The Bad Girl: A Novel

by Mario Vargas Llosa

Other authorsEdith Grossman (Translator)
Hardcover, 2007

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, (2007)

Description

Presents the story of a love affair between a Peruvian translator and an adventurous and independent woman, "the bad girl," as it unfolds over the course of forty years, from Lima to London, Paris, Tokyo, and Madrid.

Media reviews

Det är inte särskilt intressant i längden att höra vad Ricardo tycker om det mesta och det är inte bra när gestaltningen blir en förevändning för tyckande, alltså tveklöst författarens eget.
2 more
Das eigentliche Happyend aber folgt sofort: Vargas Llosa, dieser listige, kunstfertige Romancier, bietet dem Leser eine literarische Lösung an: dem Ich-Erzähler Ricardo wird indirekt durch das böse Mädchen ein Lob zuteil, das auf den Autor Mario Vargas Llosa als Verfasser dieses Liebesromans hindeutet und so dem bösen Mädchen, .das das letzte Wort hat, auch jede Absolution zuteil wird
Der Leser fühlt sich von diesem großen Autor einmal wieder bewegt, belehrt und belustigt und (je nach Alter) beinahe gerührt an Zeiten erinnert, in denen alles besser werden sollte.

User reviews

LibraryThing member almigwin
I was holding this book, and was asked if I liked it. Strangely, I couldn't think of an answer. It is beautifully written, and interesting, but the main characters are quite unappealing.

It is a novel of sexual obsession, loneliness, greed, exploitation, the struggles of people who, for various reasons, don't belong, and the fluctuations of Peru between democracy and dictatorship. The trajectory of the novel is panoramic, and flows from Peru, to Paris, to many other places in Europe, to Japan, to Africa, but touching only lightly in each case. A bit of decor, a menu, a description of friends, acquaintances and neighbors all enrich it slightly, but the two main characters, to me, are incomprehensible.

The hero, a translator/interpreter, who loves Paris and wants to live there forever has an obsession with a girl he met in Peru. She called herself Chilean then. She later masquerades as Mexican, Japanese etc., rather than admitting to be a Peruvian from the lower classes. She is described as delicate, sexually cold, and fierce in finding rich protectors, and taking advantage of them.

The translator claims to love her, but to me it seems to be a sexual obsession, rather than love. He doesn't trust her, or respect her, and she offers him no affection and very little sexual release. But she fills his life and crowds out all other women.

Her lies, thefts and other kinds of risk taking, include a sexual performance before her protector with the hero, but without his knowledge of the voyeur. This episode parts them but the 'bad girl' returns to the story, wounded, raped, impoverished and dying of cancer.

This is like an old morality play where the sinners are punished. The writing, as always with Vargas LLosa is fluid, and the dialogue believable, but the main characters are so self destructive, that I can neither like them or believe them..
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LibraryThing member cabegley
Mario Vargas Llosa's The Bad Girl tells the story of Ricardo, a translator and interpreter from Peru whose quiet, rather lonely existence (mostly on the sidelines of history) is periodically shaken up by encounters with the "bad girl," a chameleon-like cipher with whom he is obsessed.

Vargas Llosa is a brilliant writer, but the book itself . . . perhaps if I were more familiar with Flaubert, upon whose work The Bad Girl is clearly based, I'd walk away happier. But read in isolation, so many of the motives are unclear. Ricardo's obsession with the bad girl, who treats him terribly over and over again, appears to be mostly sexual, but the sex is mostly unsatisfying. Why does he continue his obsession? The bad girl's relationships with other men seem to be for money or power or social standing, but she soon becomes restless and disappears from them. Where does she go to? Each of the seven parts of the novel is set in a different country, with huge historical events as the background. I kept trying to tie Ricardo and the bad girl's relationship into these settings and events metaphorically, but failed.

Also bothering me, especially in retrospect, is the underlying misogyny of the novel. As with Emma Bovary, the bad girl, who never appears to be a real, three-dimensional woman, is sorely punished for her life choices. She becomes whatever the man she currently with wants her to be, and then moves on, often worse for the wear.

Vargas Llosa's language (or Edith Grossman's translation of it) is often beautiful, and I was caught up in the book as I read it. But in the end, it leaves me frustrated--much like Ricardo.
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LibraryThing member gbill
A teenage boy falls for a girl in 1950’s Peru, and their lives intertwine over the years in Paris, London, Japan, and Spain in the decades which follow. He’s masochistic in his devotion to her, whereas she’s cool, cruel, and calculating, essentially always looking out for a better situation for herself.

That may sound like a painful read, but it’s really not, or at least, it wasn’t to me. With that said, there may be times that, like someone who can’t control themselves in a movie theater, you find yourself actually wanting to call out a warning to the “good boy”, or at the very least, gritting your teeth at what seems like his stupidity. You may also wonder, along with him, whether or not her latest reconciliation to him will be lasting, because with maturity she’s finally recognized the warmth and generosity of his love.

This is a novel that explores the limits of unconditional love, which I suppose is one of our greatest strengths, as well as what happens when being true to oneself is destructive to others, or is self-destructive. Throughout it all, despite her outrageous behavior and his obsessive feelings, there is a calmness and intelligence that pervades their relationship, as well as humor. Vargas Llosa’s prose is also to the point but has the quality of being both spare as well as elegant, which is hard to pull off, and always impressive to me.
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LibraryThing member AHS-Wolfy
From the age of 15 when Ricardo first meets the titular bad girl he falls utterly and hopelessly in love. Just when he's sure that she will acquiesce to his advances events transpire that she disappears from his life. Leaving Peruvian life behind, Ricardo pursues his other dream of living in Paris and working as a translator allows him to do this. He becomes friends with a fellow Peruvian who is helping potential revolutionaries on their way to train in Cuba. Ricardo occasionally assists in finding places to stay for those en route. He's surprised when one of these turns out to be the bad girl. Once again he starts to enjoy his romance but she soon disappears from his life without a backward glance.

Over the next few decades Ricardo manages to encounter his bad girl and each time he does he is powerless to stop her from treating him like a doormat. She takes advantage of his feelings and takes what she wants from him before deserting him to look for her newest sugar daddy. Some of their meetings stretch coincidence to breaking point but however contrived the outcome is always the same.

You never really feel for the characters but the story remains interesting throughout. There are some disturbing events detailed in this book so it's not one for the faint of heart. Quite difficult to put my finger on whether I liked this one or not.
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LibraryThing member Suedeani
Very disappointing. The book felt very disjointed, a mystery , travelogue, political treatise and love story all mixed up and lacking a true focus. The language felt unwieldy too. Some of the sentences were too cumbersome and went on for whole paragraphs. Could see that a great writer was at work, but somehow it just didn't work for me.… (more)
LibraryThing member chorn369
The male teenage protagonist of this book falls in love with a Chilean girl (or is she?) living in an upper class neighborhood in Lima, Peru in the 1960s. The mercurial girl slips away, and he never expects to see her again--but he does, in London several years later, married to a minor English royalty type. The "Bad Girl" in this book is a survivor, who unabashedly uses her wily sexuality to serially snare a whole United Nations gallery of subsequent husbands. She's outrunning something, and the secret is shared near the book's end. Never far behind is her teenage paramour, who will seemingly do anything--anything! for even just a stolen moment with the bad girl. The book is as much about coming of age in and the culture of the 60s, 70s, and 80s as about obsessive love and surviving one's beginning station in life,… (more)
LibraryThing member sunqueen
When a story takes you to exotic locations like Lima, France, Italy, London and Japan, you some how expect it to more interesting than as portrayed in this story. You also might expect to like, relate or at least sympathize with the main characters. It didn't happen here.
LibraryThing member gwendolyndawson
This novel paints a panoramic history of four decades of South American and European life as the story traces Ricardo's love for "the bad girl." The characters are not particularly complex, and I never really believed the love story, but I enjoyed the romp through the world.
LibraryThing member jfurshong
Lily is the “bad girl”. The year is 1950. The setting is Miraflores, a lovely seaside neighborhood of Lima, Peru. And the bad girl’s effect on 15 year old Ricardo Somocurcio is overpowering and lasts a lifetime. He is in love. But this is more than love. This is blind worship and this is loyalty almost beyond understanding.

Lily and her sister are recent arrivals in Peru, having moved with their parents from Chile. They are interesting and exotic and become the center of attention for Ricardo and his teen-age friends. For Ricardo though this is the beginning of his compulsive, unrelenting love for Lily. When she and her family simply disappear without any farewell he is hurt and heartbroken and her memory stays with him.

Years later Ricardo is living in Paris and caught up in the bohemian life of Latin American exiles in the City of Light. It is an exciting time because revolution is in the air and after many decades of stultifying, oligarchic rule, many Latin American countries are on the verge of significant change. Ricardo stumbles across Comrade Arlette, a young woman in training to be a guerilla for the cause of the Castro brothers. Arlette of course is Lily and Ricardo’s worship resumes. Lily, though, does not reciprocate and in fact mocks Ricardo’s devotion and treats him poorly. When she leaves Paris to fight for the cause Ricardo finds himself alone and lovelorn.

Though the locale changes, this pattern of disappearance and re-connecting continues throughout the novel. So does the pattern of Ricardo’s idolatry and the bad girl’s semi-humorous mixture of tolerance and disdain for him. The two are in a co-dependent embrace, locked in their unbalanced need for each other and never resolving their conflicting view of the other.

In the hands of the master, Llosa, this story becomes almost as compelling for the reader as Ricardo’s need for Lily. We ask ourselves “why does he put up with this?” “Why doesn’t he move on with his life?” Why does he choose to be hurt over and over again?” The answers are slowly revealed as Ricardo tells his story and as he and Lily grow older, as the pattern repeats itself and as they reach middle age.

I am admittedly a loyal Llosa fan and this new novel does not disappoint. I was delighted to receive a copy as an Early Reviewer for librarything.com and paced myself through the book so as to prolong my enjoyment. Though depicting an out of balance relationship “Bad Girl” unfolds to become a love story with classic dimensions. Treat yourself to a genuine literary treat and pick up “Bad Girl.”
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LibraryThing member troysworktable
I liked The Bad Girl. I thought it well written and entertaining. The problem I have with it, however, is that the character of Ricardo is unbelievable. No one would suffer as much abuse as he does at the hands The Bad Girl and keep returning for more. It just doesn't ring true. (Unless he is a masochist, which doesn't match the rest of his character.)… (more)
LibraryThing member tcw
this was fun, an interesting study of how Llosa looks back at the world from this age he's grown to, more so than a great story or a flawless book. The story follows a man through his adult life and his association with, well, a Bad Girl. I found the scenes set in his early adulthood a bit contrived, but still wonderful writing (at least in translation). Stick with it, Llosa hits his writing stride as the book progresses and the net result, the man delivers a gem. Enjoy.… (more)
LibraryThing member lkothari
"The Bad Girl" and her interruptions of the main character's life make for a fascinating read. The book traces their relationship over a lifetime, sometimes jumping ahead several years. I love Llosa and his writing evokes all the emotions--sadness, annoyance, happiness--without making you want to put the book down.
LibraryThing member anterastilis
Ricardo grows up in Peru in the 1940's, and his dream is to live in France. One day, he meets an intriguing girl named Lily. Lily is a wealthy Chilean girl who dazzles Ricardo and his friends for a fun teenage summer...until it is discovered that she's a fraud and she disappears. But Ricardo can't get her out of his mind.

Years later, he is fulfilling his dream of living in Paris and working as an UNESCO translator. Lo and behold, Lily shows up: but with a different name, homeland, and purpose in life. Ricardo realizes he is just as in love with her as he was as a teenager in Peru. As the years go on, the Bad Girl flits into and out of his life.

The Bad Girl is a master of disguise. Do we ever figure out who she really is, what her name is, where she's really from? I'll leave that mystery up in the air. She moves through the world like the queen of her own pirate ship, docking at the safe harbor of Ricardo whenever he's nearby. She keeps him enraptured for a lifetime and kept me fascinated for a whole novel. On the one hand, she's powerful as all hell: fearless mistress of her own destiny. Compared to Ricardo, living in his little Parisian apartment and translating - she's living la vida loca. But of course, things aren't always what they appear...especially if you're a master (or mistress) of disguise.

I really enjoyed this novel. It was a fun whirlwind and filled with fascinating characters. Although Ricardo often felt duped and overwhelmed by the Bad Girl (as did I), I could understand why he lived in such awe of her. His obsession was justified and rewarded...every five years or so. I'm glad that I got to read this.

Oh, and I turned it back into the library the day after I finished it: one day overdue. I was able to read all three books before they technically had to be back at the library. Yay!
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LibraryThing member lriley
For me reading Vargas Llosa is almost always a pleasure. The bad girl revolves around two characters one of whom 'Lily' we first meet as a young girl in the Miraflores section of Lima, Peru and the other the narrator of the story Ricardo Somocurcio who also from affluent Miraflores is head over heels in love with her. Lily is believed by her classmates to be originally from Chile but after the birthday party of another classmate it becomes clear that she's been feeding them lies. Ricardo however is hardly put off but events will have it that their lives will take different paths. Ricardo dreams of living in Paris and having learned several languages becomes an interpreter and moves there. Over the length of the novel the two will come together off and on in Paris, London, Tokyo, Madrid and other locales. Ricardo dreams and hopes while the cynical and golddigging girl of his dreams does him and others one bad turn after another driven by her need to conquer a place in the world he finds her in various places, names and guises and stopping at nothing including her own degradation. Continually she falls back on Ricardo whenever a crisis comes along only to dump him later on when restless for new adventures.

Maybe not one of VL's best works this is even so very very good. There is a point almost at the end when I feared the writer was in danger of losing his grip but as a matter of fact it seems he was toying with his readers almost like the bad girl toys with poor Ricardo. Overall I liked it very much--the international settings, the historical timelines that follow on the adventures of the two as they go through life, Mario's very fluid writing style. A very entertaining read and one day maybe who knows Mario will finally bring the Nobel back to Peru. It would be IMO well deserved.
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LibraryThing member tchelyzt
Ricardo the narrator tells his own life story, that of a Peruvian man eking out a modest living as an interpreter and translator who at least has succeeded in doing this in the city of his dream, Paris. A potentially banal scenario, but even without the intrusion of la niña mala Vargas LLosa manages as always to produce a richly observed and interesting story, populated with beautifully drawn characters seen through the eyes of a gallant and intelligent man. The bad girl is an extraordinary and utterly believable woman who repeatedly interrupts his bachelor peace, reawakening the devotion he feels for her from their first meeting at 14 years old. Even while recognising her as a social climbing vamp, he remains passionate about her for life despite the apparent finality of each parting and the thoughtless cruelty with which they are executed. The writing is impressive for the way in which it caused me to relate to and empathise with this charming, bookish man, recognising what drew him to this woman. La niña mala is a total bitch who I could never wish to count among my friends or acquaintances and yet her effect on Ricardo is such that one feels drawn to her and wishes to experience the magnetism she exerts.

Mario Vargas Llosa is one of the finest living writers, artful and erudite without being arty or intellectual. I must fill out my collection of his works.
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LibraryThing member JosephCamilleri
This novel's first-person narrator is Ricardo Somocurcio, whom we accompany from his teenage years in 1950s Lima, when he dreams of settling down in Paris, throughout later decades when, his dream achieved, he works as an interpreter in the French capital and around the world.

The real protagonist of the story however is, La Nina Mala, the "bad girl" of the title. We first meet her when, as a supposed daughter of Chilean immigrants, she turns heads in Lima. It is here that Ricardo (together with most of his male friends) is first besotted with her. It eventually turns out that she is no less Peruvian than Ricardo and that the background she has made up is simply a ruse to spice up her life story.

Indeed, subterfuge is "la nina mala" 's defining trait. She literally changes name and identity as, over the years, she flits in and out of Ricardo's life at the most unexpected of times. Ricardo falls for her again and again, although he is well aware that she is an opportunistic, cynical woman who, in a rare show of honesty, admits that she will never love him. Against the backdrop of a changing society (from stylish Paris to swinging London, and the onset of the AIDS crisis, to Tokyo and Spain), we witness, almost voyeur-like, to a relationship which veers wildly between teenage romance, heart-warming love and erotic obsession.

Like its main character, this novel does not try to be realistic and, as coincidences pile up, the reader is tempted to project allegorical interpretations onto "la nina mala". The most obvious one is that she is a symbol of a novelist's inspiration - a "Muse" of sorts. A novelist's calling is like a siren-song, or like la nina mala's charm - hard to ignore, even if it brings sacrifice, pain and penury.

Whether the novel is read at face value or as a symbolic journey, it remains a poetic work, beautifully rendered in Glauco Felici's Italian translation.
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LibraryThing member JosephCamilleri
This novel's first-person narrator is Ricardo Somocurcio, whom we accompany from his teenage years in 1950s Lima, when he dreams of settling down in Paris, throughout later decades when, his dream achieved, he works as an interpreter in the French capital and around the world.

The real protagonist of the story however is, La Nina Mala, the "bad girl" of the title. We first meet her when, as a supposed daughter of Chilean immigrants, she turns heads in Lima. It is here that Ricardo (together with most of his male friends) is first besotted with her. It eventually turns out that she is no less Peruvian than Ricardo and that the background she has made up is simply a ruse to spice up her life story.

Indeed, subterfuge is "la nina mala" 's defining trait. She literally changes name and identity as, over the years, she flits in and out of Ricardo's life at the most unexpected of times. Ricardo falls for her again and again, although he is well aware that she is an opportunistic, cynical woman who, in a rare show of honesty, admits that she will never love him. Against the backdrop of a changing society (from stylish Paris to swinging London, and the onset of the AIDS crisis, to Tokyo and Spain), we witness, almost voyeur-like, to a relationship which veers wildly between teenage romance, heart-warming love and erotic obsession.

Like its main character, this novel does not try to be realistic and, as coincidences pile up, the reader is tempted to project allegorical interpretations onto "la nina mala". The most obvious one is that she is a symbol of a novelist's inspiration - a "Muse" of sorts. A novelist's calling is like a siren-song, or like la nina mala's charm - hard to ignore, even if it brings sacrifice, pain and penury.

Whether the novel is read at face value or as a symbolic journey, it remains a poetic work, beautifully rendered in Glauco Felici's Italian translation.
… (more)
LibraryThing member AndreaSCH
I don't think this is among Vargas Llosa's best books. I had to force myself through the first couple of pages of every single chapter, where he introduces a some length each new setting (though the supposed panorama of Europe from the 60s to the 80s or 90s remains very superficial) before picking up the story line of Ricardo and the Bad Girl again. More than once I kept reading only because, after all, it's Vargas Llosa, and I have often enjoyed his books - and most chapters did get more interesting once the Bad Girl reappears.

The other, more important problem I had with this book is that I couldn't relate to either of the main characters. The way the author depicts the Bad Girl, I don't think you are meant to like her (and by the time you get enough background to understand her, I had built up so much antipathy against her that I couldn't apologize her anyways, or commiserate the bad things that happen to her), because that way Ricardo's obsessive behavior gets so much clearer. But I couldn't empathize with Ricardo either. Early on, he is young, fascinated, in love, and gets disappointed. Everyone can understand that. But after their second or third encounter, it just seems increasingly stupid how he keeps saying he's over the Bad Girl, but keeps going back whenever she decides to use him again, and keeps fooling himself into believing how he is perfectly prepared for her leaving him in the dirt again, or believing that she has changed and won't hurt him again. I found myself shaking my head in disbelieve a lot while reading, and telling myself that no, really, a man past adolescence can't be so naive. But I'm wondering, maybe my inability to empathize with this obsession with an opportunistic woman is a male-female thing, and my female perspective keeps me from understanding? Which, of course, doesn't make the book any better, if it doesn't give me enough insight into the characters to help me understand.
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LibraryThing member summerinabaddon
The Bad Girl is a thrilling ride through many countries and many decades. Ricardo first meets The Bad Girl as a young Chilean girl named Lily and immediately falls in love with her. Only to find out later that she is not Chilean or named Lily and she disappears from his life. Many years later he runs in The Bad Girl again, with a different identity and finds that he is still in love with her. This book is an epic love story that spans a lifetime and is an intriguing and thoughtful spin on the classic love story.… (more)
LibraryThing member JCO123
Not a bad book, but the characters were a little hard to like.
LibraryThing member charlottem
Great book, as all of Mario Vargas Llosa's books are.
LibraryThing member nickelmoonpoet
Mario Vargas Llosa takes the reader on a journey through the 20th century and around the world as he follows the painful love story two characters who are tied to one another through fate and love. Though I began this novel with a dislike of the two main characters - Ricardo for his weakness and the Chilean Girl for her manipulation of others - by the end of the novel I grew to love these two very flawed people and their agonizing love story. I even found myself wishing them the happily ever after that they both deserved after so much suffering. It's a great read if you give the author the chance to develop these two very complicated characters.… (more)
LibraryThing member hemlokgang
"The Bad Girl" was a wonderful read on multiple levels. It was definitely my favorite Llosa novel to date. He has written a love story which spans cultures, decades, and a lifetime. The bad girl and the good boy forever drawn and repelled by one another. What more could anyone ask for in a novel than a great plot, memorable characters, and wonderful writing. I highly recommend this book!… (more)

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Original language

English

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