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Comment: The item is fairly worn but continues to work perfectly. Signs of wear can include aesthetic issues such as scratches, dents, and worn corners. All pages and the cover are intact, but the dust cover may be missing. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting, but the text is not obscured or unreadable.
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The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta: A Novel Paperback – June 24, 1998

4.1 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Despair hangs over this somber novel, a desolation as omnipresent as the garbage dumped on the streets of the author's native Lima. The setting is Peru in the near future, a military dictatorship besieged by Cuban-backed rebels and defended by U.S. Marines. An unnamed writer interviews people who were involved with his former classmate, Mayta, an idealistic radical whose journey through the various sects of the Peruvian left eventually led to his participation in a pathetic, doomed uprising in 1958. The writer seeks to understand what prompted Mayta to make this futile gesture, but finds only a tangle of disputed facts and self-serving statements; Mayta, he is told, was a homosexual, a police informant, even a thief. What is the truth? "Since it is impossible to know what's really happening, we Peruvians lie, invent, dream, and take refuge in illusions . . . Peruvian life, a life in which so few actually do read, has become literary." Readers acquainted with the author's previous work will recognize this as a central theme in all his writing, but not even in The War of the End of the World was it stated so flatly, so bleakly. The sourness and hopelessness of Vargas Llosa's vision are sadly appropriate to the terrible situation in Latin America today, but they give the novel a mean tone that's difficult to appreciate. Mayta is a book one can admire and respect without really liking it very much. U.K. rights: Faber & Faber; translation rights: Carmen Balcells. January
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Like his highly praised The War of the End of the World ( LJ 9/1/84), Vargas Llosa's new novel is based on a historical incident and points to the futility of fanaticism in politics. The narrator is a novelist investigating the life of Mayta, who participated in a fiasco of a rebellion 30 years before. To those he interviews the narrator readily admits his intention to write a novel, and the novel he writes is a skillful blend of events and his investigations into them. When asked why he goes to so much trouble digging up the past, he answers, "Because I'm a realist, in my novels I always try to lie knowing why I do it." The real fascination in this novel is that it is the story of its own creation. L.M. Lewis, Social Science Dept., Eastern Kentucky Univ., Richmond
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (June 24, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374525552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374525552
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #925,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
I can't resist the chance to be the first reviewer of this superb work. If you haven't read books by Llosa, you should, and this is a great place to start. The plot and writing style of the book call to mind the complexities and sense of fun in Nabokov and Pynchon, but with a strong sense of heart that both of the other authors are often faulted for lacking. The story is this: A writer in contemporary Peru decides to write a novel about a failed revolution of the 1960's that was perpetrated by a high school classmate (Alejandro Mayta). The novel begins in the present with his idea, his current recollections of the classmate from long ago, his interviews with people associated with the failed revolt and then, voila, there is a subtle transition (well done in the translation) between the idea and research for the story and then the novel actually appearing on the page as the author begins to obtain more mastery over the material. The amazing shift between "I want to write this guy's story" and then the story actually taking over the novel is artfully done. But, in addition to the stylistic triumph, the book has some wonderful themes, especially the hazy line between truth and fiction that is illuminated by an end-of-novel encounter, in the present, between the author and the subject, now imprisoned, of his novel. Without spoiling it, all is not as it appears and the book raises the question about whether any author can pen any "Real Life" but his own.
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Format: Paperback
People always repeat the phrase, "don't judge a book by its cover", but the cover of my copy of THE REAL LIFE OF ALEJANDRO MAYTA expresses the content more appropriately than almost any other cover I can remember in that it points directly to Peru and the central problem of literature. A mass of Peruvian-style figures stand in darkness, almost obscured. You have to look carefully to see them at all. A single chink in the cell door, a single beam of light in a dark place---all that is revealed in color are the eyes and brow of a solitary man. Do we know what is happening in Peru---exploited, misgoverned, racked by revolution and poverty ? Can we know what really happens in life ? Can we understand the motivations and deepest emotions of other human beings ? Can literature actually create or, at least, reproduce these ?
Vargas Llosa creates a gripping novel out of unlikely pieces. An obscure Trotskyite revolutionary, a member of a party whose membership stands at seven, gets involved in an uprising in an Andean town in 1958. The author-as-narrator is in Paris at the time. He returns to Peru later and in 1983, spends a year trying to track down the people involved (family, colleagues, co-conspirators), to learn what motivated this event and its central character, Alejandro Mayta. He interviews everyone he can find. We jump between these interviews and the re-creation (or is it the actual truth ?) of what happened twenty-five years before. The time line is obscured. We shift constantly between two or more times on every other page, sometimes even on one page. This is a literary trick which some people may find annoying or disconcerting, yet I urge you to stay with the novel.
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This is a near-masterpiece, albeit one with an Achilles heel -- which I will get to towards the end of this review. For the first 288 pages (out of 310), the story is that of a novelist writing about an erstwhile revolutionary named Alejandro Mayta, who, we are told, had been the narrator's friend when they were in grade school in Lima. The big event in Mayta's life had been a peasant revolt twenty-five years earlier (in 1958) in the Andean city of Juaja, a revolt that ended in farcical failure. In each of the first nine chapters, the novelist interviews different people from Mayta's past about Mayta, the small Trotskyist splinter group he belonged to, the events leading up to the "revolution", and its pathetic denouement. In the final chapter, the novelist finally interviews Mayta himself, now over sixty, in broken health and working in an ice cream parlor.

There are three principal themes. One involves revolutionary politics and ideology. The first half of the novel contains a brilliant exposition of the dynamics, patterns, and pretenses of revolutionary thought -- somewhat like an updated version of Joseph Conrad's "Under Western Eyes". Without being satirical, the novel is withering in its psychological portrayal of revolutionary groups. (One ex-revolutionary comments that the work of the Revolutionary Workers Party had been a joke: "A serious joke, of course, for the men who dedicated their lives to it and got screwed. A tragic joke for the ones who got killed. And a joke in bad taste for the ones who dried out their brains writing jerk-off pamphlets and getting caught up in sterile polemics.
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Format: Paperback
I started this book with a slight hesitation. I wasn't so sure if I'd really enjoy a novel about South/Central American politics. What I found instead was a brilliant book that walks the line between invention and reality. The surprise ending of this book is not quite as explosive as the endign to The sixth sense (but almost.) This book is fascinating in the combination of the erotic with the poetic. And then in the last chapter, rather than feeling unforgiving for the fact that I'd been "deceived", I was thrilled that I HAD the wool pulled over my eyes. How? you may ask? I will not say any more. Let's just say that this story on a writer's quest for truth, and the truth as he sees it is a great intoroduction to the works of Vargas Llosa, and one that you won't be able to get out of your mind. Don't be surprised if you find yourself up at night thinking on the myriad plot points. That's when you know a book really was worth your time.
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