Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mini-review: The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta

The narrator of The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta is a famous author, largely indistinguishable Mario Vargas Llosa himself.  His project is to write a fictional portrait of a Trotskyist intellectual who tried to lead a 1950s uprising in the Andes mountains.  But to do so, he first needs to understand the truth of that intellectual's life.  And so he sets about to interview the family, friends, and co-revolutionaries of Alejandro Mayta, each of whom shares contradictory stories.   As he listens to each account, the narrator shapes his project in his head, forcing readers to move up and down through multiple levels of narrative.

If this sounds like a Nabokovian conceit, it is, but it is also a political commentary, an adventure story, and generally a damn good read. (What it is not: "magical realism").  I'd not paid too much attention to Vargas Llosa before he won the Nobel Prize in 2010, but I am looking forward to becoming more familiar with his work.

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