“Peru has always been a gloomy country; It’s not the Caribbean, ”says writer and journalist Carlos Dávalos as traffic moves along Madrid’s Gran Vía on a sunny June morning. “There is that feeling of a kind of Andean melancholy.”
Although Dávalos’s first novel, The Fury of Silence (The fury of silence), has made comparisons with both The Catcher in the Rye and the Oscar winner of Alfonso Cuarón Rome, the history of coming of age is deeply and inescapably Peruvian.
The gloom that permeates the book exceeds the tone of melancholy, since it narrates a childhood and adolescence lived in Lima in the late 80s and 90s, a city of pumps, blackouts, water shortages and curfews. The horror of the Shining Path insurrection and the hypocrisy and corruption of the authoritarian regime of President Alberto Fujimori envelop its pages like the fog that envelops Lima for much of the year.
While examining Peru at the end of the last century, The Fury of Silence arrives with the country once again in a national emergency and facing a massive political dilemma.
Last week, the government nearly tripled its official death toll from Covid-19 to 180,764, making Peru the country with the highest per capita death rate in the world. As hospitals buckle under pressure and oxygen demand outstrips supply, Peruvians prepare to vote in the second round of a bitterly divisive presidential election, which takes place Sunday.
Polls suggest a close race between Pedro Castillo, a far left but socially conservative union leader and teacher, and Keiko Fujimori, the right-wing, neoliberal daughter of the jailed and disgraced former president.
As if the presence of a Fujimori in the presidential race was not enough to evoke unwanted deja vu, 16 people – including two children – were murdered at the end of May in an attack attributed by the authorities to a splinter group of the Shining Path. .
Like many of his compatriots, Dávalos, who has lived in Spain for the last 17 of his 42 years, is not, to put it mildly, with either candidate.
Castillo has pledged to hold a referendum to rewrite the 1993 constitution in favor of the market and has presented plans to expropriate foreign mining projects. Keiko Fujimori, who is accused of money laundering and running a criminal organization, charges she has denied, vowed to pardon her father, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence for authorizing death squads and presiding over rampant corruption and corruption. vote manipulation.
“It is too close to say who is going to win, but there is a candidate who is a leap into the void and could take us back 50 years, and, on the other side, is the daughter of the dictator,” says Dávalos. “It is a choice between starving or dying of indignity.”
His words echo those of the best known writer in Peru. Mario Vargas Llosa, who ran unsuccessfully against Alberto Fujimori in the 1990 elections – and who has spent the past 30 years attacking the dynasty’s toxic effect on Peruvian politics – recently called on people to back Keiko Fujimori, describing her as “the lesser of two evils.” The Nobel laureate said Castillo would undermine democracy, ruin Peru’s economy and leave the country “with all the characteristics of a communist society.”
Dávalos’ memories of growing up in Lima with Alberto Fujimori and his predecessor, Alan García, including the frustration of not being able to go to the movies or finish watching a television program due to almost daily power outages, report much of the situation. The Fury of Silence.
Given that the writer describes Peru as “an eternal adolescent who has not learned to be a republic or to behave as a republic” in the two centuries since it became independent from Spain, it is logical that its protagonist, Facundo, is a teenager. Facundo, who appears to have narcolepsy, although the condition is not mentioned in the text, gradually opens his eyes to the rotten reality that surrounds him. A family crisis and an angry act of rebellion at his Catholic school lead him to abandon his comfortable life in the suburbs and head to the seedy center of Lima, where he soon loses his innocence in more ways than one.
But despite all of Facundo’s trials, Dávalos strives to point out that the ordeals of the middle class Limeños endured in the 1980s and 1990s could never begin to compare to the atrocities inflicted on rural civilians by both terrorists and the government.
Eighteen years ago, Peru’s truth and reconciliation commission estimated that 69,280 people had been killed or disappeared between 1980 and 2000. Of these, 80% lived in rural areas and 75% spoke Quechua or other indigenous languages.
“If someone was having a hard time during the terror era, it was not the people of Lima,” says Dávalos. “It was the people from the highlands, where most of the victims and deaths were. We live the rebounds of all that: every day, when you turned on the television, it was death, blood and destruction ”.
The fate of the farmers It is embodied in the novel by Dávalos in the character of a woman who lives in a shanty town in Lima and who, with her seriously burned baby, appears at key moments.
The Fury of Silence it is the latest addition to a continuing boom in Peruvian writing that has wasted little time researching and dissecting the recent past. Like Vargas Llosa, Alonso Cueto, Santiago Roncagliolo, Daniel Alarcón, Martin Roldán Ruíz, Jose Carlos Aguero Y Lurgio Gavilán, Dávalos is eager to understand what happened and why.
“I think there was a time in the 1990s when it was difficult to write about what was happening,” says Dávalos. “You need a little distance to do that. There was also a Lima who did not want to look at what was happening, or who preferred to escape from everything “.
Still, he is amazed at how quickly Peru has committed itself to the sins of its recent past. In his adopted land, the pact of oblivion that helped Spain return to democracy after the Franco dictatorship made such discussions difficult for succeeding generations.
“Only in the last decade have people in Spain really started to write about the civil war and all that it involved,” says Dávalos. “But everything happened very fast in Peru.”
Dávalos is already working on his next book, which will be about the police who captured the Shining Path leader, Abimael Guzmán, in 1992, and about a young journalist from the late 1990s who started out as a reporter like the Fujimori regime. begins to fall apart.
Despite the evocations of Salinger and Cuarón, the work to which The Fury of Silence most often compared is the debut of Vargas Llosa, Hero time, which used a tough Lima military academy as a microcosm in which to explore Peru’s social, economic, and ethnic divisions.
The book also has a lot in common with Vargas Llosa’s 1969 masterpiece, Conversation in the Cathedral, in which the writer reflects on the omnipresent corruption of the Manuel Odría dictatorship in the 1950s. The novel begins with a famous rhetorical question: “At what precise moment had Peru screwed up?”
Dávalos nods at the parallels, but suggests that the time has come to update the question. “I think we need to realize that we’ve always been screwed. I’ve never seen a time in our history where we’re okay,” he says. “But I think that instead of wondering when we screwed up as a country, we have to ask ourselves if we are going to continue to screw up even more.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism