City by the book: Lima & Llosa

Also from Peru – Mashed Potatoes Saved My Life: An Alternative Route to Mach Picchu 

I have to admit, Lima was not our favourite stop on the trip. Perhaps because we had just descended from the excitement of a four day Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu as well as the general hubbub of Cusco, or because we hadn’t the time or energy to venture out of Miraflores. That being said, after a week of non-stop altitude sickness, I greatly appreciated Lima’s sea level location.

My sister, not exactly ‘loving’ Lima!

The truth is, Lima appeared to us to be a bit nothing and it seems to be that way in Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Storyteller too. This novel picked for Lima because wikipedia classed it as ‘set in Lima’ instead offered much more insight into the more tropical areas of Peru that I had the opportunity to experience during the Salkantay trek.

There were of course references to Lima, that were very relatable as Llosa writes of how in Lima “even bright sunlight has a grayish cast” – while it is physically true of Lima’s haze it seems like a good metaphor too…

Yet since the characters of The Storyteller are fascinated with ethnology – the study of different groups of people and the relationships between them – much of the novel’s insight was very connected with the impression our trek guide Juan Carlos gave us of Peruvian, and particularly Inca culture, but also of the Amazonian world I would come to experience in Brazil, later in the trip.

My favourite part of the novel is probably more to do with the characters than the setting. I love when Saúl realises his passion for ethnology, I think Llosa has a really poetic way of describing the moment:

“He had discovered, without the slightest doubt, what it was that interested him in life. Not in a sudden flash, or with the same conviction as later; nonetheless, the extraordinary machinery had already been set in motion and little by little was pushing him one day here, another there, outlining the maze he eventually would enter, never to leave again”.

I can’t say I’ll be returning to Lima, but the rest of my Peruvian adventure was rich in stories, history and potatoes. I look forward to writing about Cusco, the trek and Machu Picchu!

Lima dog rating: 4/10 (but Peru as a country gets an 8!)

Last week: Cartagena & Márquez

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