Monday, September 3, 2007

Five best: literary depictions of religion and politics

Mary Ann Glendon, the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and author of A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, selected a five best "literary works [which] excel in their depiction of religion and politics" list for Opinion Journal.

One title on the list:
The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa

Trollope might regard politics, sex and religion as the stuff of high comedy, but they are also at the dark heart of Mario Vargas Llosa's portrayal of the last days of the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic. This brilliant study of tyranny is not for the squeamish. Yet the sickening detail enables one to grasp how terror combined with corruption can paralyze an entire society, stifling the merest impulse toward resistance. The novel's account of the dictator's increasingly brutal efforts to hold power alternates with the story of one of his victims, a young girl whose father delivered her to "the goat" for deflowering in hopes of regaining political favor. What lifts "The Feast of the Goat" into the front rank of political novels is the author's depiction of how, against all odds, probabilities were finally shifted in the direction of democracy. In Vargas Llosa's telling, a few courageous priests and sisters stand out as forces for decency, and a crucial turning point occurs when all five Dominican bishops issue a pastoral letter condemning the regime.
Read about the other books on Glendon's list.

--Marshal Zeringue