After the statements of Mario Vargas Llosathat they will stop publishing novels after the latest one, I dedicate my silence to youMagazine Diners He invited several readers to highlight our favorite novel by a Peruvian author. Without hesitation I let it be known that it was Conversation in the cathedral, published in 1969, which of course does not differ from his other works. Historically, his first novel, City and dogsit was a turning point at the time of its publication, in 1962. And in terms of literary techniques, nothing less was highlighted Green house. Then this Aunt Julia and the writer, for the register of humor, the use of autofiction and a special sense for the appropriation of mass media, such as radio drama, to which was added the special art of creatively exploiting fundamental narrative errors. Actually, I might be a little hesitant now that I think about it again. Conversation and Aunt Julia. But if I reconsider immediately, I would say that due to the enormity of the characters, talentedly assembled and correlative, due to the intensive conduct of dialogues at different times – which in Green house began to explore, but it hardly stands out in the scenes between Fushía and Aquilino – and, above all, due to the conflict of the vagueness of the protagonist, Santiago Zavala, and the layout of the different layers of Peruvian society, in which many could easily areas of Ecuador and other Latin American countries, I confirm that Conversation in the cathedral It’s a masterpiece. And that’s also because of what escapes artistically: at the time when there was a rise of the so-called dictator novels, there is one in his, but he practically never appears, General Manuel Odría, because of the dictatorship in which the novel is set, between 1948 and 1956. He follows that canonical pattern of Georg Lukács, the great Hungarian scholar who in his book Historical novel He said that great novels with a historical setting use secondary and supporting characters. A criterion that the Peruvian novelist did not follow A party of goatswhere the dictator Trujillo really appears with signs of chance.

This selection of one of the novels of a prolific author like Vargas Llosa is inevitably subject to time and the current taste of the reader. I can’t escape those coordinates. In any case, it is not a recent taste. It is a novel that I have re-read over the years and which, as new works by the novelist appeared, confirmed my taste. It is a demanding novel, no less and no more City and dogs or Green house, but where you can observe the synthesis, the masterful integration of his formal researches. The author insisted so much on his debt to Madame Bovaryand in reality it is another Flaubert novel, sentimental educationwhich can be observed with deeper traces in Conversation in the cathedral. Thomas Pavel said that if we scratch the portrait of Prince Myshkin Dostoyevsky, we will see the portrait of Gaul’s Amadis. By the same criteria, under the portrait of Santiago Zavala we would see the face of Frédéric Moreau, the figure sentimental education.

But There is one more story I want to tell. I think Vargas Llosa owes us a novel. I’m using the plural incorrectly: he owes me that. With this I want to show how arbitrary my request can be. But what we’re talking about here is wandering through made-up assumptions. Or rather: understanding the possibilities that fiction opens up, which are sometimes fulfilled or barely hinted at, and in this the freedom of imagination is realized. We now want to prove what he defended so much. That novel in debt is the novel of a character who has not been exploited in all his demonic glory. I mean Fonchita. It appears in three minor novels by Vargas Llosa: Stepmother’s praise, Don Rigobert’s notebooks and A discreet heroand in some stories for children. He is the most authentic alter ego of the Peruvian novelist; with a dark side and, as I said, with a certain demonic undertone. Along with it, Lituma is an ancient transaction with social engagement, which has become spiritual over time. It’s a shame that Fonchito didn’t get the absolute lead role in the novel. The repressed Santiago Zavala has a kind of Mr.Hyde of Lima that bares himself in the unfulfilled and mythic possibilities of Fonchito. Of course, I am aware that the forces and desires that drive the writing of a novel are not entirely manageable, even by an author who has an iron control over his art, as is the case with Vargas Llosa. But I’m intrigued to understand why Fonchito hasn’t grown as much, since he matures between those three novels, and where this fictional expansion is best seen occurs in A discreet hero, where he is not the protagonist. Fonchito is a kind of little devil from Lima, freed from a series of ideological conditionings, an almost Germanic character that quite expressionist authors would play on, perhaps even close to Thomas Mann’s Félix Krull.

I never met Vargas Llosa in person. I only heard it at the conference in Lima. But I have several friends who deal with it intensively, from Fernando Iwasaki to Carlos Granés. If you see him, tell him my claim, my request, my bold proposal. Of course he won’t listen to me, but for that freedom for us who believe in fiction and all its possibilities, the least I can do is to raise my voice for Fonchito, while there is still time and life, so that he can get out of that imaginary limbo and rise with that greatness I see in him, even if I’m wrong. (OR)