CAN A NOVELIST SAVE PERU?

- New York Times

2/3/13 11:01 PM

Magazine
CAN A NOVELIST SAVE PERU?
By Gerald Marzorati; Gerald Marzorati, a senior editor of Harper's Magazine, writes often for The Times Magazine on literary subjects Published: November 05, 1989

THE SMALL TWIN-ENGINE PLANE had pierced the layer of thick fog that blankets Lima each winter, and beyond the portholes there lay only an engulfing nothingness the color of unbleached bed linen. I was sitting next to the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who had been making a half-hearted attempt to read a book he had brought along, but who was looking out now at the fog, thinking things. ''You know that Herman Melville called Lima the strangest, saddest city,'' he said, in his fine, Spanish-rounded English. ''Why? The fog and drizzle.'' He laughed a little, and then said: ''I am not so sure that the fog and the drizzle are Lima's big problems.'' The fog, for me, had come as something of a relief. The plane had strained to lift from the runway at Lima's Jorge Chavez Airport, and as it rose, slowly and noisily, I was provided a woeful overview of the problems we are likely to think of when we think today of Peru. Spread across acres of sand dunes just east of the airport lay the pueblo joven (''new town'') of Santa Rosa, with its thousands of homes no bigger than toolsheds, homes fashioned of woven straw by the peasants who continue to stream into Lima from Peru's rural regions, among the poorest - and as a result of an escalating guerrilla war, among the most dangerous - in all of South America. At the entrance to the sprawling shantytown, hundreds of men and women were lined up beside a pickup truck, holding big cans. They were on line to buy kerosene, essential for cooking in neighborhoods, like this one, that have no access to electricity. Kerosene was suddenly scarce in Lima. Petroperu, the state-run oil company, claimed the shortage was due to scaled-back production, a result, it said, of the country's terrible financial crisis - government cash reserves depleted (Peru is about $5 billion behind in interest payments on its $18 billion foreign debt), new international loans denied, private capital in flight and inflation running at an estimated annual rate of more than 5,900 percent. However, a few elected officials were beginning to say privately what many Limenos had figured immediately: There was kerosene, but it was being shipped to Peru's Upper Huallaga Valley. It is there that much of the hemisphere's coca is grown and, before being shipped to cocaine producers in Colombia, processed into ''paste,'' a mix of bitter green coca leaves - and kerosene. At some earlier time, I might have been tempted to ask Vargas Llosa if he had ever thought to set a novel in a neighborhood like Santa Rosa. Lima - poor, damp, crowded - has for 25 years been the setting, and in a sense the main ''character,'' of his many novels. He burst on the international literary scene in the 1960's as the youngest member of the Latin American literary ''Boom,'' but - unlike Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Julio Cortazar, for example - he is not a ''magical realist.'' His novels are too urban in language and feel, too suffused with gritty social and political implication. Think of him as a Latin American Balzac. Vargas Llosa himself is apt to bring up Balzac as an influence, especially when talking of his own work habits. Particularly in recent years, he has tended to do months of journalist-like research before beginning to write his fiction. For his novel ''The Storyteller,'' about a Lima anthropologist whose fieldwork leads him on a quest for truths social science does not address - the book has just been published here by Farrar, Straus & Giroux -Vargas Llosa ventured deep into Peru's Amazon jungle to record the stories of the Machiguengas, an Indian tribe that until a few years ago lived in near complete isolation. He has traveled, he has often said, to get right the details of place - and also, of course, to seize a narrative thread. But he was not traveling this chilly September morning to research a new novel. He was looking for votes. Mario Vargas Llosa is running for President of Peru, running hard - he was flying this morning to the market town of Jauja, high in the Andes - and, it would appear, effectively. The candidate of a center-right coalition, Fredemo (Democratic Front), Vargas Llosa was leading his nearest rival, Alfonso Barrantes Lingan former Mayor of Lima and an independent Marxist - by 16 percentage points, and, with the election seven months off, was pulling away, according to the country's most reliable poll. An unlikely story, and one whose ending - whatever the polls -is far from determined. On the chartered campaign plane with Vargas Llosa were his wife, Patricia, his candidates for Peru's two Vice Presidential posts, and several aides. He spent much of the one-hour flight studying a briefing paper on the Department of Junin, an area roughly the size of Connecticut that embraces the market town of Jauja, numerous Andean villages, vast jungle to the east, and, to the south, Huancayo, a city of several hundred thousand where he was scheduled to appear at an afternoon rally. The people of Junin are among Peru's poorest - campesinos, mostly, who work subsistence farms. ''It has never been anything but hard there,'' Vargas Llosa said, briefing me a bit, as we flew low above muscular, snow-capped peaks, ''but it has actually gotten worse.'' The government of Alan Garcia Perez, Peru's young, embattled President, estimates that nationwide the country's standard of living for those with salaried jobs had dropped by 50 percent during the last year. (By law, Garcia cannot run for re-election; the
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Here. (''Julia. each carrying two dozen or so soldiers and each equipped with a mounted machine gun. in effect. soldiers. ''In some places where there is violence we have no candidates. he and Patricia were in the back of a Japanese four-wheel-drive for the 40-minute trip to Huancayo.an example of the Senderistas' freakishly doctrinal graffiti. befuddled by the shower of campaign pamphlets trailing from the windows of the speeding cars. About a thousand people had gathered in the plaza by the time Vargas Llosa arrived: scores of local Fredemo supporters.'' But what would he tell people under such circumstances? Did he have a speech prepared? ''I usually work from notes.is not only his wife but his first cousin. There was also . which so few of the campesinos are able to read (most speak Quechua. http://www. Vargas Llosa's plane was ambushed shortly after it landed in the jungle town of Pucallpa.) She handed me a sandwich. They are afraid to run. Fredemo banners hung from a wooden speaker's platform. but waving. He smiles uneasily . who presented the candidate with bouquets. waiting for the rare bus. as well as two military transport trucks. In Spanish. smiling. It was the Libertad movement that brought thousands of Peruvians into the streets.'' Abuses have been frequent and harsh. which he described as overwhelmed by ''administrative morass. And it was Vargas Llosa's role as a leading voice of Libertad that catapulted him directly into Peruvian politics.New York Times 2/3/13 11:01 PM candidate of his social-democratic APRA party.his front teeth protrude slightly and he is said to be conscious of this. it has been administered since then by a ''political-military command. The road was narrow and winding and pitted. Vargas Llosa loomed above the local candidates with whom he shared the platform. dozens of them. placing the blame squarely on the Garcia Government. and then said: ''This is something very strange and frankly painful for me. and from time to time groups of short. He spoke of the country's economic crisis. stemmed from the growing presence of Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). 20 villagers were reportedly ordered from their homes and detained by the Army. I asked Vargas Llosa what the point was of campaigning in what was. and there were placards up for Libertad. was trailing badly in the polls. the secretive and savage revolutionary movement whose guerrillas are now active up and down the country's Andean spine . were arranged not more than 10 yards apart. is his aunt by her first marriage. the principal Indian language). and his trim shape and youthful features (he is 53 years old) lend him a vigorous presence. however. Peruvians find him bien guapo (real handsome). we have candidates and we must come and support them. Within 20 minutes. the villagers and townspeople.com/1989/11/05/magazine/can-a-novelist-save-peru. then huddled briefly with a few Fredemo candidates in the one-room structure that serves as Jauja's airport terminal.whom he married not long after his 19th birthday. Shortly before we were to land. He was not injured. the following day. You don't communicate ideas when politicking. and then said she had just been told that a nearby school had been blown up. Vargas Llosa and his entourage moved quickly through the hundred or so people on hand to greet him. The report cites an incident in Calabaza. and eventually into the race for the Presidency. campesinos who seemed more curious than enthusiastic. Last January. I sat at a long table next to Patricia. and both the local Miss Simpatico and Miss Turismo.'' He spoke of his plans to ''decentralize'' government decision-making and to ''privatize'' state-owned industries. Vargas Llosa spoke for nearly half an hour. a stylish woman who . A lunch of soup and steak sandwiches followed at the nearby Hotel de Turistas.html?pagewanted=print&src=pm Page 2 of 6 . moving into villages. with their many petticoats under shabby skirts and their black fedoras. this sterotype language you must use. 60 miles an hour. There were plots of potatoes and carrots planted right up to the road. he said.CAN A NOVELIST SAVE PERU? . you produce signals that are emotional. the guerrillas announced their (Continued on Page 100) unyielding support for Mao. according to a recent report by Amnesty International. There were six other cars in the motorcade (half of them holding members of the party's heavily armed private security team).and 10 years his senior . after a number of clashes between Army infantrymen and Senderistas. broad-faced women. But no one thinks this will be an election won with smiles. the Government declared a state of emergency in Junin. a war zone. She rolled her eyes and shook her head.on the side of one whitewashed mud-brick house .50.nytimes. He spoke too of the ''terrorist violence''.'' his first wife . circa 1966: ''LONG LIVE THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION!'' There were no Sendero graffiti in Huancayo's central plaza. but we sped along . Luis Alva Castro.as readers of Vargas Llosa's ''Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter'' learn in the last chapter . a few haggard goats and cows. not far from Jauja: Last May. under a pristine azure sky. On either side of the short dirt airstrip. Sendero has launched a violent campaign to disrupt both this month's municipal elections and the Presidential elections next April. emphatically if not forcefully. hammering away at his main themes.'' he said.raiding military outposts.'' He then bade me look out the window. the movement launched two years ago to protest President Garcia's plan to fully nationalize the country's financial system. Last December.'' He paused. would have to assume a more active role in the fight against Sendero. but four others were shot. A few of the soldiers lining the square greeted the proposal with lackluster applause.) Junin's biggest problem. ''It is very important psychologically. At 5 feet. forcing the Government to postpone indefinitely implementation of the plan. the bodies of 11 of them were found along the banks of a nearby river. assassinating local officials and community leaders. 10 inches.

''It's not just the books. this can happen.the sky darkened. at any time. quietly tense: ''You see it is not so easy. ''Yes. In politics.'' Vargas Llosa's first book. sniffing around Lima for the smells. ''I have argued all my life that literature is a perfectly justified vocation . blood dribbling from his left ear. get them to go in the direction you want them to go. ''Not at all. write itself in a way the narrator had not envisioned. ''Mario had said that it is not so different. without hospitals? . a shorefront neighborhood long popular with Lima's artists and writers.it eventually doomed me in my comrades' eyes -was that I loved decadent literature: Gide. like a writer.'' she said. when he was 22 years old. Within minutes. Discussions would go on for hours and hours. We were met at the plane by an Army officer.'' published in 1984.34. when Vargas Llosa's parents reunited (they had divorced before his birth).'' he said.CAN A NOVELIST SAVE PERU? . Vargas Llosa became active in Cahuide. I have always had the uncomfortable feeling that you never know if what you are doing has any real impact -impact in reality. ''There were abuses.having a certain solitude.'' was published in 1958. The soldier was lifted onto the plane with great difficulty. his head bandaged. that the family settled in Magdalena del Mar. as if out of a Latin melodrama . I heard the word tiros . then gathered the local candidates in a circle of chairs to discuss the campaign. I have had this feeling about my books from the very beginning.his chief beat was crime . then said: ''Having said that. ocean-view home in Barraco. doing democratic politics. He lay on a stretcher on the floor. Vargas Llosa agreed to take him back to Lima aboard the plane. he said. (Cahuide was an Incan hero who fought the Spaniards.31. Stalinistic. ''Well. maintaining a democracy. IN HIS NOVEL ''THE Real Life of Alejandro Mayta. get beyond the narrator's control. and that another had been badly wounded. older than Vargas Llosa.0. ''Conversation in the Cathedral. at a conference in New York held by the international writers' organization PEN. a middle-class Lima suburb not far from where he lives today. barely conscious. but a good novelist knows that a story can take on a life of its own. with a half-smile. a village 10 minutes west of the city.0.'' There had been a guerrilla ambush in Chupaca. It was all about manipulating power. ''We were few. Vargas Llosa talked a good deal that afternoon of his years at Lima's University of San Marcos. He asked if I had ever seen Vargas Llosa speak before. and the motorcade was speeding back to Jauja.31.but he cut me off. you know? Living the way he was used to living. ?'' I brought up this question with Vargas Llosa one afternoon. thin. My problem .'' http://www.html?pagewanted=print&src=pm Page 3 of 6 . however.22>often mentioned as an influence on his fiction . Mario said. Vargas Llosa has an old rebel sympathizer ask the book's narrator: ''Does it make any sense to be writing a novel with Peru in this condition .'' He paused. It was in 1946. yes? You have this even when a book sells very well.'' Vargas Llosa told me.31. She was concerned too that Vargas Llosa had not written any fiction in two years.34. the darkness of which he limned in what is perhaps his finest novel. I wondered if he had at some point put the question to himself .nytimes. it has nothing to do with the imagination. but very dogmatic.'' Vargas Llosa ate quickly. I stood and talked for a while with Ernesto Alayza Grundy.the kind Vargas Llosa has 0.since he was 16. too. He can't live like that now.''shots. about an insurrection of the late 1950's hatched in (of all places) Jauja. sad-faced man.0. . literature and politics. He had been writing fiction and working part-time for several Lima tabloids . The military wanted Vargas Llosa out of the area. and spent most of his first 10 years in Cochabamba. He looked no older than 16. A novelist manages his characters.'' I was about to pursue this with him when there was a stir in the room. In politics. I attempted to formulate a question for Vargas Llosa -How could anyone expect soldiers to maintain morale without helicopter medics. Bolivia. only recently discovered the country's severe social problems ''and so I became a militant for maybe a year. In literature you must manage your characters. where his mother had taken him to live with her parents. who informed Vargas Llosa that two soldiers had been killed in the ambush. He was tense. one of the Vice Presidential candidates .'' He turned away and stared out at the rain. a collection of short stories titled ''Los Jefes. The law no longer meant anything. I should also say that like most writers toiling. He had been born in the southern Peruvian city of Arequipa. .'' He laughed. and there began thunder and lightning and hard rain. a grim period in Peru's history. Manuel Odria.'' She worried for the safety of her husband and their three children.'' he said.'' Shortly after enrolling at San Marcos. quickly. Joyce and especially Faulkner.'' she said. but it was mostly a matter of corruption.) He had. the candidate was in his car. The only difference.if his running for President was a kind of answer. On the way. in the living room of his big. and no hospital within driving distance with the necessary medical supplies. was that in politics you have no use for imagination. ''Odria was not an especially bloody dictator. There was no helicopter to get the wounded soldier to a hospital. In politics you must manage people.under any circumstances.com/1989/11/05/magazine/can-a-novelist-save-peru. 0. and I said I had. ''It's that he used to live a certain way .'' These were the last years of what Peruvians refer to as the ''Ochenio'' -the eight years (1948-56) of the dictatorship of Gen. ''and I lost. a small undergroud remnant of Peru's then-outlawed Communist Party. He stared wanly at the intravenous bottle dangling from a curtain rod above him.a tall. all now living with round-theclock bodyguards.New York Times 2/3/13 11:01 PM I asked her if she had had a vote in her husband's decision to run. going anywhere when he needed to.

'' LIBERTAD'S HEAD-quarters is located on Avenida Javier Prado. but by then. But in reality. There are multi-line phones.what explained its continued hold in the mountains and jungles of Peru? He thought for a moment. in politics and economics. the novelist attacked Cuba and its head of state in a lengthy polemic. including Carlos Fuentes.no. It is in the pages of his novel ''The War of the End of the World. And so there are those inclined to seek a radical solution. typing up what he'd managed to get down on paper. a populist autocrat who promoted land reform and nationalized the country's oil. ''It is about fanatics. but few of his Latin American readers missed the allegorical point. Vargas Llosa drew up a petition that was eventually signed by scores of writers. copper and fishing industries. however. deeper too. a close friend of Vargas Llosa's at the time.it was this junta that.'' Vargas Llosa complained privately to Cuban officials about the ''flower battalions. but his mind by then was elsewhere. precisely but something larger. really: Latin America. ''and people who believe they have a plan to lead everyone to a utopia on earth . an infatuation. cradling submachine guns.nytimes. where he worked for French radio and television and began his first novel. ''It was not so romantic as it had seemed. and then said: ''In literature. most of which were foreign owned. when Fidel Castro spoke out in support of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. fantasy and romance produce such wonderful works. to defend the Cuban revolution until April 1971. There. ''I was immediately taken by it. choosing his words carefully. Two years later.CAN A NOVELIST SAVE PERU? . It was while serving on one such committee in 1966 that he learned. He lived in Madrid for two years. speaking more slowly now. It links up with the whole messianic tradition as it established itself here hundreds of years ago. an idea. This new-found identity manifested itself in Vargas Llosa's prose. under the Spanish Catholics. then said: ''Well. when he sensed himself tiring. Behind the wall. the story based on an actual uprising in the backlands of Bahia led by a Christian mystic. he said. ''Poets and dancers I knew were being rounded up for 'antisocial behavior' and sent to the country in work gangs with common criminals. a wide and well-trafficked boulevard that is lined with some of Lima's most stately homes. personal computers atop several desks and glossy photos of the candidate on the campaign trail. a feeling. One night in Mexico City. ''The Time of the Hero. he had seen enough. ultra-modern by Peruvian standards. It was the idea . in an apartment he had purchased in Kensington. It is a faith. as for so many Latin Americans of my generation. as it had on Cortazar and Garcia Marquez before him. of a program to ''cure'' homosexuals. seemed to be the long-awaited 'socialism with a human face.'' Vargas Llosa told me. He continued. It was terrible.'' He paused for a moment. You cannot argue with faith.'' he explained. When Velasco was deposed in August 1975 by more traditional military officers . ''It took too long to see the objective reality. after living abroad for 16 years.' '' he told me.Vargas Llosa was out of the country. first you must understand that the status quo in Peru and in much of Latin America is horrible. returned the government to civilian rule .'' He made a number of trips to Cuba during the 1960's. ''They were trying to put into practice the crazy theory of this Soviet who argued that in the countryside there were no homosexuals. in lectures and interviews. for instance. serving as a judge for literary awards. that Vargas Llosa most vehemently renounced his faith in revolution. and beyond several checkpoints.) Padilla was released after a month. lies a small compound of offices. It manifested itself too in Vargas Llosa's politics: he became a supporter of the Cuban revolution.'' But the romance . the two are said to have taken their political dispute into the street for a fistfight. the suffering. ''Cuba for me.html?pagewanted=print&src=pm Page 4 of 6 . When Vargas Llosa returned to Lima early in 1975. He wanted to leave Peru for Europe. He spent much of his time in London. in the way. then abandoned his studies and moved to Paris. with tremendous suffering and inequality.'' Europe had a somewhat paradoxical effect on Vargas Llosa. when the Cuban poet Herberto Padilla was arrested in Havana and charged with writing counterrevolutionary poems. sitting on cultural committees. A year later.working in longhand for two hours or so not long after waking. The idea of a socialist revolution reaches and touches profound strings in the Latin American heart.'' he said. (Among those who would not sign it was Garcia Marquez. Vargas Llosa told me.'' as they were called. No signs or banners identify the headquarters. ''But there is something older. as he would be frequently in the years that followed. Juan Velasco Alvarado. street-wise Spanish of Lima's tabloids and demimonde. they have produced such disasters. then. there was little politics in which to immerse himself. The setting for the vast apocalyptic novel is 19th-century Brazil.com/1989/11/05/magazine/can-a-novelist-save-peru.whether political or http://www. silver. taxi drivers know it as the place with the tall white wall and the guards in blue fatigues at the curb. he won and accepted a fellowship to pursue a doctoral degree in literature at the University of Madrid. he eschewed formal Spanish for the slangy.New York Times 2/3/13 11:01 PM Civilian rule was re-established by the time Vargas Llosa graduated in 1957. and faith has a very strong appeal.not Peru. in 1980.'' which he began in 1978. he became more conscious of what for him was home . Peru's government was under the control of Gen. It was there that he did his writing . Susan Sontag and Jean-Paul Sartre. where so many of his favorite novels were set and written.

in his talk of ''creating a civil society. for example. as he said in his speech. Barrantes has begun to sound like Gorbachev. In the 1930's.'' a voice-over intones. To actually free up Peru's economy and bring it into the global market. and.they hatch them. must look to the changes underway in the Soviet Union. Here in Peru. one that continues to have a profound influence. began to organize a protest.catastrophe and totalitarianism. it was still possible to talk about imperialism in Peru as the big problem. and also to staunch capital flight and induce foreign investment. This desire for some kind of heaven on earth has brought only catastrophe . While it is possible to see Vargas Llosa's bid for his country's Presidency as part of a strictly Latin American tradition .'' THE CONTEMPO-rary philosopher Richard Rorty . One of the lengthiest conversations I had with him was about the ilustrados. much more than novel-like redescription. However. But this is no longer the case.a prominent American liberal thinker .campaign tactics. Vargas Llosa. exploitative -you cannot argue this. a liability as much as an asset. ''They were liberals. Vargas Llosa announced his candidacy last fall. which at that time was faltering but still quite popular. A handy gauge of both the existence and effectiveness of this redescription writ large is the campaign of Vargas Llosa's principal opponent.'' he told me.'' These days. must reform. not until he threatened late in June to withdraw from the race did he appear to establish himself as the coalition's leader as well as its candidate. Libertad aired a television spot depicting a government official as a monkey .'' A step toward ''totalitarianism'' is how Vargas Llosa has repeatedly described the announcement by Alan Garcia in July 1987 that he would ask the Peruvian Congress to nationalize the banks and other financial institutions. he quoted entire passages from a treatise by the philosopher Karl Popper. the 18th-century proponents of the Spanish Enlightenment. There is no such thing as collective happiness.'' he continued. but to punish businessmen who. but he'll get a fine novel out of it. Fredemo's campaign has also been harshly criticized for its crude . conspiracies .com/1989/11/05/magazine/can-a-novelist-save-peru. the notion that the Government was too interventionist and bureaucratic appears to have caught on with Lima's informales.a country less like its Latin American neighbors and more like. will have to http://www.naively crude . Libertad would need as coalition partners in order to have any chance of winning a Presidential election. Vargas Llosa took Garcia at his word.he ''shows concern for the have-nots. ''Politics is intrigues. Vargas Llosa. bureaucracy. will require much. Poland. The United States was imperialistic. and embodied most recently by Sergio Ramirez Mercado.in a large.and Libertad had found a constituency. with a few friends. who was elected President of his country in 1947. These >informales remain outside the official economy .'' redescribed for Western readers life under Communism . we hatch them. He has had problems holding the three-party coalition together.beginning with the great Venezuelan author Romulo Gallegos. portrayed himself as discomforted by campaign politics. say. In August. ''There never was a real Spanish liberalism. we have had nothing but mercantilism. who is owlish and avuncular and gently humorous.CAN A NOVELIST SAVE PERU? . the street vendors and bus-van operators and the owners of tiny factories. oligarchs with monopolies . and not only in the West. Libertad's campaign won the support not only of Lima's business establishment but also of many poorer Peruvians. but ideas. we respond.'' sounds like Poland's Adam Michnik.'' he said. ''but only in the cultural sense: they were anticlerical. at times. yes. Now it seems to me that this lack of a liberal spirit has been our great tragedy. To the surprise of the Garcia Government.are fanatics.'' He lists among the exemplars of this kind of writing George Orwell. and led to a reshuffling of Vargas Llosa's campaign staff.never a real market economy. calculations. if elected. he said. novelist and Nicaraguan Vice President . the Government saw it might be better to quietly shelve the plan . who. Barrantes. For the people of Peru (and also for the foreign officials and inter-national bankers whose sym-pathy his plans require).000 people crowded Lima's Plaza de San Martin for an anti-banknationalization rally. though they had fared poorly in the 1985 elections. a story not of a long-impoverished third world nation but rather of a country ''liberalizing'' after years of state control . he believed. Vargas Llosa is fashioning a new understanding of his country.has written that the political role of the novelist in Western-style democratic societies is to develop fresh interpretations. it now seems Garcia's point was not to commence the real revolution. ''and thus never a Latin American liberalism. in ''1984. was quickly withdrawn. He describes his decision to run as essentially a decision made for him: He was the most visible leader of Libertad. That he is new to electoral politics has proved. as Vargas Llosa promises.Garcia's first two years had seen substantial economic growth -in foreign real estate and banks. as the ''bureaucrat'' defecates. He discussed the theories of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill.because they can neither obtain the licenses nor pay the bribes too many state bureaucrats insist upon. they respond. He has read deeply in Western political philosophy.New York Times 2/3/13 11:01 PM religious .html?pagewanted=print&src=pm Page 5 of 6 . They were economic mercantilists.parties that. Barrantes is more likely to discuss how the left must be less dogmatic. The ad caused an uproar.it is perhaps more meaningful to envision the campaign as his attempt to ''redescribe'' Peru not in fiction but actually within the real world. They were not liberal capitalists. to ''redescribe. He wanted to talk not politics. At least half of the country's financial system was already government-controlled. When 100. in the time I spent with him. bustling.nytimes. and in no way hidden black market . and he was not a member of either of the two conservative parties . were being advised by Peru's bankers to put their profits . To attract international loans. Alfonso Barrantes -candidate of the Izquierdo Unida (United Left). A year ago.providing a terribly stark way of seeing. Chasing a candidate who. In particular. liked to tell reporters that Vargas Llosa ''won't be President.

'' he said. even possible. ''he will have great success in getting the attention of those outside the country he needs to establish relationships with. that kind of writer. He writes of the spiritual relations the Amazonian tribes have to their environs.) At the time he was in Tokyo. At one point. Can a fragile democracy fight these forces? Keep the military from taking over? (There was a flurry of coup rumors in Lima last January. Sendero Luminoso and the drug traffickers -respectively. is an internationally well-known individual. never learning Spanish? I didn't know. capitalism.almost half of Peru's 20 million people are Indians -for whom modernization is not a matter simply of economics.'' There remain too. as Colombia's drug bosses reportedly move more and more of their processing operations into Peru's northern jungle. Vargas Llosa himself devotes a good deal of ''The Storyteller'' to the tangled matter of whether development is good. He is a novelist. and what might yet develop into a war.'' he said. he has been meeting with officials. if Vargas Llosa should win.000 lives (many of them unarmed civilians). I asked him how. wearing a wool cap with earflaps. or not. working in a Lima bar: ''Would it have been better for him to have stayed in his Andean village. pragmatic. (He would like to secure ''bridge'' loans from Western governments that could help Peru weather a recession. The dismantling of the state bureaucracy and the selling off of state-owned companies he promises to undertake will mean that thousands of men and women will lose their jobs.'' Vargas Llosa told me. He knew a great deal about his country's economy and its political culture. He has sat in solitude and used his imagination. for those whose language and culture . it will have to induce . after all.CAN A NOVELIST SAVE PERU? . and also of one listless Andean youth he saw years before.whose very ways of thinking and being -are at a far remove from liberalism. We are talking about someone who all his life has worked alone. his Presidency might work out. capitalism. We are offering them modernism. And to break the country's hyperinflation his government will have to increase prices and devalue the currency. ''People have suffered so long.) Can a country attract new loans and investments under such circumstances? Survive.not a utopia. they are willing to suffer a little longer . explaining his plans for restructuring. the West. Mario. ''The real question. a great novelist. and he talked with the mix of hope and skepticism I associate with reformers in . I spoke by phone with a bright young Peruvian economist. leather sandals and a poncho. ''We are offering them something .New York Times 2/3/13 11:01 PM drastically ''restructure'' Peru's economy. ''Well. Vargas Llosa has visited Washington and Tokyo.well. He is not a person who is familiar with bureaucracies.html?pagewanted=print&src=pm Page 6 of 6 . a supporter of Vargas Llosa.nytimes. ''is how Mario will work out day-to-day in the job. no?'' Home Times topics Member Center Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company Index by Keyword Privacy Policy Help Contact Us Work for Us Site Map http://www.if we can show them it is not for nothing. in Poland. and I still don't. It is not even as though he is a political journalist.com/1989/11/05/magazine/can-a-novelist-save-peru.in a country already suffering its worst economic crisis of the century -a long and severe recession. a guerrilla war that has claimed 15.' There remain the Indians of the jungle and of the Andes . that is. let alone develop? During the past weeks. something earthbound. after a brief pause. of course.