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the Complete Review
the complete review - non-fiction


The Language of Passion

Mario Vargas Llosa

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To purchase The Language of Passion

Title: The Language of Passion
Author: Mario Vargas Llosa
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: (2000) (Eng. 2003)
Length: 279 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: The Language of Passion - US
The Language of Passion - UK
The Language of Passion - Canada
Die Sprache der Leidenschaft - Deutschland
  • Selected Commentary
  • Pieces mostly written between 1992 and 2000, and originally published in "El País and in a number of affiliated publications"
  • Spanish title: El lenguaje de la pasión
  • Translated by Natasha Wimmer

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Our Assessment:

B+ : solid collection of very varied opinon pieces and short essays

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 9/4/2003 Walter Haubrich
The LA Times A 7/7/2003 Merle Rubin
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 25/1/2003 Georg Sütterlin
San Francisco Chronicle . 29/6/2003 Bob Blaisdell
The Washington Post . 29/6/2003 Dennis Drabelle

  Review Consensus:


  From the Reviews:
  • "Besonders gut gelingen Vargas Llosa die porträtierenden Aufsätze" - Walter Haubrich, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Provocative, insightful and often surprising, the essays treat an impressive range of topics (.....) As a free-market liberal, Vargas Llosa is a defender of globalism but not a mindless -- or heartless -- one. Unlike many champions of the marketplace, he sometimes has qualms about its perversions. (...) Although it is often said that emotion and reason are opposing forces in the human soul, it is truer that the best writing comes from a combination of passion and intelligence. Certainly, both qualities are evident in the fiery and illuminating essays of The Language of Passion." - Merle Rubin, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Vargas Llosas Aufsätze sind von einem Ernst geprägt, der sie relativierender Vagheit enthebt. Ironie ist häufig, Sarkasmus kommt nur dosiert zum Einsatz, etwa gegen gewisse billige Provokationen zeitgenössischer Künstler. Oder gegen einen Scharlatan wie den Subcomandante Marcos." - Georg Sütterlin, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Vargas Llosa journeys around the world, wherever his curiosity leads him in the realms of literature, culture and politics. I can't help finding his fiction derivative or imitative of better novelists, but these essays, in the grand tradition of literary essays, are continuously alive with wit and thinking, seemingly casual and conversational, with fresh and delightful development from page to page.(...) Vargas Llosa writes as clear and sparkling a Spanish as one could hope for, and Natasha Wimmer's excellent translation deftly conveys his tone and fluidity." - Bob Blaisdell, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "As you might expect from one who is a longtime novelist as well as a former candidate for president of Peru, Vargas Llosa manages to make fresh observations regardless of the topic." - Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In The Language of Passion Mario Vargas Llosa collects pieces originally published in his "Touchstone" column in El País between 1992 and 2000. They range from book-discussions to what could pass for editorials to accounts of personal experiences -- typical newspaper opinion piece stuff. It's an odd sort of collection in its breadth, as Vargas Llosa opines on everything from Elián González (the Cuban boy who washed up in the US and was returned to Cuba) to abortion to post-Ceausescu Romania to Paul Theroux's book on (and relationship with) V.S.Naipaul to Bob Marley.
       Vargas Llosa shows some interest in almost everything. Based in London, he is nevertheless a typical global sort of intellectual, and these pieces find and take him all over the world, (At the end of each piece he notes the month and year it was written and the place -- and there must be literally dozens of locales, on several different continents.) Many of the incidents he describes are small or local -- the fate of a specific immigrant, a certain book, an event (from Carnaval (in a piece promisingly titled "The Permanent Erection") to the Venice Biennale) -- but he always has some sort of opinion about things. Occasionally it is too strong (his easy dismissal of the Biennale, saying it will be the last time he visits it), but generally he makes a reasonable case for his position. He tackles contentious issues -- abortion, immigration, religion, politics -- and shows at least that he has thought through the issues, while rarely appearing unreasonably dogmatic.
       Among the most interesting pieces are those on politics, especially a consideration of Peru, as well as pieces dealing with other nations that have not fully developed into industrialized democracies yet.
       One regrets, perhaps, that there isn't more focus on the literary, but there's a rich mix of what seems like almost every subject under the sun here. These are merely newspaper opinion-pieces, but they make for a decent and certainly interesting collection nevertheless.

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The Language of Passion: Reviews: Mario Vargas Llosa: Other works by Mario Vargas Llosa under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa was born in 1936 and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010. He has written many works of fiction and non-fiction, and has run for the Presidency of Peru.

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© 2003-2018 the complete review

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