By Andrea Silva Santisteban Fort, October 29 2021—
With this article, I wanted to provide some recommendations of books I read in high school that you probably haven’t as I think these can be enjoyed in or out of the classroom. Some of these books could also work as an introduction to Latin American literature.
The Life and Adventures of Lazarillo de Tormes (El Lazarillo de Tormes) by Anonymous:
This book is one read from Spanish literature. El Lazarillo de Tormes tells the story of a young man who, due to his humble origins, is forced to work as a servant for a diverse range of masters, each of whom teaches him different life lessons. This book is written as a letterby Lazarillo himself explaining to vuestra merced — this is the literary translation from Spanish, a way of saying your majesty — and how he has reached this point in his life.
An extremely interesting component is the cast of secondary characters, in other words, the masters, which vary from a blind man who talks about fortune to a member of the nobility whose appearance disguises a life of misery. Overall, this book is a highly entertaining historical piece that invites you to reflect on societal issues.
The Blue Hour (La hora azul) by Alonso Cueto:
The Blue Hour is a novel written by Alonso Cueto in 2005 that tells the story of Adrián Ormache, a successful lawyer who resides in an affluent area of Lima and seems to have a perfect life. However, his peace and stability are interrupted by the discovery of Miriam, a woman who his father held as a prisoner during his military service.
During the decades of terrorism in Peru, many military officers abused their power and captured civilians they considered a “threat.” The terrorist group, Sendero Luminoso, or The Shining Path, was not the only side that committed atrocities and acts against humanity. The military forces could not be trusted by the civilian population, whose supposed duty was to protect them. This resulted in the sexual and physical abuse of many women in rural and disconnected areas such as the city of Ayacucho in Peru.
The plot of this book is based on Adrian’s search for answers about his family’s past and the wounds his estranged father left in the life of the mysterious Miriam. This dramatic and moving story is told with the suspense and intrigue of a gripping detective novel. Set in the 1990s in Peru, The Blue Hour is a journey into the hidden side of families and a story of reconciliation. I think this book also gives an interesting look at what happened in such a dark time in Peruvian history.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Crónica de muerte anunciada) by Gabriel García Márquez:
I think the best way to recommend this book to you is to tell you its first sentence — “On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at 5:30 a.m. to wait for the ship in which the bishop was arriving.”
The fluidity of the narrative, the contribution of each secondary character and how the author uses time as a tool to reconstruct the events that caused the murder of Santiago Nasar are factors that make this book a capturing read. So please if you are taking one recommendation from this article, let it be this one!
Who killed Palomino Molero? (¿Quién mató a Palomino Molero?) by Mario Vargas Llosa:
This book is an intense detective novel filled with suspense and tension. The book begins with the discovery of the brutally murdered body of a young recruit, Palomino Molero, from a nearby military base in Talara, located in northern Peru. Lieutenant Silva — a shrewd, intuitive man — along with his assistant Lituma — a novice but skilled guard — are charged with solving the murder.
However, their investigation is hampered by people who do not want the truth to be known, bureaucratic networks and corruption in the upper echelons of the military. Vargas Llosa uses the structure of a crime fiction narrative to examine the darker side of human nature, corruption, and class prejudice in Peruvian society. Overall, this makes up for an incredible mystery novel, set in a Latin-American context.