Book Reviews

Review: 'The Dream Of The Celt'

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Alan Cheuse reviews The Dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa. Cheuse teaches creative writing at George Mason University.


Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa has a new novel out. It's a biographical work of fiction called "The Dream of the Celt." Our reviewer Alan Cheuse says the book is about Roger Casement, a turn-of-the-century Irish radical.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: The conventional wisdom has Casement as the man hanged by the British for treason after he plotted with the German government to secure arms for the Irish rebels' 1916 Easter uprising. Vargas Llosa helps us to see Casement as a complex historical figure with a broader mission in life. In this novel, thick with carefully researched detail, the reader may find the going sometimes as tough as Casement's own trek across the difficult terrain of the Belgian Congo. But the portrait of this neurotic homosexual human rights investigator rewards you for every page you push through. Casement left Ireland for Africa, at first to work for the king of Belgium's business enterprise there. His mind enflamed by the atrocities the Europeans inflicted on the Africans, he wrote a report that forced great changes in that part of the world. And then he went on to do similar research among the Putumayo Indians in Peru, who had been enslaved by a rubber plantation baron. From Latin America, Casement returned to Ireland, and recognizing the Irish as a people oppressed by England, he worked tirelessly for Irish independence. After they hanged Casement, the British leaked the contents of his private journals, hoping to discredit his reputation by releasing details of his erotic liaisons. Vargas Llosa simply takes these in stride. In the epilogue, the novelist describes making a pilgrimage to a Guano-stained monument on an Irish peach, put up by the Sinn Fein and smashed to pieces by radical northern Irish unionists. In his novel, "The Dream of the Celt," Mario Vargas Llosa pieces those broken stones together.


SIEGEL: That was reviewer Alan Cheuse recommending "The Dream of the Celt" by Mario Vargas Llosa.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from