My good friend Paddington bear has been recommending books about Peru, and here are a couple more, this time by Peruvians.
Maria Vargos Llosa, Who Killed Palomino Molero? Vargos Llosa is a prolific writer in several genres, and I have read very little - though I do remember a few years ago not really enjoying Captain Pantoja and the Special Service very much. So, drawing a bow at a venture, I took this slim novel cum murder investigation out of the library. It’s quite a raw affair, starting with a young boy, in the Peruvian Air Force, being murdered and indeed tortured in a pretty brutal way, and abandoned in the country in a scene reminiscent of Calvary. The local police are put off investigating by the local Air Force big wigs, but there are powerful, more popular forces at work. This may be a murder story, but it’s a political novel as well, and the local police are successful – though hardly politically correct in any sense – in finding both the guilty parties and the underlying causes. Their reward is not to be believed by the general populace, which scents corruption in high places, and to be posted to remote and unattractive stations by their superiors. Along the way, there is some pretty cutting satire on the state of politics and the economy in Peru at the time, and some fine, if fairly robust, writing about social relationships and the breakdown of many normal human relationships under extreme stress.
Vargoa Llosa also wrote a great deal of fine non-fiction, mainly criticism and philosophical, literary or political essays; some of the best are gathered together in Touchstones. Displaying the erudition, Europhilia and breadth of many South Americans - Borges par excellence - he writes on Balzac, Woolf, Conrad, Grass, Mann with equal ease, as well as varied essays on art and on politics and culture, especially in South America. An impressive man and writer.
I wanted to read some Cesar Vallejo, but found it a bit hard to get a small, accessible collection. I ended up with the depressingly entitled Complete Posthumous Poetry (an ambiguous title), and I found this hard. A lot of it seems very dense in this translation, and occasionally jejune:
Until a day without two, / wife Tomb, / my ultimate iron makes the sound / of a sleeping viper, / father body mine....!
What on earth is that about?
Finally, I looked at Werner Herzog's Conquest of the Useless, subtitled Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo. These are ramblings, reflections, not quite a sustained journal, of his filming in 1979. Some of the descriptions are very evocative, and he has a rare turn for an anecdote, and the language - this is translated from the German by Krishna Winston - is often dreamlike and lyrical. But I found it a book to browse in, not to read - to get lost in, rather than navigate confidently through. But if you're interested in the film, I should think it very intriguing.
In addition, of course, I have maps, guides, a specialist and very heavy bird book, and a more general wildlife book. A whole library, too, on my new Kindle! More from Peru, and on my Peruvian reading, a little later.