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September 2015

Geography of the Peruvian Imagination

This month, we present writing from Peru, a country whose international literary credentials are most closely linked to the Nobel Prize win of Mario Vargas Llosa. But as the eleven writers here show—via narrative nonfiction, poetry, and short stories—the country is host to a diverse and vibrant literature that extends well beyond the Nobel winner. From the Andes to the Amazon and back to the gritty urban reality of Lima, the writing here traces a new geography of Peruvian literature. Santiago Roncagliolo and Gabriela Wiener venture into the jungle on very different voyages of discovery. Claudia Salazar Jiménez’s protagonist undergoes a gruesome metamorphosis. Carlos Yushimito and Patricia de Souza create worlds of cruelty. Ritual and death pervade the fiction of Fernando Iwasaki, while the poetry of Victoria Guerrero Peirano evokes the sudden inarticulateness of two sisters in the face of illness. In Enrique Prochazka’s Andean tale, hunter becomes hunted. In Julio Durán’s short story, a would-be bond between a political prisoner and his keeper is irretrievably broken. Ivan Thays juxtaposes the Lindbergh kidnapping with a harrowing contemporary version. Thanks to the Peruvian Ministry of Culture, we’re able to bring you a recording of the creation story of the Tikuna people with a transcription of the indigenous tale in English. And after it all, Sergio Vilela looks at what’s behind Peruvian gastronomic phenom Gastón Acurio, whose restaurants and celebrity reach far beyond Peru. We thank guest editor Valerie Miles.

Elsewhere, we introduce an occasional series of writings on translation with scholar and translator Ilan Stavans’s reflections on the multiple renderings of Don Quixote.

Geography of the Peruvian Imagination
By Valerie Miles
Peru is one of the truly enchanting, enigmatic places on earth, and Lima—its gritty, vibrant capital of ten million—one of the hottest literary and gastronomical scenes in Latin America today.…
Living with the Beast
By Santiago Roncagliolo
Wilfredo Inuma is the chief of an indigenous Amazonian community. But above all, he is the guardian of the lavatory. Wilfredo founded the Shipibo community of Bena Gema twelve years ago, together with…
Translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel
Like a Rolling Stone
By Enrique Prochazka
That extraordinary screeching had been artificial: it hadn’t come from the ice, but from a weapon.
Translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell
A Sign
By Julio Durán
On the first attempt, the trigger jammed.
Translated from Spanish by Lisa M. Dillman
At Peace
By Claudia Salazar Jiménez
My skull rolls on the floor. Damn it.
Translated from Spanish by George Henson
By Victoria Guerrero Peirano
I cut my sister’s hair todaythe locks fell like huge tears against the baseboardsI swept it up and tossed it in the trashAll that dead hair has filled my dreamsOne day I dreamt of dead hair …
Translated from Spanish by Anna Guercio Rosenwong
Lessons for a Boy Who Arrived Late
By Carlos Yushimito
Understanding what she desired, I said yes.
Translated from Spanish by Valerie Miles
The Shower
By Patricia de Souza
“It was just an idea,” Yves responded cynically, his face red, his lips damp.
Translated from Spanish by Mara Faye Lethem
Recording: Nguxtapax, Yoxi, and the Five Countries
By The Ministry of Culture of Peru
The recording and transcript below make up one example of the oral storytelling traditions of Peru, this one from the Tikuna, the most numerous tribe in the Amazon. The recording is made in the Tikuna…
Translated from Spanish by Lucas Aznar Miles
By Ivan Thays
I told her everything, except for the blood.
Translated from Spanish by Christina MacSweeney
Frail Before the Squalor
By Carmen Ollé
Frail before the squalor            squalor being a feeble answerthe everyday self gives its own abjectionsit surprises me to be in a city whose…
Translated from Spanish by Yvette Siegert
A Trip through Ayahuasca
By Gabriela Wiener
It is said after the vomiting comes the visions. I wasn’t seeing anything yet.
Translated from Spanish by Lucas Aznar Miles
The Ritual
By Fernando Iwasaki
“Every time someone goes to the USA, they die.
Translated from Spanish by Daniel Hahn
The Age of Acurio
By Sergio Vilela
I grew up in a country at war. I still remember clearly a month in 1990 in which twelve bombs exploded near my house in Lima, one every two or three days. Peru was living through its worst years of violence,…
Translated from Spanish by David Kurnick
Flemish Tapestries: On Don Quixote in English
By Ilan Stavans
Rendered into some fifty languages (there are approximately five thousand languages in the world today), El Quijote is one of the most translated novels in history. Its length probably hinders it from…