Book Notes: Santiago Roncagliolo’s Short Stories (Lejos)

Santiago Roncagliolo is my favorite young Peruvian writer. I mean, young, he’s my age but for a writer that’s still quite young. Lejos is a collection of his short stories, and I loved it more than anything by him I ever read.

The collection is supposed to be about people who travel, emigrate or move away, hence the title which means “far”. But there’s a much stronger theme that binds almost all of the stories in the collection – Peruvian manhood. The characters in these stories try to maneuver between a wild, out-of-control existence among men that is likely to kill them and an orderly, controlled life with women that often castrates them. Men and women in Roncagliolo’s stories are engaged in a mortal battle. They are truly from different planets, and the only way for them to stop destroying each other is to come together over the love for a child they create together.

The only story in the collection that is protagonized by a woman reads like a literary rendition on my recent post about female maturation. In this story, we see how a girl whose mother tramples all over her attempt to grow becomes a failed woman in adulthood. There’s even a wolf in the story. It’s uncanny.

Lejos is extremely funny. I scared half the airplane, gasping for air as I read the book. A flight attendant thought I was having a panic attack and that’s what was causing the wheezing noises I was making. I want to give a couple of quotes to share the joy:

The woman was around 60 years old, and it was clear she didn’t care what she looked like. Her husband was leafing through a book with a look of complete indifference. Gerardo tried to imagine this man experiencing some sort of erotic feeling but failed. He realized that the wife could let herself go all she wanted because it makes no sense to decorate an abode nobody will ever enter.

“Man in Water”

“Chino, what are you doing?”
“The police signaled that I should stop. So I stopped.”
“Chino, concentrate. We are driving with a bag of marijuana, 20 grams of cocaine, a bunch of pills of all kinds, 3 guns, and a dead body. Do me the favor and just step on the gas.”

“Internal Affairs”

Peruvian poets always kill themselves. Luis Hernández threw himself in front of a train. Vallejo was a living corpse. Moro went to work at a military school while gay.

“Pinned Butterflies”

One thought on “Book Notes: Santiago Roncagliolo’s Short Stories (Lejos)

  1. A bit off-topic, but …

    This didn’t take long:

    Coming to you live and direct from The Times/Sunday Times Twitter:

    “Owners of Roald Dahl ebooks are having their libraries automatically updated with the new censored versions containing hundreds of changes …”

    So would you like a short primer on how to jail break e-books with DRM?

    All of the software required will run on a Windows system, except for one piece that requires a Mac if you’re using Apple’s iBooks.

    The main piece of software organises the books in addition to enabling the jail break functionality, and once you have it set up, you’ll mostly stop using the book reader software provided by your DRM jail operator.


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