The prolific Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa is according to many, THE Voice of Latin American literature. He is well known for his political activism and has a long tenure as a high profile spokesman for Spanish language letters. In 1994 he was the recipient of the prestigious Miguel De Cervantes Prize. His oeuvre spans journalism, fiction, criticism and drama. Having only read his War at the End of the World
oh so many years ago, I picked his second novel 1965?s, The Green House
to review. Some critics hold this up as his most important work. Being a glutton for punishment, I opted for it since its also thought of as his most difficult novel.
There is no single protagonist per se, rather there are intertwined narratives focusing around six major characters who are all inhabitants of the Piura region of northwest Peru. Their story is gradually re-constructed in Llosa?s narrative kaleidoscope which I will visit in Bones. The novel?s plot, which as readers of Traces
know by now usually is not summarized, is complicated. Suffice to say its synopsis would be a feat in itself?But since it IS a challenge, here is a rough sketch anyway:
In the rural village of Santa Mar?a de Nieva, lives Bonifacia, a young Aruguna Indian who is a nun-in-waiting. She lets two Aruguna Indian girls out of the convent?s enclosed yard to escape, as they were forcibly taken from their jungle huts by soldiers in an attempt to ?civilize? them. After she is expelled from the convent one narrative follows her trajectory from Nun to prostitute (as ?Wildflower?) and her relationships that will affect the five other main characters. Meanwhile another storyline follows the life of Don Anselmo, a stranger who appears one day and endears himself to the townspeople, later he becomes the proprietor of The Green House
, a brothel he has built at the edge of town. After a debacle and tragedy (no plot spoiled here) he undergoes a transformation of sorts and becomes a quasi-orphic figure known as ?the harp player?. Simultaneously related is the story of the fugitive Japanese Trader Fush?a and his part in the development of the region against the backdrop of the story of the Lituma, a soldier and local home town favorite who becomes a ?cop? and is sent by the corrupt Governor to put a stop to the exploitation by the Rubber traders (who compete with the equally corrupt Governor) of the indigenous Indian tribes. Then we have the side story of Lalita, wife of first Fush?a, then Adr?an Nieves, who uses the men as they use her. Lastly is the story of the river ?pilot? Adr?an Nieves, whose actions interrelate with all the above mentioned as he is relied on as a navigator who plies his boat on the jungle rivers, facilitating at different points, both the illegal traders and the soldiers who will later hunt him.