Category: Peru Page 1 of 2

Mario Bellatin: Salón de belleza (Beauty Salon)/Poeta ciego [Blind Poet]


The latest addition to my website are two stories by Mario Bellatin. The first is a new translation of Salón de belleza (Beauty Salon) and the second an untranslated work Poeta ciego [Blind Poet]. The first tells of a beauty salon for women run by three cross-dressing, gay men. When an AIDS-like pandemic breaks out the owner converts it into a hospice/mortuary where seriously ill men (and only men) can come to die. However, all the time – both as a beauty salon and as a hospice/mortuary – he remains obsessed with his aquarium fish. And then he gets symptoms of the disease.

Poeta ciego [Blind Poet] tells of a blind poet who inherits a lot of money and founds a bizarre sect, apparently (according to the author) based on the Peruvian The Shining Path terrorist group. (Bellatin was living in Peru at the time.) The Blind Poet is murdered by his wife when she finds him having sex with his nurse but the sect carries on, preaching and practising violence and austerity and preaching but not always practising celibacy.

Pola Oloixarac: Mona (Mona)

The latest addition to my website is Pola Oloixarac‘s Mona (Mona). Our heroine/narrator is Mona Tarrile-Byrne, a Peruvian writer. Her first novel was well received and helped get her onto a doctoral programme at Stanford. Her second novel and, indeed,her personal life are not going so well. She has been nominated to receive the prestigious Basske-Wortz Prize, a Swedish prize. All fourteen nominees are invited to Sweden for a conference, with the prize presented at the end. The conference involves sex, food and saunas but also discussions on a host of topics, giving Oloixarac opportunity to mock various literary ideas (the stereotypical Latin American, the pathetic pervert Frenchman) as well as various serious topics (the multinational viewpoint, death, computers to write novels in the future) and ending with an important topic – violence to women. It is another superb and original novel from Oloixarac.

Alonso Cueto: La viajera del viento (The Wind Traveller)

The latest addition to my website is Alonso Cueto‘s La viajera del viento (The Wind Traveller). This is about the Peruvian war against Shining Path guerrillas and the consequences of that war. Ángel was in the army fighting the guerrillas at that time. He is ordered to dispose of the bodies of alleged guerillas tortured and murdered. One of the bodies is that of a young woman who is not dead. She begs for mercy and claims to have known Ángel as a child. He shoots her. Soon after he leaves the army. One day she walks into the shop where he is working and his life changes. He stalks her but she denies knowing him. He ends up in prison. He finds a certain amount of redemption and starts out afresh with a new and happy life. But his past is always going to catch up with him. The novel is about the horrors of the war but also about guilt, forgiveness and redemption.

Gustavo Faverón Patriau: Vivir abajo [Living in the Basement]

The latest addition to my website is Gustavo Faverón Patriau‘s Vivir abajo [Living in the Basement]. This novel, already declared a key novel of twenty-first century Latin American literature by some critics, is a brilliant and complex novel about the politics and violence of Latin America and the United States but also of their culture. We follow around a dozen stories, with all of the key characters having a dark past, sometimes more than one past, and invariably very dark, which we gradually learn about during the course of the book. The stories all eventually link up, directly or indirectly, with characters from one story appearing in unexpected ways in another story. All are involved with violence in one way or another, though they also get involved in culture, particularly literature and cinema, though also art and music. The main point is to show the violence in Latin America, with particular reference to Peru, Paraguay and Chile, and US involvement in this violence but also to show the cultural background to the region. It is a brilliant book and it is to be hoped that some publisher will be brave enough to publish it in English.

Mario Vargas Llosa: Tiempos recios [Hard Times]

The latest addition to my website is Mario Vargas Llosa‘s Tiempos recios [Hard Times]. The novel deals with the overthrow of the democratically elected Guatemalan president Jacobo Árbenz in 1954, by Guatemalan forces, supported by the CIA and the US Ambassador to Guatemala. He was primarily overthrown because he had wanted to tax the United Fruit Company, which orchestrated a successful campaign in the US, “proving” he was communist (he was not). We follow various key characters, some real, some fictitious, some good, some definitely not. Vargas Llosa makes no bones about his views, which are that the United States illegally subverted a democratic country and that its actions have had profoundly negative effects on Guatemala and on other Latin American countries as a result.

José María Arguedas: Todas las sangres [All the Bloodlines]

The latest addition to my website is José María ArguedasTodas las sangres [All the Bloodlines]. This is José María Arguedas’ longest book and goes into great detail about a story of oppressed Indians, ruthless Peruvians and a US mining company. Fermín and Bruno Aragón de Peralta are rich brothers who hate each other. Their father kills himself at the beginning of the book. Bruno wants to be a feudal landlord, controlling (and brutalising) his Indians, while Fermín wants to run a modern business, particularly though not only a silver mine. He has managed to buy up much of the land from his fellow Peruvians and they are now broke and bitter. However, Fermín will be outmanoeuvred by Wisther-Bozart, the US mining company, whose deep pockets and ability to buy political favours means that they will get the mine. However, it is the Indians who suffer, paid less by Wisther-Bozart, exploited by all the whites and repressed whenever they object. Arguedas makes no bones about where his sympathies lie.

José María Arguedas: Los ríos profundos (Deep Waters)

The latest addition to my website is José María Arguedas‘s Los ríos profundos (Deep Waters). This novel, praised by Mario Vargas Llosa as one of the great Peruvian novels, is a semi-autobiographical novel. Arguedas’ mother died when he was two and a half. When his father remarried, his stepmother already had three children. He was left to the Indian servants, so he ended up with a lifelong love for the native culture and spoke fluent Quechua. In this novel, the fourteen-year old Ernesto follows his father, a travelling lawyer, around Peru, till they stop at Abancay where the father moves on, while Ernesto is sent to school. We follow his lively school days at a religious school, lyrically described by Arguedas, including a salt revolt by the local women, with which he is very sympathetic, fights, girls, and struggling to fit in, ending with an epidemic

Miguel Ildefonso: Hotel Lima [Hotel Lima]

The latest addition to my website is Miguel Ildefonso‘s Hotel Lima [Hotel Lima]. Our hero/narrator is called Dante and we follow him in his journey underground, though his underground is merely the seedier parts of Lima, where he meets prostitutes, drug addicts, strange women and, in particular, poètes maudits. He comes in contact with an underground organisation called the Not-Poets, who detonate bombs around Lima and leave poetry rather than political slogans. He meets one member, Rosa, who, he says is the ugliest woman he has ever met, though he does have sex with her. She offers him free board and lodging to work on his latest novel – he has written two successful novels but, partially because of alcoholism, had not written anything recently. He declines. He also follows the lives of famous (in Peru) artists and poètes maudits. Ultimately, it is a poetical novel about a Peruvian writer who has lost his way and cannot seem to find it. It has not been translated into any other language.

Alfredo Bryce Echenique: Las obras infames de Pancho Marambio [The Infamous Works of Pancho Marambio]

The latest addition to my website is Alfredo Bryce Echenique‘s Las obras infames de Pancho Marambio [The Infamous Works of Pancho Marambio]. Bienvenido Salvador Buenaventura is a fifty-four year old successful lawyer in Lima. He has never been married. His parents and two brother are both dead, the men from alcoholism. The two others were never married either. He has decided to retire, leave Lima and go and live in Barcelona. He stays with an old friend and when he finds a suitable flat, at the recommendation of the friend, he takes along Pancho Marambio. Pancho offers to do the necessary work on the flat, while Bienvenido goes off travelling around Europe. He pays Pancho in advance. Pancho, however, has something of a reputation as a cowboy and, when Bienvenido returns, disaster awaits. He castigates Pancho and sets off again but, this time, the family curse appears and he spends much of his time in bars. When he again returns, things are somewhat better but the colour scheme is diabolical, things do not work and the design is poor. Bienvenido quickly slips into alcoholism and, despite the efforts of friends, gets worse and worse, as we follow his downfall. This is a not a bad book but not of the calibre of his earlier work.

Miguel Gutiérrez dies


Peruvian novelist Miguel Gutiérrez died yesterday, shortly before his seventy-sixth birthday. I can find no reports in English but it has been in announced in Spanish here and here. He is best-known for his novel about incest El mundo sin Xóchitl [The World Without Xochitl], which I thought was an excellent novel. Neither this novel nor any of his others works has been translated into English or, as far as I can determine, any other language. Though well-known as a novelist, he also wrote extensively on literature, Peruvian as well as literature from elsewhere.

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