that's a composite of real South American history and Bernières's fertile imagination, and therefore a perfect companion to take on a south-of-the-border vacation, the book is awash in the realities and flavor of South America and the lunacies of Bernières's genius. --Stephanie Gold [via]