Shielded by love
by Jack Flores
It is often said when you publish a book, your child is born, and that’s almost true. I say almost, because, although the book is the brainchild of oneself, has the characteristics of oneself, – the author also reflects the lives of others. If you do not have the empathy or affection of the reader, the book would have no literary value to add, and would fall into what is commonly called, ‘light reading’ or meaningless literature. Fortunately, this is not the case with “Mufida, La angolesa”, an excellent book of stories written by a Peruvian who resides in Scotland, Jorge Aliaga Cacho, (now back in Peru).
The book, for those not lucky enough to have read it yet, is composed of seven stories, all very well structured with impeccable style and, most notably, set among a homeland ‘on the move’, as they say. There is something surprising about the idiosyncrasy of the inhabitants of Peru: their love and nostalgia for things their own. But we readers will also find in their reflections, the personality of the author, and there we find a gem: his interest in social concerns. This is the backbone that connects almost all his works. Examples: KLM Vuelo 236, Memorias de Festival, El Retorno, La Rectora, etc. I confess that few, very few times, have I read a writer living abroad that is rooted in social justice, the common good and who has a longing for a better future, (a future far superior than the one craved by those Peruvians seeking to ‘escape’ to a foreign country), without being a pamphleteer or far from convincing. This book is the exception. Here are some samples, one or two pearls; “La Rectora”, set in a school in Lima, tells us the story of the student Pimbolo, who because he defended a black classmate victimised and bullied by his teacher, was suspended from school. His mother after hearing this, visits the jail where his father is a political prisoner (due to having written an article denouncing government corruption). Upon listening to the facts, he gives a surprising retort, as we read in the final paragraph:
“El Sexto” was crowded with political prisoners. Don Rogger saw Dora rushing hastily towards him, ready to recount what had happened to Pimbolo. She told him frantically that Pimbolo had been insubordinate towards his teacher’s authority by defending a black child. As this happens, a smile was reflected in Don Rogger’s eyes:
“Dora, we are winning, we are winning, Dora.” said Don Rogger. The story ends there.
But this is not the only story where the author reveals his political ideals. They are also reflected in “KLM flight 236. ” The protagonist is a Peruvian waiting at Lima’s Jorge Chàvez airport, with designs to leave the country. His partner is with him, a foreign woman, Bzyana, and both hope to reach London. ”Flavio looked sick, skeletal. Bzyana however was a picture of health. Flavio thought that in her case, the poverty, repression and famine of the Peruvian eighties had left her unmarked.” The story continues with the protagonist being detained at Bogota airport during a stop over, where he suffers abuse from the guards who mistake him for a drug dealer. “Hands up!” He raised his sweaty hands. He thought of Peru, the police methodology in this country was the same as in his own. He noted that these things only seemed to happen to Latin Americans.” It continues with the fear of being detained in London, which does not occur thanks to his partner. The story has a happy ending, with a depth of compassion and sorrow, deep sorrow. ”Through the glass of the windowpane, Flavio saw the last light of day softly disappear. Flavio embraced Bzyana, and closed his eyes, as if embracing life itself. She fell asleep. Flavio was immersed in her breasts and, like a child, he cried …. “
The hero had escaped and become shielded by love … in exile.
But, be careful, do not believe that the things author, Jorge Aliaga Cacho, writes have happened. No. A literary work is a mixture of reality and imagination, which ends up being fiction. Put it at full volume: it is a lie, but a lie that has a lot of truth, a truth supported, reinforced, spurred on, and loved by the reader. Who has not been tempted into exile? In order to flee a dictatorship or look for a better future? Thousands. This is why I assert that, among the few books that tell this story, “Mufida, La angolesa”, may be the only one that palpably renders this unfortunate Peruvian tradition of mass emigration, which thankfully, has started to change.
The book has other merits: style, sentence structure, views, etc,- but perhaps due to my obsession (and space limitations) –I focus on this: the Peruvian saga of those fleeing to ‘live the dream’.
Undoubtedly, one of the good books, perhaps the most recent, written by a compatriot living abroad, who never forgets that behind him there was, is, and always will be an entire nation. A round of applause.
(Translated by JAC and ST).