1001 Book Review: Los Jefes/Los Cachorros by Mario Vargas Llosa
Los Jefes/Los Cachorros by Mario Vargas Llosa
English Title: The Cubs and Other Stories
Originally published in: Spanish
Reviewed by: Jen
Rating: 3.5 stars
Find it here: The Cubs and Other Stories
Synopsis: The Cubs and Other Stories is a collection of six short fictions about young men in Peru. It is Llosa’s only volume of short stories available in English. The stories all center on issues of masculinity, machismo, and manhood. Protagonists are mostly boys and young men who play out their masculinity in everyday places: a soccer field, school, with friends, etc. The title story, and the most interesting in the collection, is the tale of a young man named Cuéllar who is partially castrated in a childhood accident. The story focuses on his life after the incident and highlights his struggles to define himself after losing what he perceives to be the thing that defines his masculinity.
Review: I read this book in Spanish and generally enjoyed the stories. I’ve been looking forward to reading Llosa’s books for a long time, although I read this particular book for a reading challenge. It’s not normally the book I would have chosen to read first because I generally don’t like short stories. I like to spend time with my protagonists and see them develop slowly over time. So, short story collections almost always get lower ratings from me than novels. Yet, despite my general antipathy toward short fictions, I did enjoy this collection.
Llosa does an wonderful job of highlighting the theme of machismo and masculinity adherence in this group of Latin American young men. This is the theme that connects all 6 stories. The writing is fairly simple and straightforward. He wrote several of the short stories before the age of 22 and there is a significant difference between these stories and The Cubs (the main story) with regard to technique and story-telling skill. The Cubs was written approximately 10 years after the other stories and is much more developed and leagues above the other stories.
Overall, I didn’t find the book amazing, but it was a quick and generally interesting read. The title story is superior to all the other stories.
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