Magazine article World Literature Today

Cinco Esquinas

Magazine article World Literature Today

Cinco Esquinas

Article excerpt

Mario Vargas Llosa. Cinco esquinas. Madrid. Alfaguara. 2016. 314 pages.

Mario Vargas Llosa's latest novel is as much a psychological thriller as it is a compelling portrait of power and corruption in Peru's recent political history. Set in Lima during the dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), the plot of Cinco esquinas is twofold: the odd-numbered chapters tell the story of Enrique Cárdenas, a wealthy entrepreneur who belongs to the Peruvian elite, while the even-numbered ones focus on the story of Rolando Garro, the unscrupulous editor of the weekly tabloid Destapes, from which a mischievous blend of political power and yellow journalism emerges in the narrative.

Early on, Enrique Cárdenas and his wife, Marisa, lead a comfortable life together while sharing a close friendship with Luciano Casabellas, a respected attorney who is married to Chabela, Marisa's best friend. At the time, Peru is threatened by terrorism and rampant political violence; so much so that Marisa and Chabela are unexpectedly forced to spend the night together because of a government curfew, an occasion that allows their unspoken desires to flourish. Soon thereafter, Rolando Garro pays a visit to Cárdenas and, after a tense conversation, gives him a series of photographs of an orgy in which Cárdenas participated years ago. Garro later asks Cárdenas for $100,000 in order to keep Destapes running while also offering to become a business partner at the tabloid; and while he is fully aware of Garro's veiled extortion, Cárdenas refuses any collaboration and throws the journalist out of his office.

A week later, Cárdenas's photographs are published. As the scandal grows and Cárdenas tries to repair his personal image, Garro is found dead. At this point, La Retaquita, Garro's closest collaborator at the weekly, accuses Cárdenas of killing Garro to honor the memory of her boss. …

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