The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta

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And Vargas Llosa advances it a few notches into the future, though it remains dismally recognizable.

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A guerrilla incursion from Bolivia, supported by Cuban advisers, has seized Cuzco and the surrounding area. In response, more or less, to a government appeal, U.

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Marines have come in. It is a bloody stalemate. All this is the framework for the story of Alejandro Mayta. It is not the story itself. Vargas Llosa uses his nightmarish near-future as denouement and moral to an ironic and oddly tender tale taking place a quarter-century earlier.

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Innocent times, relatively speaking, when the revolutionary Utopians were still unaware of the costs and consequences of their efforts and the iron transformation they would go through. It is the narrator, waiting with his countrymen for Marines or guerrillas to let them know which form of salvation will destroy them, who unearths the story.

He is, in fact, a fictional Vargas Llosa. Mayta was a schoolmate, a boy from a poor family who managed to fill one of the places that the middle-class establishment preserved for the less privileged. The narrator lost track of him, but at the end of the s, when he was living in Paris, a couple of paragraphs appeared in the French press about an abortive insurrectionary attempt in an Andean village. One of the participants was named Mayta. The narrator, whose parallel with the author is exact, remained in Europe, writing novels and achieving a comfortable recognition. It is only now, back in Peru and waiting for the apocalypse, that he recalls Mayta and feels the need to trace his life.

Is there a key there to what has gone wrong? The narrator questions those who knew the young Mayta: sisters, the wife from an annulled marriage, the members of the tiny Trotskyist cell to which he belonged, and the mountain villagers who witnessed or participated in the tragic comic and utterly futile uprising. At the same time, their actions and conversations are set down as they took place a quarter of a century earlier.

These shifts between present and past occur abruptly, sometimes in the course of a single paragraph.

The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta

The effect is of history constricted and tripped up; no majestic stream but a series of leaks and sputters. Mayta emerges as a splendidly vivid character, wreathed in uncertainties.

He is an idealist, a bumbler, supporting himself as a part-time translator and totally absorbed in the eternal dialectical debates and perennial schisms of the Trotskyists. His own faction is itself a schism, in fact, consisting of just seven members. It will split further before the book ends.


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Mayta, however, meets by chance a young lieutenant who represents something new. With the collapse of totalitarian empires, we believed that living together, peace, pluralism, and human rights would gain the ascendancy and the world would leave behind holocausts, genocides, invasions, and wars of extermination. None of that has occurred. New forms of barbarism flourish, incited by fanaticism, and with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, we cannot overlook the fact that any small faction of crazed redeemers may one day provoke a nuclear cataclysm.

We have to thwart them, confront them, and defeat them. We should not allow ourselves to be intimidated by those who want to snatch away the freedom we have been acquiring over the long course of civilization. Let us defend the liberal democracy that, with all its limitations, continues to signify political pluralism, coexistence, tolerance, human rights, respect for criticism, legality, free elections, alternation in power, everything that has been taking us out of a savage life and bringing us closer — though we will never attain it — to the beautiful, perfect life literature devises, the one we can deserve only by inventing, writing, and reading it.

By confronting homicidal fanatics we defend our right to dream and to make our dreams reality. Vargas Llosa went on to talk about his political views: "In my youth, like many writers of my generation, I was a Marxist and believed socialism would be the remedy for the exploitation and social injustices that were becoming more severe in my country, in Latin America, and in the rest of the Third World. Finally, Vargas Llosa made clear his support for the neocolonial governments in Latin America, pretending that they represent "functioning" democracy in the interests of the people and "supported by a broad popular consensus.

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But in the rest of the continent democracy is functioning, supported by a broad popular consensus, and for the first time in our history, as in Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and almost all of Central America, we have a left and a right that respect legality, the freedom to criticize, elections, and succession in power. That is the right road, and if it stays on it, combats insidious corruption, and continues to integrate with the world, Latin America will finally stop being the continent of the future and become the continent of the present.

This book is indicative of Vargas Llosa's work which does greater disservice to the revolutionary movement in Peru than those who write bourgeois fiction without pretending to have historical context or political purpose. The novel reviews the life of a fictional revolutionary activist in Peru in the s who participated in a small focoist uprising before ending up in prison. The book describes revolutionary parties as all small marginalized groups wasting their time studying dead guys and debating theory.

And it leaves the reader questioning the commitment of all who participate in revolutionary politics, assuming that everyone sells out somehow to pursue their own interests in the end. The peasants and workers are virtually ignored in the book, portrayed only as pawns in the work done by activists.

The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta | Mario Vargas Llosa | Macmillan

This novel focuses on a small Trotskyist party, the product of several splits in previous Trotskyist groups, and specifically on one of the party members, Alejandro Mayta. Interestingly, in a brief description of how Mayta ended up in this party, Vargas Llosa describes his movement from group to group, each time rejecting the previous one as not correct enough politically, until he ended up with the Trotskyists as the most pure political line he could find. MIM Prisons has some agreement with this description in that Trotskyism is pure idealism and it appeals to those who don't like to get their hands dirty with the realities of revolutionary politics.

Eventually Mayta deserts the Trotskyists to join up with a focoist movement in the mountains that is going to take armed action. He is galvanized by the idea of real action rather than the talk that his Trotskyist group has been engaging in for years. He is kicked out of his party, who consider the action premature, and also because Mayta has approached the Stalinists to participate in and support the focoist action. Focoists believe that the armed actions of a small group of people will spark the masses to join the revolution.



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