Kristal's analysis of each of the novels sheds light on how literary techniques, themes, and character types appear, recur, and are transformed over the four decades Vargas Llosa has been active as a writer of narrative fiction. In turn, Kristal's close readings are enriched by other sections of the book that offer insights into the intellectual currents and the political ideas that are addressed in Vargas Llosa's novels. This method brings to bear the most pertinent contextual debates, such as a discussion of the way his works borrow from, and sometimes rewrite, masterpieces, by Conrad, Faulkner, Flaubert, Malraux, Stendahl, and Tolstoy, as well as exemplary works in the Latin American narrative tradition. Temptation of the Word is an ambitious and careful reading of the creative process - the origin of themes and the development of literary techniques - that Mario Vargas Llosa has brought to each of his novels, published through 1997. To understand the novelist's intellectual environment, Kristal analyzes the entire corpus of Vargas Llosa's writings (including his many books of essays and his plays), his literary influences in several languages, his intellectual biography, and his polemical activism in contentious times, all in the light of the evolution of his political views and concept of literature.