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English Translation: In History of Mayta the author reconstructs, through the testimony those who knew it, the history of the trotskista Alexander Mayta, protagonist of a revolutionary putsch in 1958 and imprisoned one several times in confused circumstances.
Posted February 19, 2014
Historia de Mayta by Mario Vargas-Llosa Spanish edition
Nobel laureate, Mario Vargas-Llosa has written a fictional novel on a little-known Trotskyist revolutionary named Alejandro Mayta-Avedaño, who reportedly led an abortive uprising in the Andes back in 1958.
In the case of ''Historia de Mayta'' the backdrop is Mr. Vargas-Llosa’s native Peru; the setting, the near future, in which the country has become a battleground for the major world powers, pitting Cuban-backed radicals against a crumbling militaristic establishment.
Mayta's former comrades in arms, his ex-wife, various political figures as well as assorted friends, acquaintances and enemies - all are interviewed by the narrator in his effort to piece together Mayta's story; and their reminiscences alternate, like flashbacks in a movie, with the narrator's own reflections on Peru.
The plot could be summarized as follows: Mayta went to a Salesian school with the narrator (Vargas Llosa). To try to understand the stories that were reported in Le Monde newspaper while the narrator was in Paris, the narrator starts by interviewing Mayta’s aunt, doña Josefina Arrisueño. To his aunt, Mayta was a serious little child, so romantic that he went on a starvation diet of bread and soup out of sympathy for the poor, an aspiring priest who inexplicably traded his faith for the false gods of Marxism.
After that, the narrator interviews Dr. Moisés Barbi-Leyva, leader of the Center for Action and Development. To Dr. Barbi-Leyva, Mayta was a screwed-up idealist, a victim of the factionalism and in-fighting of the Left.
To the nuns Juanita and María, Mayta was a professional revolutionary, adept at manipulating those younger and more naive than himself.
To his ex-wife, Adelaida, Mayta was a homosexual who used her to hide his homosexuality from his colleagues.
Rather than using his narrative to clarify these matters, Mr. Vargas Llosa progressively amplifies and embellishes the ambiguities of Mayta's story, using a multiplicity of voices to underline the utterly subjective nature of reality. What had seemed an ''intense and coherent'' life, his narrator discovers, was actually a life riven with conflicts and contradictions, and as the narrator attempts to make sense of all that he has learned, we the readers are also made to reassess his version of the story.
Mr. Vargas Llosa has taken Mr. Mayta and popped him into a wholly unrealistic novelistic structure, in which time and space are warped into myth by varying applications of memory, invention and imagination. As a clue to when and who is talking, the novelist uses the first person point of view for the present and the narrator's voice. When the characters come to life in 1958, the third person point of view is used.
The narrative is quite confusing since Mr. Vargas-Losa’s characters sometimes answer questions from the present with answers from the past. Amazingly, Vargas-Llosa gets away with it. I loved this part of the narrative.
The book discloses layer after layer of realities that become so intertwined with imaginative constructions that by the end the reader can no longer distinguish between what is ''real'' and what is invented - indeed, the book’s structure and narrative is a work of art - Vargas-Llosa gets away with the unrealistic novelistic structure.
On character development, I was disappointed. After convincing me that Mayta was a homosexual, Vargas-Llosa decides to go back on this fact. In a final interview with Mayta - in the final chapter, chapter 10 - the narrator meets another version of Mayta who tells the narrator that not only is he not a homosexual, but also that he despises them, using offensive language to make his point. This becomes a character assassination of the Mayta that was presented on the first nine chapters of the book.
On page 235-6 speaking about his homosexuality Mayta says: "Para eso quiero hacer otra revolución...No una a medias, sino la verdadera, la integral. Una que suprima todas las injusticias y en la que nadie, por ninguna razón, sienta vergüenza de ser lo que es." (For that reason I want to make another revolution...Not one that is half-made, but the real one, the integral one. One that ends all of the injustices and in which no one, for any reason, be ashamed of what they are."
Whether because the novel was written in 1986, or whether because Mr. Vargas-Llosa is a latino “macho” man there is absolutely no reason in today’s world for this character assassination.
Posted August 15, 2010
No text was provided for this review.