Politics and Post-Modernism

Politics and Post-Modernism

In the new novel by Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa there is an arresting sequence in which the protagonist and his revolutionary comrades stop at the ancient mountain community of Quero. They rest there for two hours before continuing their flight from government troops sent to bring them back to be punished for revolutionary crimes against the state. What is striking in the handful of pages devoted to Quero is not the quality of the political ideas brought forward or the revelation of character facilitated by the protagonist’s reflections. What emerges so forcefully, rather, is a powerful sentiment of disgust focused not only on the trappings of the place but on its inhabitants. That disgust, we cannot but note, is accompanied neither by qualification nor apology. “All the houses in Quero had to be like that,” we read: “no light, no running water, no drainage, and no bath. Flies, lice, and a thousand other bugs must be part of the poor furniture.” But if this is a sorry spectacle, we are admonished, consider the people who live in this filth: “If they had to pee at night, they probably wouldn’t feel like getting up and going outside. They pee right here, next to the bed where they sleep and the stove where they cook.. . . And if at midnight they had to shit? Would they have enough energy to go out into the darkness and the cold, the wind and the rain? They’d shit right here, between the stove and the bed.”

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Lima