FIL, political tension and the opportunity to meet new feathers from Peru

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Guadalajara (Mexico) (AFP) – The heat of its volatile political environment has marked Peru’s participation as guest of honor at the Guadalajara book fair (FIL), while opening an opportunity for new voices from its literary scene to make themselves known.

The authors of the invited delegation recognize the crisis, but also the creative opportunity that it brings.

They then greet the plurality of poetic and narrative records of the delegation, as well as a notorious identity interest, where feminism and the vindication of indigenous languages ​​stand out.

But the tensions generated by conflicting political views almost broke Peruvian participation in the event.

“There is a moment that seems potential to me, that has power, with another moment that already represents the past, some authors who are in the rear and yet are widely read,” says 45-year-old novelist Richard Parra to the AFP.

The author of “Resina” (Seix Barral, 2019) believes that the success of those authors responds to the use of a standard language that adheres to models established by the market “without greater linguistic, historical and literary penetration”.

“I grab the tongue from the street (…) from there I transform it into something else as I can,” contrasts Parra, who explores the transformation of words and humor.

Miluska Benavides, recognized among the 25 best Hispanic storytellers under 35 by the British magazine Granta, also highlights a generation of authors who are the fruit of a “new Peruvian social landscape.”

The daughter of Andean migrants, many displaced to large cities by poverty and the violence of the Maoist guerilla Shining Path in the 1980s, Benavides takes up those origins, as well as the influence of authors such as Miguel Gutiérrez or Pilar Dughi.

Part of a scene of “new urban identities based on their own materials and origin” is also assumed.

Crisis before FIL

But the vindictive eagerness of the government of Pedro Castillo, the first leftist president of peasant origin in decades, almost destroyed the delegation.

In September, his government landed a dozen authors arguing that indigenous or provincial writers who had not had the opportunity to appear on the international stage should be privileged.

The decision excluded authors such as Gabriela Wiener, Karina Pacheco or Renato Cisneros from FIL and precipitated the joint resignation of figures such as Santiago Roncagliolo.

The incident occurred days after a similar one in Colombia, where the government of Iván Duque clashed with renowned writers who denounced having been excluded from the Madrid Book Fair for their political position.

Roncagliolo explains that “many writers felt that the State despised” the work of retired authors and therefore left the delegation.

The “ups and downs of politics” determined a selection of authors little known, even to Peruvians, says Roncagliolo, but who represent the “different and often contradictory” voices and realities of contemporary Peru.

“This fair is an opportunity to discover them,” the author of “Abril Rojo” told AFP.

Controversial Vargas Llosa

It also caused Mario Vagas Llosa, a Nobel Prize winner and totemic figure in Peruvian literature, to say that it was a “lamentable performance” without “real writers.”

For Diego Trelles, author of “La Procesión Infinita” (Anagrama, 2016) a finalist novel for the Herralde Prize, Vargas Llosa’s statements were “revanchists and despicable”, in addition to a lack of respect.

“Vargas Llosa also uses these spaces that open up to him to make political platforms,” ​​adds Trelles, based in Paris.

This writer links his criticism to the endorsement that the Nobel laureate granted months ago to Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the convicted former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), during the elections that Castillo finally won.

The Nobel Prize’s unexpected support came after almost 30 years of having denounced the former Peruvian president, against whom he lost the 1990 presidential elections, as a dictator and a murderer.

FIL itself faces internal friction in Mexico, particularly since the presidency of the leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Last Monday, the president questioned alleged payments by the organizers to Vargas Llosa, also a severe critic of López Obrador.

Despite rejecting his political performance, Parra and Trelles agree in their respect for a writer “who formed us”, but whose influence as “literary father” is giving way and giving way to new proposals.

We wish to thank the author of this write-up for this remarkable material

FIL, political tension and the opportunity to meet new feathers from Peru