Saturday, January 06, 2007

Peruvian Literary Renaissance

Now, more than a decade after the waning of the Shining Path rebellion, the conflict's legacy is fuelling a literary renaissance. Peruvian writers are blazing a trail through Spanish and English language publishing with books exploring a saga as fascinating as it is painful.

In the past year two of the three top literary prizes in Spanish have been won by novelists from the capital, Lima. Alonso Cueto won the Herralde award for The Blue Hour, about a lawyer who discovers that his naval officer father tortured prisoners. Santiago Roncagliolo received the Alfaguara prize for Red April, which follows a prosecutor's attempt to unravel a murder in Ayacucho, a pre-Inca citadel which became a cradle of the Shining Path in the 1970s.

Daniel Alarcón, who was born in Lima but grew up in the US and writes in English, was shortlisted for the 2006 PEN/Hemingway award for his short story collection, War by Candlelight.

"For a writer this is one of the most stimulating environments you can have. Conflict is the basis of any type of storytelling," said Cueto, seated at a Lima cafe overlooking the Pacific where he does much of his work.

Lima's fog - Herman Melville said it was the saddest city he had ever seen - created an ambiguous atmosphere, said Cueto. "Never dark, never bright, it's somewhere in between."
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