viernes, 22 de julio de 2016

Lituma en los Andes

Lituma en los Andes (Austral, 2010)
by Mario Vargas Llosa
Peru, 1993

When three people mysteriously up and disappear from a remote mining town in Peru's central highlands at the height of the Sendero Luminoso [Shining Path] Maoist terrorist campaign of the 1980s, it suddenly dawns on Captain Lituma and his wet behind the ears assistant Tomás Carreño that they themselves are sitting ducks in the abandoned Guardia Civil outpost on the edge of the town where, in the midst of being shunned as outsiders by the predominantly Quechua-speaking locals, they realize that their suicide mission of an investigation likely won't amount to much: "Le voy a decir una cosa" ["I'm going to tell you something"], says the younger guardia civil member, usually the more optimistic one of the two.  "Usted y yo no saldremos vivos de aquí.  Nos tienen cercados, para qué engañarnos" ["You and I won't come out of here alive.  They have us surrounded, why kid ourselves?"] (18).  With this as his resigned, claustrophobic starting point, future Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa dips into his usual storytelling bag of tricks--artfully nested plotlines, "interlacing dialogues" masterfully juggling flashbacks, asynchronous time and narratorial POV--in the service of a moody, shadowy thriller unfortunately marred by a somewhat farfetched ending.  Those ten pages or so aside, I really enjoyed this evocation of a no future Peru--available in English as Death in the Andes--and would happily recommend it as a bleak page-turner just as long as you've already read all of Vargas Llosa's crucial 1960s novels and his equally primo 1981 La guerra del fin del mundo [The War of the End of the World].  If not, what are you waiting for, rookie?

Mario Vargas Llosa

6 comentarios:

  1. I have not read Mario Vargas Llosa but I would like to sooner rather then later.

    As you recommend I would likely begin with a different work. With that, the plot and characters in this book sound very good.

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    1. I thought this was a rare example of the "intelligent thriller." That being said, there are at least a good four to five Vargas Llosa novels that are far superior introductions to his storytelling skills. Hope you get a chance to read him for yourself soon.

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  2. I much prefer Llosa's political books to his - I don't know what you'd call them - comedies of sexual manners? Feeling slightly ashamed though as the one I haven't read is The War of the End of the World.

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    1. The War of the End of the World is super juicy, but it's almost more of an adventure novel than a political novel. I haven't read any of VLl's "comedies of sexual manners" yet, but I guess I'm now warned!

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  3. Ashamed to say that I've never read this author. I'm not sure that I fancy the comedies of sexual manners, but the political thrillers sound more appealing. Maybe one for next's Spanish Lit extravaganza.

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    1. Although I haven't read any of Vargas Llosa's comedies of manners yet, Jacqui, his Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (one such work) is often considered to be one of his best. In any event, I hope you get to try one of his non-comedies for yourself eventually!

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