A Fish in the Water

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

A FISH IN THE WATER recalls Mario Vargas Llosa’s failed three-year campaign for presidency of Peru between 1987 and 1990. An acclaimed author of labyrinthine, sometimes metafictional novels, Vargas Llosa finds himself popular enough to consider the presidency after publishing an article objecting to the Aprista government’s proposal to nationalize businesses of Peru. Vargas Llosa then writes up extensive plans for governing based on free market principles, enlists the help of two established parties to help give his political movement a national infrastructure, and gives rallies across the country promoting his cause. Problems soon arise, however, as Vargas Llosa proves a poor politician. Many Peruvians perceive him as aloof, questioning his writerly duplicity. Fluent on the page, Vargas Llosa finds he has difficulty conveying a strong sense of himself to the populace, who, under a barrage of negative publicity, grow to associate him with the rich. In part, this memoir constitutes Vargas Llosa’s attempt to defend himself as he could not do during his campaign.

Vargas Llosa defends slurs against his character by interspersing his campaign with early memories of his childhood in Peru. Readers learn of his father’s tyranny that instilled him with a keen sense of revolt against dictatorships, his early marriage to his Aunt Julia, and the many jobs he had to hold down in order the make a living. Vargas Llosa shares with the reader the evolution his...

(The entire section is 429 words.)