As my co-edited book indicates, Vargas Llosa is generally seen as of the Right politically; when he won the Nobel, the right-wing mediasphere either was content or faintly annoyed that somebody it felt sympathetic had finlaly own, thus no more griping at the seeming prejudices of the Swedish Academy. This new novel makes clear, though, that, though while Vargas Llosa may favor economic libertarianism and an anti-collectivist vision of society, he is not a moral traditionalist, a political legitimist, or nostalgic for the pre-colonial order, unlike so many on the Right. (Witness the indictment of Obama as 'anti-colonial', an epithet most US Presidents would have worn with pride). Moreover, Vargas Llosa is neither anti-gay nor in sympathy with politico- religious zealotry.
Pp. 448-49 of the novel--where Casements increasing celebration within Ireland is connected to Ireland becoming less dominated by ecclesiastical conservatism-- is a very explicit linkage of (neo)liberalism and anticolonialism, and confirms what have assumed all along about his views on religion and the gay issue. Interesting that Ross Douthat, the conservative NYT columnist, seems to blame Ireland’s break from strict Catholicism for the economic crisis, so in a sense Vargas Llosa is to this extent a 'moderate;.
EL sueño del celta was much easier for me to read in Spanish than most of his other fiction, this is likely because I know the anterior subject matter well, but still seems a lot more accessible certainly than La casa verde.
The book has three parts: the Congo (early 1900s), Amazonia (circa 1910), and during the First World War and the Irish revolt. The book's middle, the Amazonia section, is very evocative, really brings alive the place (something rather difficult to do to a reader such as me who cannot read the language 'deeply', but even I sense he does it).
Vargas Llosa does take a really anti-colonial stance, which at this point is not controversial except the US Right is full of people saying the British Empire was wonderful; Africa had its finest times under European rule, etc. Even these might say the Belgian Congo is something different (and, indeed, Chinua Achebe makes the point that Conrad’s denunciation of Belgian imperialism actually privileged a more benign British imperialism) but it is clearly Vargas Llosa going to the 'left' again, at least as far as the US is concerned.
With regard to technical/formal considerations--the starting off with the execution scene and then flashing back, fairly conventional by now, but still well done. And the staying in Rogers consciousness virtually the whole time, the narration is not split as in La guerra del fin del mundo and La fiesta del chivo.. The author clearly does not agree with everything Casement does, but alas empathy, stays with him.
Clearly, as with Flora Tristán, the feminist hero of Vargas Llosa's novel The Way to Paradise, the Peruvian connection was the origin, and then he radiated out for the more global stories, it is in a sense of example of how one can be global and local at the same time.
Funny there is not a translation of 'Sheriff' into Spanish; I guess the word is so English (with its roots in 'shire') it just cannot be done.
Julio Cesar Arana, the rubber/robber baron of the Amazon, is not a very positive portrait of a businessman (cf. Jean Knight's article in Vargas Llosa and Latin American Politics.
The Crusader analogy on page 27 is interesting in light of what I said in the da Cunha article in Vargas Llosa and Latin American Politics.
In general, I liked the book, and I felt critiques such as that of the usually spectacularly able Gustavo Faverón's slighted it. One might wonder why the author is so interested in Celts (we remember Galileo Gall, the Scotsman in La guerra) but not only is there sympathy for the underdog but perhaps a vestigial memory of the large Celtic admixture of the population of Spain, especially Galicia, named after the Gauls. Vargas Llosa is also quite an Anglophile, though, so the advocacy of Celticity is not polemical.....