The principal feature of Arguedas' writing which distinguishes it most clearly from that of other indigenistas is the way in which he succeeded in penetrating the Indian mentality and capturing the essence of the Indian world-picture…. [The] indigenista novels of Arguedas are not works of denunciation, protest or propaganda; rather are they attempts to explore the cultural and social conflicts in Peru, and to reveal the significance of Indian values within Peruvian culture and society. (pp. 56-7)
[The] events of the narratives [in his first book Agua] are unimportant; they are almost incidental to Arguedas' main aims in writing these cuentos. One of those aims is to show the germination within the writer, as a child, of hatred…. (p. 57)
In addition to the bitterness of the collection, however, Agua reveals Arguedas' love of the Indians and the Sierra. (p. 58)
Another of Arguedas' aims in writing Agua was to attempt to achieve an adequate means of expression for works of fiction in which the Indian is a principal character. Both before and after Arguedas, the principal factor which has alienated the indigenista writers from their subject has been that of language: many indigenistas neither speak nor write in the language of their subjects, whether it be Aymara or Quechua. Even those who are in a position to write in the Indian tongue are discouraged from doing so by commercial and practical considerations, since both their readership and their status as writers would be restricted. By the very fact of their being indigenista, and not indígena writers, they are outsiders. Arguedas was in a position to choose between Quechua and Spanish, but if his aim was to correct the image of the Indian in the eyes of the non-Indian, he was obliged to write in the non-Indian's tongue. To compensate for this, and at the same time to reflect linguistically the internal view of the Indian's world, he sought [according to Mario Vargas Llosa] to 'encontrar en español un estilo que diera por su sintaxis, su ritmo y aun su vocabulario, el equivalente del idioma del indio' ['find in Spanish a style that would give through its syntax, its rhythm and even its vocabulary, the equivalent of the idiom of the Indian']…. (p. 59)
Despite the creation by Arguedas of a special Spanish for the Indians, however, the fact remains, as Arguedas was aware, that the Indians do not speak Spanish amongst themselves, and often not even with Spanish-speaking people…. When Arguedas opted for Spanish, he was inevitably making a compromise; the result is an artificial, literary language, even if different from the one from which he was trying to escape…. [It] is impossible, without a knowledge of Quechua, to say how far Arguedas has succeeded in capturing the peculiarities of that language; the writer himself admitted that on this score his word must be accepted….
[The stories in Agua contain an] underlying denunciation of feudalism, without dependence upon either rhetoric or ideology. Indigenismo for Arguedas does not mean militancy, but compassion. (p. 60)
[Los ríos profundos demonstrates] the confrontation that exists in Peru of two races and two cultures and the chasm that lies between them. This confrontation is demonstrated in the novel on an outward level—the hacendero of Patibamba and the colonos, the soldiers and the Indians who frequent the chicherías—but also on a deeper, more spiritual plane (and it is from this that the novel derives its strength) within one individual. Ernesto, the fourteen-year old mestizo narrator, is forced to live as a boarder at a school in Abancay. But everything that he encounters in reality seems alien to him, both at the school and in the town. Having been brought up in the company of Indians (like...
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