Discover the 5 most important Peruvian literary works of recent times
Peru and literature have been closely linked for five centuries, thanks to the lasting works of Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. Nowadays literary works written by talented Peruvian authors are important points of reference in global literature. Writers such as José María Arguedas, Ricardo Palma or Mario Vargas Llosa and poets such as César Vallejo, Antonio Cisneros and Blanca Varela are today the main inspiration for countless people all over the world.
Here are five must-read literary works by Peruvian writers that will bring you closer to this country which is closely linked to the literary world.
Mario Vargas Llosa Library, Arequipa.
Conversation in the Cathedral
One of the most significant books in the history of the Nobel Prize for Literature for Peru is a work of fiction with historical elements. Mario Vargas Llosa masterfully describes the conversation between Zavala and Ambrosio, who are talking in an old bar called “The Cathedral”. The story takes place at the time of General Manuel A. Odría’s dictatorship, a time also known as the “Ochenio” because of the eight years he was in power. In between beers and memorable phrases, Vargas Llosa raises important questions about the dictatorship, the state of the country and the idiosyncrasies of Peru, accurately and elegantly intertwining stories and characters. A work that no book lover should miss.
The Word of the Mute
This book, published in 1973, is a collection of stories from the exceptional Peruvian writer Julio Ramón Ribeyro. The new editions have added new tales to complete his short story work. The stories told by Ribeyro transmit the desire and suffering of his characters who, in most cases, are joined by disappointment and misfortune. Ribeyro’s prose is clean and unadulterated, but possesses a unique sharpness in the world of Latin American short stories. This piece of literature, which is reminiscent of Guy de Maupassant himself, is a must in any story lover’s bookcase.
This is the most famous book by Peruvian poet César Vallejo, an icon of world poetry. The book was written after the death of the poet’s mother, in August 1918, and it reflects all the sadness suffered by Vallejo during this difficult time. Considered one of the great figures of Hispano-American literature, the poet’s name has stood the test of time and he is today one of the great figures in world poetry. Provocative, avant-garde and innovative, Vallejo was excluded by a society that did not understand his work, which is also reflected in his verses, whose melancholy and sadness are heartbreaking.
Broad and Alien is the World
Published in 1941, this is one of the most important books in indigenous literature and the main novel of its author, Ciro Alegría. Considered by many specialists to be the “starting point” of modern Peruvian literature, it has numerous editions in Spanish and has been translated into more than thirty languages. The book describes the life of an Andean community called Rumi, where the indigenous people try to defend themselves from a despotic landowner and corrupt judges. This novel – of striking force – allows the reader to understand many of the problems that still afflict Latin American society.
“We are alive,
who doubts it,
the laurel, the bird, the water
who look and feel thirsty”.
That is how “Alba” (“Dawn”) ends, one of the poems which appears in the book “Canto Villano” (“Villain Song”) by the fantastic poet Blanca Varela. Who wouldn’t think she was alive. She lives in the heart of readers who, each time they read her work, immortalize her through her poetry. The book by Blanca Varela (Lima, 1926) holds a very important place in 20th century Hispano-American poetry, where she takes pride of place along with peers such as Javier Sologuren, Sebastian Salazar Bondy and Jorge Eduardo Eielson.