Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Conversation in the Cathedral

"Conversation in the Cathedral" is the title of the book by Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian writer and one of my favourite Latin American authors. I finished it during my trekking trip 9-19 June in the Himalayas.

It is vintage Llosa. He has made use of the ample 601 pages to give a comprehensive feel of the Peruvian society with some memorable characters. While Llosa has dealt with the various aspects of peruvian and latino cultures in his other books, he has been able to give comprehensive exposure in this book.

There is military dictatorship by Odria, repression and atrocities, the struggle by political parties and rebellion by university students. Oligarchy is in full play in the family of Don Fermin Zavalo. His son and hero Santiago rebels and becomes a leftist and then a journalist renouncing inheritance and comfort. Racial issue is covered through the character of Ambrosio, the black man and the half-breed wife of Don Cayo who face predictable humiliation. And . Of course, the typical Latino fare of bars and puterias provide the common refuge for all the characters from Don Fermin to his chauffer Ambrosio. The only thing missing in the novel is romance...

I had to ration reading of the book everyday for eleven days since i did not want to run out before the end of the vacation. The daily reading transported me briefly to Latin America, like a shuttle trip from the Himalayas.