This is a book that initially works on the reader slowly, incrementally. None of the characters, aside from Trujillo, seems particularly exceptional, at least at first, and that is partly the point: Vargas Llosa wants us to see how absolute power infects and saturates a society at every level, working its poison into even the purest and most well-intentioned hearts … It is the novel's marvelous and complex formal mastery—its ‘totalizing’ of a ‘utopian design’—that conquers the reader, in the way that the formal beauty of great musical composition does … I can't think of a novel that better dramatizes the way political evil can reach any of us in that innermost place. The Feast of the Goat is a masterpiece of Latin American and world literature, and one of the finest political novels ever written.
...a fierce, edgy and enthralling book … Mr. Vargas Llosa dramatizes the crimes of the Trujillo regime — the corruption, the murder of political enemies and the terror wreaked by the secret police — while limning the intimate consequences it had on individuals' familial relationships, business dreams and private hopes … Although Mr. Vargas Llosa vastly oversimplifies the longterm aftermath of Trujillo's reign and the country's halting steps toward reform, he does a masterly job of narrating the chaotic events that immediately ensue in the wake of the assassination. In leaving the reader with a visceral understanding of the Trujillo regime and its bloody legacy, Mr. Vargas Llosa has pushed the boundaries of the traditional historical novel, and in doing so has written a book of harrowing power and lasting emotional resonance.
Vargas Llosa employs his customary Faulknerian technique of mixing times and voices to re-create the whole story of Trujillo's dictatorship: the tyrant's chambers of power, his family, his court, his methods of domination … Two mysteries intertwine and clash in the novel with the precision of Greek drama: power and freedom. In the character of Trujillo, Vargas Llosa dissects with clinical skill the anatomy as well as the psychology of power … In this masterful novel, splendidly translated, as always, by Edith Grossman, Vargas Llosa describes in detail the procedures of manipulation, the varieties of censorship, and the subtle gradations in the exercise of power, from the subtle insinuation that an individual has fallen out of favor to the most brutal tortures and killings. In the end, the greatest mystery lies in the voluntary, hypnotic collaboration of the masses with a single man.