Alarcón, Daniel. War by Candlelight. Story Collection New York: Harper Perennial, 2006. Born in Peru and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Alarcón returned to Peru on a Fulbright. As a result he wrote a series of short stories that evoke the sorrows and beauty of a ravaged land with a precision and steadiness that stand in inverse proportion to the magnitude of the losses he so powerfully dramatizes. Floods and earthquakes destroy what little equilibrium remains in a relentlessly violent world in which the authorities and the rebels are equally vicious and corrupt.
Alegria, Ciro. Broad and Alien Is the World. Chester Spring, Pennsylvania: Dufour Editions. This award-winning, lyric novel (El Mundo Es Ancho y Ajeno, 1941) was written by a celebrated Peruvian novelist who spent his career documenting the oppression of Peru’s indigenous peoples. Look also for Alegria’s other classic, The Golden Serpent (La Serpiente de Oro). The Spanish versions of these works are available in most bookstores in Peru.
Bryce Echenique, Alfredo. A World for Julius. University of Wisconsin Press, 2004. Bryce Echenique explores Peruvian society while describing a world of illusion created for little Julius, who eventually will have to fit perfectly in this society. A true masterpiece from one of Peru’s top novelists.
Vargas Llosa, Mario. Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. New York: Penguin, 1995. This autobiographical tale of taboo mixes radio scripts with the steamy romance that a young radio writer carries on with his aunt—this is Vargas Llosa with Julia Urquidi, who became his first wife. This was one of Vargas Llosa’s first novels revealing a glimpse into highbrow Lima society.
Vargas Llosa, Mario. Captain Pantoja and the Secret Service. New York: Harper Collins, 1978. This is the funny and ludicrous story of a faithful soldier, Pantaleón Pantoja, and his mission to begin a top-secret prostitution service for Peru’s military in Iquitos, Peru. His problem is that he is too successful.
Vargas Llosa, Mario. Conversation in the Cathedral. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005. This is one of Vargas Llosa’s masterworks. Conversation in the Cathedral takes place in 1950s Peru during the dictatorship of Manuel A. Odría. Over beers and a sea of freely spoken words, the conversation flows between Santiago and Ambrosio, who talk of their tormented lives and of the overall degradation and frustration that has slowly taken over their city. Through a complicated web of secrets and historical references, Vargas Llosa analyzes the mental and moral mechanisms that govern power and the people behind it. It is a groundbreaking novel that tackles identity as well as the role of a citizen and how a lack of personal freedom can forever scar people and a nation.
Vargas Llosa, Mario. The Green House. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005. Vargas Llosa’s classic early novel takes place in a Peruvian town, between desert and jungle, where Don Anselmo, a stranger in a black coat, builds a brothel, bringing together the innocent and the corrupt: Bonificia, a young Indian girl saved by the nuns, who becomes a prostitute; Father García, struggling for the church; and four best friends drawn to both excitement and escape.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition