The call of the tribe

Mario Vargas Llosa, 1936-

Book - 2023

"From its origins, the liberal doctrine has represented the most advanced forms of democratic culture, and it is what has most defended us from the inextinguishable "call of the tribe." This book hopes to make a modest contribution to that indispensable task. In The Call of the Tribe, Mario Vargas Llosa surveys the readings that have shaped the way he thinks and has viewed the world over the past fifty years. The Nobel laureate, "tireless in his quest to probe the nature of t...he human animal" (Marie Arana, The Washington Post), maps out the liberal thinkers who helped him develop a new body of ideas after the great ideological traumas of his disenchantment with the Cuban Revolution and alienation from the ideas of Jean-Paul Sartre, the author who most inspired Vargas Llosa in his youth. Writers like Adam Smith, Još Ortega y Gasset, Friedrich A. Hayek, Karl Popper, Raymond Aron, Isaiah Berlin, and Jean-Fraṅois Revel helped the author enormously during those uneasy years. They showed him another school of thought that placed the individual before the tribe, nation, class, or party, and defended freedom of expression as a fundamental value for the exercise of democracy. The Call of the Tribe documents Vargas Llosa's engagement with their work and charts the evolution of his personal intellectual and philosophical ideology."--

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New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2023.
First American edition
Item Description
"Originally published in Spanish in 2018 by Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, S.A.U., as La llamada de la tribu."--Title page verso.
Physical Description
276 pages ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
Main Author
Mario Vargas Llosa, 1936- (author)
Other Authors
John King, 1950- (translator)
Review by Booklist Review

Nobel Prize--winning Peruvian novelist and former politician Vargas Llosa discusses the political philosophers who have informed his perspective. Inspired by Edmund Wilson's seminal history of revolutionary socialism, To the Finland Station, Vargas Llosa narrates the "evolution of liberal ideas" as seen through the works of seven key authors. The tour begins in the eighteenth century with the economic philosophy of Adam Smith. But its center of gravity is the twentieth century, with thoughtful, accessible summaries of the contributions of Karl Popper, Friedrich August von Hayek, and Isaiah Berlin. What emerges is very much an autobiography, though one that reveals itself indirectly. A chapter on José Ortega y Gasset discloses Vargas Llosa's lifelong intimacy with Ortega's thought and deep pleasure in his sentences, "his silences, the sibilant lash of an unusual adjective." Raymond Aron, critic of the radical left, models "good sense and urbanity" as "one of the last great European intellectuals." To some extent, this book is a defense of Vargas Llosa's own rightward shift; it's also an appeal to reject the tribalism and identity politics challenging liberal democracies worldwide.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Nobel Prize winner Vargas Llosa (Harsh Times) lays out in this pensive survey the seven thinkers who shaped his belief in liberal democracy. An early supporter of the Cuban Revolution and socialism, Vargas Llosa saw how powerful "the call of the tribe" was, but ultimately came to view it as "sovereign responsible individuals regress to being part of a mass submissive to the dictates of a leader." Vargas Llosa devotes a chapter to each of the seven authors: Adam Smith, "the father of liberalism," "wrote with elegance and precision" and "was sensitive to good literature"; José Ortega y Gasset "would today be as widely known and read as Sartre" were he French; Friedrich von Hayek's work gave "liberalism a very clear content and very precise boundaries"; Jean-Francois Revel had a keen "ability to see when theory stops expressing life and begins to betray it"; and Isaiah Berlin wrote with "discretion and modesty" as a "wily strategy." The snapshot biographies of each figure are fascinating (Hayek's "first passion" was botany and Smith "was known for being extraordinarily absentminded"), and cumulatively they amount to an illuminating look at the author's own political and intellectual trajectory. Vargas Llosa's fans should check this out. (Jan.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Two books from Nobel laureate Vargas Llosa is cause for celebration. Call attempts to do for liberal thought what Edmund Wilson did for socialism in 1940's To the Finland Station; in separate essays, he traces the evolution of liberal doctrine from 18th-century Adam Smith through six 20th-century writers--Ortega y Gasset, Hayek, Popper, Aron, Berlin, and Revel. They're not the only thinkers he could have chosen to examine, but they're the ones who most directly influenced him. When Vargas Llosa was 12, Peru's president, a relative of his family, was overthrown, and Peru slid from democracy into dictatorship. The author emerged convinced that the root enemy of free society was suppression of speech. He started college a Sartrean and was an early enthusiast of the Cuban revolution but became disillusioned as he witnessed injustices that took place there. He eventually found that he could no longer tolerate Sartre's kneejerk support of communism. The best essay in this book is on Isaiah Berlin, who argued that humans hold ideals that don't fit together; they have to work out ways to accommodate them through compromise and tolerance of difference. Conversations is an editing of classroom discussions on four of the author's novels and his memoir in a seminar conducted in tandem by Vargas Llosa and Princeton professor of Spanish literature and language Rubén Gallo. What constitutes a novel, and what role do novels play in our thinking and acting? The discussion bristles with sidebars: the constraints of journalism vs. fiction; why Sartre's novels no longer interest; censorship's effects on action; and how Vargas Llosa conceives his characters, researches stories, and structures his complicated back-and-forth narratives. The books on display run from Conversation in the Cathedral (1969) to The Feast of the Goat (2001), a memoir of his failed run for president of Peru. Throughout, Vargas Llosa comes across as gracious, self-aware, and modest. VERDICT Neither book will replace the author's landmark novels, but they enrich our appreciation for this great writer. Written in approachable style, they should appeal to all serious book lovers, not just academics.--David Keymer

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

The celebrated author's personal take on the evolution of his liberal ideas. Vargas Llosa describes this thoughtful, reflective book as an autobiographical and intellectual road map to his journey from the "Marxism and Sartrean existentialism of my youth to the liberalism of my mature years." The author laid his political beliefs on the line when he ran for president of Peru in 1987 and when he prominently spoke of defending liberal democracy in his Nobel speech in 2010. He returns to Edmund Wilson's To the Finland Station as inspiration, seeking to do for liberalism what Wilson did for socialism. The map consists of biographies and detailed discussions of thinkers who helped shape Vargas Llosa's political education. He begins with Adam Smith, the "father of liberalism," focusing on the "oceanic" The Wealth of Nations, which shows how the free market "brings progress to nations," fostering the "economic freedom [that] upholds and drives all other freedoms." Vargas Llosa believes that Spain's José Ortega y Gasset, the "most intelligent and elegant liberal philosophers of the twentieth century," has been unjustly overlooked and deserves greater recognition. He admits that Friedrich von Hayek is one of the three modern thinkers to whom he owes the most, and Hayek's last book, The Fatal Conceit (1988), is "one of the most important works of the twentieth century." Thanks to The Open Society and Its Enemies, an "absolute masterpiece," Karl Popper was the "most daring liberal thinker of his age" despite "opaque and meandering prose" and his hatred of TV. Vargas Llosa is also a staunch supporter of the "pragmatic realism and the reformist and liberal ideas" of Raymond Aron. The author concludes with Isaiah Berlin, the "extraordinarily erudite political thinker and social philosopher"; and Jean-François Revel, one of liberal culture's "most talented and battle-hardened combatants." Vargas Llosa reveals with enthusiasm and aplomb the political and social beliefs that have found homes in his work. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.