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The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta (1984)

by Mario Vargas Llosa, Mario Vargas Llosa

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Novelas de Lituma (2)

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6091032,720 (3.71)47
The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta is an astute psychological portrait of a modern revolutionary and a searching account of an old friend's struggle to understand him. First published in English in 1986, the novel probes the long and checkered history of radical politics in Latin America.
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English (8)  German (1)  All languages (9)
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
This is not the easiest book to read. It takes a while to pick up on the author's mixing of the present with events of twenty five years ago, even in a single paragraph. Where are we is often in doubt, especially timewise.. The story involves a narrator who is writing a book about someone who was involved in something in the past. He meets with many people who had first hand knowledge of his subject, Alejandro Mayta. But the stories seem conflicting and hard to resolve. Are they are all talking about the same person? Was he a revolutionary, or just a thief? Was he a homosexual? The story gets pieced together but there are always questions. What happened? Why? These are eventually resolved but we keep questioning, is that the final answer? Do we really have the life story, or are we dealing with lies, projections, misremembering, or just plain fiction?

Eventually a paragraph late in the book (p246) brings everything into focus -

"…Information in this country has ceased to be objective and has become pure fantasy -- in newspapers, radio, television, and ordinary conversation. 'To report' among us now means either to interpret reality according to our desires or fears, or to say what is simply convenient. It's an attempt to make up for our ignorance of what's going on -- which in our heart of hearts we understand is irremediable and definitive. Since it is important to know what's really happening, we Peruvians lie, invent, dream, and take refuge in illusion. Because of these strange circumstances, Peruvian life, a life in which so few actually do read, has become literary.

That's it in a nutshell. The story is a story. Eventually it's easy to go with the flow and not be concerned knowing whether we in the past of the present. I liked it. ( )
  Ed_Schneider | Sep 18, 2021 |
The Boom becomes respectable, considers its obscure origins, especially those draped in Campesino sloganeering. Regret ensues. (author may move to London here) Paint portrait of failed promise. Further geriatric machisimo may appear. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
This is a complex book, as much about storytelling as it is about the ostensible subject, the unsuccessful revolutionary Alejandro Mayta. Each chapter starts with a writer, who says he went to Catholic school with Mayta and has been interested in him ever since, interviewing someone who knew Mayta, but then switching, in typical Vargas Llosa style, back and forth without attribution between Mayta's life and the interviews. (The main action of the novel took place in the late 50s, the interviews 25 years later.) The writer assures everyone he talks to that he is making up the life of Mayta, that it will be fiction, and that he won't use their names. (Of course he does.)

It turns out that Mayta, as described by the writer, started caring about the poor early on and even limited his food so he could experience what they experienced. He later joined a very small offshoot of a very small communist party -- the Revolutionary Worker's Party (Trotskyist), or RWP(T) -- which only seems to have seven members. At a birthday party for a relative, he meets a lieutenant, Vallejos, who appears to be involved in a revolutionary plot in the Andes where he works running a jail in the town of Jauja. Mayta is entranced by the possibility of action, rather than talk, but fails to convince the other members of his party; in fact, they suggest that Vallejos might be an informer. And, it turns out, Mayta is gay, and that ultimately gets him kicked out of the RWP(T), although they state it is for more high-minded revolutionary reasons. Inevitably, Mayta goes to Jauja, the plot of course fails (but why?), and it is a mystery what happened to both Vallejos and Mayta until the very end of the novel. Through this plot, Vargas Llosa satirizes much "revolutionary" activity.

But this plot summary is infinitely more straightforward than the novel. Not only is it occasionally hard to figure out who is talking and what is happening, but part of the novel is about how the writer does his interviewing and what he makes up and what is real. At the end, the "truth" about Mayta is revealed. But is it true? The reader doesn't know.

I am a Vargas Llosa fan, but this wasn't one of my favorites of his.
2 vote rebeccanyc | Sep 26, 2015 |
A classic of its type. he story ranges in a time space continuum ranging back and forth without seeming rhyme or reason which can lead to confusion and abstraction for the chronologically inclined. The story is a political satire on revolution thought and action. Others have reviewed it far better tan I since I write this review with a long hindsight. I am adding this to me reread shelf...Once is never enough for some things and MVL, is one of those authors worth revisiting like an old freind ( )
  Phoenixangelfire | Apr 6, 2014 |
This story of a failed 1950's revolutionary epitomizes the way Vargas Llosa constructs a story. It is told as the story of an author investigating the life of Alejandro Mayta, an idealistic revolutionary from a small left wing party who is involved in a very small coup attempt in the mountains of Peru. Sometimes it is 1958 and the story is being told as it happens; sometimes it is 25 years later and the "author" is interviewing people who knew Mayta as he does research for his novel. Peru in the 80's is shown as a violent, dangerous place. The way the two time periods are run together without any break speaks of the timelessness of certain issues and the difficulty of determining "truth" either as it happens or as it is remembered. Altogether a wonderful book. ( )
  gbelik | Jun 10, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mario Vargas Llosaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Vargas Llosa, Mariomain authorall editionsconfirmed
İlkin, ArmağanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lappi-Seppäl&au… Jyrki(KÄÄnt.)secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mac Adam, Alfred J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wehr, ElkeÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Westra, MiekeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zaleska, EwaTł.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta is an astute psychological portrait of a modern revolutionary and a searching account of an old friend's struggle to understand him. First published in English in 1986, the novel probes the long and checkered history of radical politics in Latin America.

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