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Mario Vargas Llosa convey not just the regime’s infamous actsa 1937 massacre of Haitians, an attempt to assassinate the president of Venezuelabut the varieties of internal oppression, the psychological and emotional tolls exacted. Even Trujillo himself is not exempt from the web of shame that enmeshes every character. Devoid of a recognizable moral sense and essentially friendless, he sees betrayal all around him, in the disfavor of the United States as well as in his own bodily malfunctions. His would-be assassins, meanwhile, who recall all the compromises and evils the regime has forced down their throats, bear the burden of guilt which Trujillo does not; it’s as if, by killing him, they might manage to shift some of the Miriam Berkley blame back onto his shoulders. One of them, Antonio de la Maza, lost his brother Octavio to the regime, and still wonders whether he became complicit in Octavio’s murder by failing to denounce it publicly and accepting a government concession afterward. Another, Lieutenant Amado Garcia Guerrero, broke off his engagement so as to prove himself loyal to Trujillo, and then killed a prisoner who, he later learned, may have been the brother of his ex-fiance. Antonio Imbert broods over his participation in a failed assassination plot two years earlier, which he survived while his co-conspirators were captured. The Feast of the Goat shows us why and how a novel may represent history; it’s hard to imagine a better means of portraying the ethical binds and psychological wounds the Trujillo era inflicted on Dominicans. Each person’s character is forged in response to the regime, whether by denouncing a son or cooking pasta for a fugitive. According to Alastair Reid in The New York Review of Books, the book’s reception in the Dominican Republic has been passionate, if not always favorable. In April of last year, Vargas Llosa spoke before an audience of 800 in Santo Domingo, arguing that the novelist’s role is less to document past events than, in Reid’s paraphrase, “to humanize past events as lived experiences.” Unquestionably that has been achieved in the case of this book. The conspirators succeed in killing Trujillo, but their coup fails, and the latter part of the book takes up the story of the subsequent confusion and the conspirators’ attempts to elude the secret police. The horrors accumulate; and in scenes of torture and murder the novel becomes relentless. Urania, too, becomes relentless in her insistence upon telling every terrible detail of her remembered story, even to her aging aunt and young niece, who are not prepared to hear it. Like the book itself, she seems incapable of doing otherwise and here is the regime all over again, leaving one with no choice but to inflict pain or stay silent. “Something of those times is still in the air,” thinks Urania at the novel’s end. Though the book is a testament to the importance of telling the stories of the past, it leaves open the questions of how those stories should be told, and whether telling them heals old wounds or just rips off the scabs. Ultimately, Urania cannot restore any tie to her father or persuade her aunt to join her in condemning him, though she does forge a connection with her niece. The prior generation, the novel suggests, will not be redeemed, yet the future itself offers a chance at recovery. Former Observer editor Karen Olsson is a writer in Austin. 812102 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31