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Death in the Andes (English Edition) van [Mario Vargas Llosa]

Death in the Andes (English Edition) Kindle-editie

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Kindle-editie, 18 oktober 2012
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Hardcover € 37,85
Paperback € 94,00



"Peru's best novelist--one of the world's best." --John Updike, The New Yorker

"Well-knit social criticism as trenchant as any by Balzac or Flaubert . . . This is a novel that plumbs the heart of the Americas." --The Washington Post Book World

"Remarkable . . . a fantastically picturesque landscape of Indians and llamas, snowy peaks, hunger, and violence." --Raymond Sokolov, The Wall Street Journal

"Meticulously realistic descriptions of this high, unforgiving landscape and the haunted people who perch there . . . merge into a surreal portrait of a place both specific and universal." --Time

--Deze tekst verwijst naar een alternatieve kindle_edition editie.

Fragment. Herdrukt met toestemming. Alle rechten voorbehouden.

Death in the Andes

By Mario Vargas Llosa

Picador USA

Copyright ©2007 Mario Vargas Llosa
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312427252

Chapter One

WHEN HE SAW the Indian woman appear at the doorof the shack, Lituma guessed what she was going to say. And shedid say it, but she was mumbling in Quechua while the salivagathered at the corners of her toothless mouth.

"What's she saying, Tomasito?"

"I couldn't catch it, Corporal."

The Civil Guard addressed her in Quechua, indicating withgestures that she should speak more slowly. The woman repeatedthe indistinguishable sounds that affected Lituma like savage music.He suddenly felt very uneasy.

"What's she saying?"

"It seems her husband disappeared," murmured his adjutant."Four days ago."

"That means we've lost three," Lituma stammered, feeling theperspiration break out on his face. "Son of a bitch."

"So what should we do, Corporal?"

"Take her statement." A shudder ran up and down Lituma'sspine. "Have her tell you what she knows."

"But what's going on?" exclaimed the Civil Guard. "First themute, then the albino, now one of the highway foremen. It can'tbe, Corporal."

Maybe not, but it was happening, and now for the third time.Lituma pictured the blank faces and icy narrow eyes that the peoplein Naccos--laborers at the camp and comuneros, the Indians fromthe traditional community--would all turn toward him when heasked if they knew the whereabouts of this woman's husband, andhe felt the same discouragement and helplessness he had experiencedearlier when he tried to question them about the other menwho were missing: heads shaking no, monosyllables, evasiveglances, frowns, pursed lips, a presentiment of menace. It wouldbe no different this time.

Tomas had begun to question the woman, writing her answersin a little notebook, using a blunt pencil that he moistened fromtime to time with his tongue. "The terrorists, the damn terrucos,aren't too far away," thought Lituma. "Any night now they'll beall over us." The disappearance of the albino had also been reportedby a woman: they never did find out if she was his mother or hiswife. The man had gone out to work, or was on his way homefrom work, and never reached his destination. Pedrito had gonedown to the village to buy the two Civil Guards a bottle of beer,and he never came back. No one had seen them, no one had noticedany fear, apprehension, sickness in them before they vanished. Hadthe hills just swallowed them up? After three weeks, CorporalLituma and Civil Guard Tomas Carrefio were as much in the darkas on the first day. And now it had happened a third time. Son ofa bitch. Lituma wiped his hands on his trousers.

It had begun to rain. The huge drops rattled the tin roof witha loud, unrhythmic noise. It was not yet three in the afternoon,but the storm had blackened the sky, and it seemed as dark as night.In the distance, thunder rolled through the mountains with anintermittent rumbling that rose from the bowels of the earth wherethe serruchos, these damn mountain people, thought that bulls,serpents, condors, and spirits lived. Do the Indians really believeall that? Sure they do, Corporal, they even pray to them and leaveofferings. Haven't you seen the little plates of food by the cavesand gullies in the Cordillera? When they told him these things atDionisio's cantina, or during a soccer game, Lituma never knew ifthey were serious or making fun of him, a man from the coast.From time to time, through a crack in one of the walls of the shack,a yellowish viper bit at the clouds. Did the mountain people reallybelieve that lightning was the lizard of the sky? The curtains ofrain had erased the barracks, the cement mixers, the steamrollers,the jeeps, the huts of the comuneros among the eucalyptus treeson the hill facing the post. "As if they had all disappeared," hethought. There were some two hundred laborers, from Ayacuchoand Apurimac, and especially from Huancayo and Concepcion inJunin, and Pampas in Huancavelica. Nobody from the coast, as faras he knew. Not even his adjutant was a coastal man. But thoughhe was a native of Sicuani and spoke Quechua, Tomas seemed morelike a mestizo. He had brought Pedro Tinoco with him when hecame to Naccos. The little mute had been the first to disappear.

Carreno was a man without guile, though somewhat given tomelancholy. At night he would confide in Lituma, and he knewhow to open himself to friendship. The corporal told him soon afterhe arrived: "You're the kind of man who should have been bornon the coast. Even in Piura, Tomasito." "I know that's a real complimentcoming from you, Corporal." Without his company, lifein this wilderness would have been grim. Lituma sighed. What washe doing in the middle of the barrens with sullen, suspicious serruchoswho killed each other over politics and, as if that weren'tenough, went missing too? Why wasn't he back home? He imaginedhimself at the Rio Bar, surrounded by beers and the Invincibles,his lifelong buddies, on a hot Piuran night filled with stars, waltzes,and the smell of goats and carob trees. A wave of sadness made histeeth ache.

"I'm finished, Corporal," said the guard. "The lady reallydoesn't know too much. And she's scared to death. Can't you tell?"

"Say we'll do everything we can to find her husband."

Lituma attempted a smile and gestured to the Indian that shecould go. She continued looking at him, impassive. Tiny and ageless,with bones as fragile as a bird's, she was almost invisible underall her skirts and the shabby, drooping hat. But there was somethingunbreakable in her face and narrow, wrinkled eyes.

"It seems she was expecting something to happen to her husband,Corporal. 'It had to happen, it was bound to happen,' shesays. But of course she never heard of terrucos or the Senderomilitia. "

With not even a nod of goodbye, the woman turned and wentout to face the downpour. In a few moments her figure dissolvedinto the lead-colored rain as she walked back to camp. For a longwhile the two men said nothing.

Finally, the voice of the adjutant rang in Lituma's ears as ifhe were offering condolences: "I'll tell you something. You and Iwon't get out of here alive. They have us surrounded, what's thepoint of kidding ourselves?"

Lituma shrugged. Usually he was the one who felt demoralized,and Carreno had to cheer him up. Today they had changedplaces.

"Don't brood about it, Tomasito. Otherwise, when they docome, we'll be in such bad shape we won't even be able to defendourselves."

The wind rattled the sheets of tin on the roof, and little gushesof rain spattered the interior of the cabin. Surrounded by a protectivestockade of sacks filled with stones and dirt, their quartersconsisted of a single room divided by a wooden screen. On oneside was the Civil Guard post, with a board across two sawhorses--thedesk--and a trunk where the omcial record book andservice reports and documents were kept. On the other side, nextto each other for lack of space, stood two cots. The guards usedkerosene lamps and had a battery-operated radio that could pickup Radio Nacional and Radio Junin if there were no atmosphericdisturbances. The corporal and his adjutant spent entire afternoonsand evenings glued to the set, trying to hear the news from Limaor Huancayo. There were lamb and sheep skins on the packed-dirtfloor, and straw mats, a camp stove with a Primus burner, pots,some crockery, their suitcases, and a dilapidated wardrobe--thearmory--where they stored rifles, boxes of ammunition, and asubmachine gun. They always carried their revolvers and kept themunder their pillows at night. Sitting beneath a faded image of theSacred Heart--an Inca Cola advertisement--they listened to therain for several minutes.

"I don't think they killed those men, Tomasito," Lituma saidat last. "They probably took them away to the militia. The threeof them may even have been terrucos. Does Sendero ever disappearpeople? They just kill them and leave their leaflets behind to leteverybody know who did it."

"Pedrito Tinoco a terrorist? No, Corporal, I guarantee hewasn't," said Tomas. "And that means Sendero is right outside thedoor. The terrucos won't sign us up in their militia. They'll chopus into hamburger. Sometimes I think the only reason you and Iwere sent here was to be killed."

"That's enough brooding." Lituma stood up. "Fix us somecoffee for this shit weather. Then we'll worry about the latest one.What was his name again?"

"Demetrio Chanca, Corporal. Foreman of a blasting crew."

"Don't they say things come in threes? With this one we'llprobably solve the mystery of what happened to the other two."

The guard went to take down tin cups from their hooks andlight the Primus.

"When Lieutenant Pancorvo told me back in Andahuaylas thatthey were sending me to this hole, I thought, 'Great, in Naosthe terrucos will finish you off, Carrenito, and the sooner thebetter,' " Tomas said softly. "I was tired of living. At least that'swhat I thought, Corporal. But seeing how scared I am now, I guessI don't want to die after all."

"Only a damn fool wants to die before his time," assertedLituma. "There are some fantastic things in this life, though youwon't find any around here. Did you really want to die? Can I askwhy, when you're so young?"

"What else could it be?" The guard laughed as he placed thecoffeepot over the blue-red flame of the Primus.

The boy was thin and bony but very strong, with alert, deepseteyes, sallow skin, and jutting white teeth--on sleepless nightsLituma could see them gleaming in the dark.

The corporal ventured a guess, licking his lips. "Some sweetlittle dame must have broken your heart."

"Who else would break your heart?" Tomasito was visiblymoved. "And besides, you can feel proud: she was Piuran too."

"A hometown girl," Lituma approved, smiling. "How aboutthat."

The altitude did not agree with la petite Michele--she had complainedof a pressure in her temples like the one she got at thosehorror movies he loved, and of a vague, general malaise--but, evenso, she was stirred by the rugged, desolate landscape. Albert, onthe other hand, felt marvelously well. As if he had spent his entirelife at an altitude of three or four thousand meters, among sharppeaks stained with snow, and occasional flocks of llamas crossingthe narrow road. The old bus rattled so much it sometimes seemedabout to break apart as it faced the potholes, ruts, and rocks thatconstantly challenged its ruined body. The young French couplewere the only foreigners, but they did not seem to attract theattention of their traveling companions, who did not even lookaround when they heard them speaking a foreign language. Theother passengers wore shawls, ponchos, and an occasional Andeancap with earflaps as protection against the approaching night, andcarried bundles, packages, tin suitcases. One woman even had cacklinghens with her. But nothing--not the uncomfortable seat or thejolting or the crowding--bothered Albert and la petite Michele.

"Ca va mieux?" he asked.

"Oui, un peu mieux. "

And a moment later la petite Michele said aloud what Alberthad also been thinking: he had been right at the Pension El Milagroin Lima, when they argued over whether to travel by bus or planeto Cuzco. On the advice of the man at the embassy, she had wantedto fly, but he insisted so much on the overland route that la petiteMichele finally gave in. She did not regret it. On the contrary. Itwould have been a shame to miss this.

"Of course it would," Albert exclaimed, pointing through thecracked pane of the small window. "Isn't it fabulous?"

The sun was going down, and a sumptuous peacock's tailopened along the horizon. An expanse of dark green flatland ontheir left, with no trees, no houses, no people or animals, wasbrightened by watery flashes, as if there might be streams or lagoonsamong the clumps of yellow straw. On the right, however, thererose a craggy, perpendicular terrain of towering rocks, chasms, andgorges.

"Tibet must be like this," murmured la petite Michele.

"I assure you this is more interesting than Tibet," repliedAlbert. "I told you so: Le Perou, ga vaut le Perou!"

It was already dark in front of the old bus, and the temperaturebegan to drop. A few stars were shining in the deep blue sky."Brrr . . ." La petite Michele shivered. "Now I understand whythey all wear so many clothes. The weather changes so much inthe Andes. In the morning the heat is suffocating, and at night it'slike ice."

"This trip will be the most important thing that ever happensto us, you'll see," said Albert.

Someone had turned on a radio, and after a series of metallicsputterings there was a burst of sad, monotonous music.

Albert identified the instruments. "Charangos and quenas. InCuzco we'll buy a quena. And we'll learn to dance the huayno."

"We'll put on a costume party at school," fantasized la petiteMichele. "La nuit peruvienne! Le tout Cognac will come."

"If you want to sleep a little, you can lean on me," Albertsuggested.

"I've never seen you so happy." She smiled at him.

"I've dreamed about this for two years," he agreed. "Savingmy money, reading about the Incas, about Peru. Imagining all this."

"And you haven't been disappointed." His companionlaughed. "Well, neither have I. I'm grateful to you for urging meto come. I think the Coramine Glucose is working. The altitudeisn't bothering me as much, and it's easier to breathe."

A moment later, Albert heard her yawn. He put his armaround her shoulders and leaned her head against him. In a littlewhile, in spite of the jolting and bouncing of the bus, la petiteMichele was asleep. He knew he would not close his eyes. He wastoo full of excitement, too eager to retain everything in his memoryand recall it later, to write it down in the journal he had scrawledin each night since boarding the train in the Cognac station, andthen, later still, to talk about it in detail, with only an occasionalexaggeration, to his copains. He would show slides to his studentswith the projector he would borrow from Michele's father. Le Perou!There it was: immense, mysterious, gray-green, poverty-stricken,wealthy, ancient, hermetic. Peru was this lunar landscape and theimpassive, copper-colored faces of the women and men who surroundedthem. Impenetrable, really. Very different from the facesthey had seen in Lima, the whites, blacks, mestizos with whomthey had managed, however badly, to communicate. But somethingimpassable separated him from the serranos, the mountain people.He had made several attempts, in his poor Spanish, to engage hisneighbors in conversation, with absolutely no success. "It isn't racethat separates us, it's an entire culture," la petite Michele remindedhim. These were the real descendants of the Incas, not the peoplein Lima; their ancestors had carried the gigantic stones up to theaeries of Machu Picchu, the sanctuary-fortress he and his friendwould explore in three days' time.

Night had fallen, and in spite of his desire to stay awake, hefelt himself succumbing to a sweet lightheadedness. "If I fall asleep,I'll get a crick in my neck," he thought. They were in the thirdseat on the right, and as he sank into sleep, Albert heard the driverbegin to whistle. Then it seemed as if he were swimming in coldwater. Shooting stars fell in the immensity of the altiplano. He felthappy, although he regretted that, like a hairy mole on a prettyface, the spectacle was marred by the ache in his neck, his extremediscomfort at not being able to rest his head on something soft.Suddenly, someone shook him roughly.

"Are we in Andahuaylas already?" he asked in a daze.

"I don't know what's going on," la petite Michele whispered inhis ear.

He rubbed his eyes and there were cylinders of light movinginside and outside the bus. He heard muffled voices, whispers, ashout that sounded like an insult, and he sensed confused movementeverywhere. It was the dead of night, and a myriad of stars twinkledthrough the broken windowpane.

"I'll ask the driver what's happening."

La petite Michele did not let him stand up.

"Who are they?" he heard her say. "I thought they were soldiers,but no, look, people are crying."

Faces appeared fleetingly, then disappeared in the movementof the lanterns. There seemed to be a lot of them. They surroundedthe bus and now, awake at last, his eyes growing accustomed tothe darkness, Albert saw that several had their faces covered withknitted balaclavas that revealed no more than their eyes. And thatglinting had to be weapons, what else could it be?

"The man at the embassy was right," murmured the girl,trembling from head to foot. "We should have taken the plane, Idon't know why I listened to you. You can guess who they are,can't you?"

Someone opened the bus door and a blast of cold air ruffledtheir hair. Two faceless silhouettes came in, and for a few secondsAlbert was blinded by their lanterns. They gave an order he didnot understand. They repeated it, more emphatically.

"Don't be afraid," he whispered into la petite Michele's ear. "Itdoesn't have anything to do with us, we're tourists."

All the passengers had stood up and, hands on their heads,were beginning to climb out of the bus.

"Nothing will happen," Albert repeated. "We're foreigners,I'll explain it to them. Come on, let's get out."

They climbed down, lost in the press of passengers, and whenthey were outside, the icy wind cut their faces. They remained inthe crowd, very close together, their arms entwined. They hearda few words, some whispers, and Albert could not make out whatthey were saying. But they were speaking Spanish, not Quechua.

"Senor, por favor?" He pronounced the words syllable by syllable,speaking to the man wrapped in a poncho who stood next tohim, and a thundering voice immediately roared: "Quiet!" Betternot open his mouth. The time would come for him to explain whothey were and why they were here. La petite Michele clutched athis arm with both hands, and Albert could feel her nails throughhis heavy jacket. Someone's teeth were chattering: were they his?

Those who had stopped the bus barely spoke among themselves.They had surrounded the passengers, and there were a goodnumber of them: twenty, thirty, maybe more. What did they want?In the shifting light of the lanterns, Albert and la petite Michelecould see women among their assailants. Some in balaclavas, otherswith their faces bare, some armed with guns, others carrying sticksand machetes. All of them young.

The darkness was shattered by another order that Albert didnot understand either. Their traveling companions began to searchtheir pockets and wallets and hand over identification papers. Albertand his friend took their passports from the packs they wore aroundtheir waists. La petite Michele was trembling more and more violently,but to avoid provoking them he did not dare to comfort her,to reassure her that as soon as these people opened their passportsand saw that they were French tourists, the danger would be over.Perhaps they would take their dollars. They weren't carrying muchcash, fortunately. The traveler's checks were hidden in Albert'sfalse waistband and with a little luck might not even be found.

Three of them began to walk among the lines of passengers,collecting documents. When they came to him, Albert handed thetwo passports to the female silhouette with a rifle over her shoulder,and said haltingly: "French tourists. We no speak Spanish,senorita."

"Quiet!" she yelled as she snatched the passports out of hishand. It was the voice of a young girl, sharp with fury. "Shut up!"

Albert thought how calm and clean everything was up there,in that deep sky studded with stars, and how different it was fromthe menacing tension down here. His fear had evaporated. Whenall this was a memory, when he had told it dozens of times to hiscopains at the bistro and to his students at school in Cognac, hewould ask la petite Michele: "Was I right or not to choose the businstead of the plane? We would have missed the best experience ofour trip."

They were guarded by half a dozen men with submachineguns, who constantly shone the lanterns into their eyes. The othershad moved a few meters away and seemed to be conferring aboutsomething. Albert assumed they were examining the documents,subjecting them to careful scrutiny. Did they know how to read?When they saw that they were foreigners, French tourists withoutmuch money who carried knapsacks and traveled by bus, theywould apologize. The cold went right through him. He embracedla petite Michele and thought: "The man at the embassy was right.We should have taken the plane. When we can talk again, I'll askyou to forgive me."

The minutes turned into hours. Several times he was sure hewould faint with cold and fatigue. When the passengers began tosit on the ground, he and la petite Michele imitated them, huddlingvery close. They were silent, pressing against each other, warmingeach other. After a long while their captors came back and, one byone, pulling them to their feet, peering into their faces, bringingtheir lanterns up to their eyes, shoving them, they returned thepassengers to the bus. Dawn was breaking. A bluish band appearedover the rugged outline of the mountains. La petite Michele was sostill she seemed asleep. But her eyes were very wide. With an effortAlbert got to his feet, hearing his bones creak, and he had to helpla petite Michele stand by supporting both her arms. He felt exhausted,he had muscle cramps, his head was heavy, and it occurredto him that she must be suffering again from the altitude sicknessthat had bothered her so much when they began the ascent intothe Cordillera. Apparently, the nightmare was ending. The passengershad lined up single file and were climbing into the bus.When it was their turn, two boys in balaclavas at the door of thevehicle put rifles to their chests and, without saying a word, indicatedthat they should move to one side.

"Why?" asked Albert. "We are French tourists."

One of them approached in a menacing way, put his face upto his, and bellowed: "Quiet! Shhh!"

"No speak Spanish!" screamed la petite Michele. "Tourist!Tourist!"

They were surrounded, their arms were pinned down, andthey were pushed away from the other passengers. And before theyreally understood what was happening, the motor of the bus beganto gurgle and vibrate, its hulk to tremble, and they saw it driveaway, rattling along that road lost in the Andean plateau.

"What have we done?" Michele said in French. "What are theygoing to do to us?"

"They'll demand a ransom from the embassy," he stammered.

"They haven't kept him here for any ransom." La petite Micheleno longer seemed afraid: now she appeared angry and rebellious.

The other traveler who had been detained with them was shortand plump. Albert recognized his hat and tiny mustache. He hadbeen sitting in the first row, smoking endlessly and leaning forwardfrom time to time to speak to the driver. He gestured and pleaded,shaking his head, moving his hands. They had encircled the man.They had forgotten about him and la petite Michele.

"Do you see those stones?" she moaned. "Do you see, do yousee?"

Daylight advanced rapidly across the plateau, and their bodies,their shapes, stood out clearly. They were young, they were adolescents,they were poor, and some of them were children. Inaddition to rifles, revolvers, machetes, and sticks, many of themheld large stones in their hands. The little man in the hat fell tohis knees and swore on a cross that he formed with two fingers,raising his face to the sky. Until the circle closed in on him, blockinghim from view. They heard him scream, beg. Shoving each other,urging each other, imitating each other, the stones and hands roseand fell, rose and fell.

"We are French," said la petite Michele.

"Do not do that, senor," shouted Albert. "We are Frenchtourists, senor."

True, they were almost children. But their faces were hardenedand burned by the cold, like those roughened feet in the rubbertiresandals that some of them wore, like those stones in the chappedhands that began to strike them.

"Shoot us," shouted Albert in French, blind, his arms aroundla petite Michele, his body between her and those ferocious arms."We're young too, senor. Senor!"

"When I heard him start in to hit her, and she began whimpering,I got gooseflesh," said the guard. "Like the last time, I thought,just like in Pucallpa. Just your luck, you poor bastard."

Lituma could tell that reliving the scene agitated Tomas andmade him angry. Had Carreno forgotten he was here, listening tohim?

"The first time my godfather sent me to be Hog's bodyguard,I felt really proud," the boy explained, trying to calm down. "Justthink: I'd be close to a big boss, I'd travel with him to the jungle.But it was a tough night for me in Pucallpa. And it would be thesame damn thing now in Tingo Maria."

"You had no idea that the world is a dirty place," said Lituma."Where have you been all your life, Tomasito?"

"I knew all about the world, but I didn't like that sadistic shit.I didn't, damn it. I didn't understand it. It made me mad, evenscared. How could a man act worse than an animal? That was whenI knew why they called him Hog."

There was a sharp whistling sound, and the woman criedout. Over and over again, he hit her. Lituma closed his eyes andpictured her. Plump, full of curves, round breasts. The boss hadher on her knees, stark naked, and the strap left purple streaks onher back.

"I don't know which one made me sicker, him or her. Thethings those women do for money, I thought."

"Well, you were there for money too, weren't you? GuardingHog while he got off beating up the hooker."

"Don't call her that, Corporal," Tomas protested. "Not evenif she was one."

"It's just a word, Tomasito," Lituma said in apology.

The boy spat furiously at the night insects. It was late, andhot, and the trees murmured all around him. There was no moon,and the oily lights of Tingo Mar!a could barely be seen betweenthe woods and the hills. The house was on the outskirts of the city,about a hundred meters from the highway to Aguatia and Pucallpa,and sounds and voices could be heard clearly through its thin walls.There was another sharp crack, and the woman cried out again.

"No more, Daddy," her muffled voice pleaded. "Don't hit meanymore."

It seemed to Carreno that the man was laughing, the samelecherous snigger he had heard the last time, in Pucallpa.

"A boss's laugh, the laugh of the man in charge who can dowhatever he wants, the guy who'll fuck anything that moves andhas plenty of soles and plenty of dollars," he explained, with anold rancor, to the corporal.

Lituma imagined the sadist's slanted little eyes: bulging insidetheir pouches of fat, burning with lust each time the womanmoaned. He didn't find things like that exciting, but apparentlysome men did. Of course, he wasn't as shocked by them as hisadjutant was. What could you do? This fucking life was a bitch.Weren't the terrucos killing people left and right and saying it wasfor the revolution? They got a kick out of blood, too.

"Finish it, Hog, you motherfucker, I thought," Tomas continued."Get off, get done, go to sleep. But he went on and on."

"That's enough now, Daddy. No more," the woman pleadedfrom time to time.

The boy was perspiring and had trouble breathing. A truckroared down the highway, and for a moment its yellowish lightsilluminated the dead leaves and tree trunks, the stones and mud inthe ditch at the side of the road. When it was dark again, the littleglowing lights returned. Tomas had never seen fireflies before, andhe thought of them as tiny flying lanterns. If only Fats Iscariotewere with him. Talking and joking, listening to him describe thegreat meals he had eaten, passing the time, he wouldn't hear whathe was hearing, wouldn't imagine what he was imagining.

"And now I'm going to ram this tool all the way up to youreyeballs," the man purred, insane with joy. "And make you screamlike your mother did when she gave birth to you."

Lituma thought he could hear Hog's slow little snicker, thelaugh of a man on whom life has smiled, a man who always getswhat he wants. He could imagine him with no problem, but nother; she was a shape without a face, a silhouette that never quitesolidified.

"If Iscariote had been with me, talking to me, I would haveforgotten about what was going on in the house," said Tomas. "ButFats was watching the road, and I knew that nothing would makehim leave his post, that he'd be there all night dreaming aboutfood."

The woman cried out again, and this time she did not stopweeping. Could those muffled sounds be kicks?

"For the love of God," she begged.

"And then I realized I was holding the revolver in my hand,"said the boy, lowering his voice as if someone might hear him. "Ihad taken it out of the holster and was playing with it, fiddlingwith the trigger, spinning the barrel. Without even knowing it,Corporal, I swear."

Lituma turned on his side to look at him. In the cot next tohis, Tomasito's barely visible profile was softened by the faint lightof the stars and moon shining through the window.

"What were you going to do, you poor bastard?"

He had climbed the wooden steps on tiptoe and very quietlypushed at the front door until he felt resistance from the bar. Itwas as if his hands and feet were no longer controlled by his head."No more, Daddy," the woman begged monotonously. Blows fellfrom time to time, and now the boy could hear Hog's heavy breathing.There was no bolt on the door. He just leaned against it andit began to give way: the creaking was lost in the sound of blowsand pleading. When it opened wide with a sharp cracking sound,the wailing and beating stopped and somebody cursed. In the semidarknessTomas saw the naked man turn around, swearing. A smalllantern hung from a nail in the wall, making crazed shadows. Theman was enveloped in mosquito netting, pawing at it, trying to getfree, and Tomas looked into the woman's frightened eyes.

"Don't hit her anymore, senor," he implored. "I won't permitit."

"You said a dumb thing like that to him?" Lituma mocked.

"And to top it off, you called him senor?"

"I don't think he heard me," said the boy. "Maybe nothingcame out of my mouth, maybe I was talking to myself."

The man found what he was looking for, and in a half-sittingposition, still wrapped in mosquito netting and held back by thewoman, he took aim, growling curses as if to encourage himself.It seemed to Tomas that shots were fired before he squeezed thetrigger, but no, it was his gun that fired first. He heard the manhowl at the same time that he saw him fall backward, dropping thepistol, cringing. The boy took two steps toward the bed. Half ofHog's body had slipped off the far side. His legs were still crossedon top of the sheet. He wasn't moving. He wasn't the one whowas screaming, it was the woman.

"Don't kill me! Don't kill me!" she shrieked in terror, coveringher face, twisting around, shielding her body with her arms andlegs.

"What are you saying, Tomasito?" Lituma was stunned. "Doyou mean you shot him?"

"Shut up!" the boy commanded. Now he could breathe. Thetumult in his chest had quieted. The man's legs slid to the floor,dragging down part of the mosquito netting. He heard him groanvery quietly.

"You mean you killed him?" Lituma insisted. He leaned onone elbow, still trying to see his adjutant's face in the darkness.

"But aren't you one of the bodyguards?" The woman staredat him, blinking, uncomprehending. Now there was utter confusionin her eyes as well as animal fear. "Why'd you do it?"

She was trying to cover herself, crouching over, raising a blood-stainedblanket. She showed it to him, accusing him.

"I couldn't take it anymore," Tomasito said. "I couldn't standhim hitting you and enjoying it like that. He almost killed you."

"I'll be damned," Lituma exclaimed, bursting into laughter.

"What? What did you say?" The woman was recovering from

the shock, and her voice was firmer. Tomas saw her scramble offthe bed, saw her stumble, saw her silhouette redden for a momentas she passed beneath the light, saw her, in control of herself nowand full of energy, begin to pull on clothes she picked up from thefloor, talking all the while: "That's why you shot him? Because hewas hitting me? Since when is that any of your business? Just tellme that. Who do you think you are? Who asked you to take careof me? Just tell me that."

Before he could answer, Tomas heard Iscariote running andcalling in a bewildered voice: "Carreno? Carrenito?" The stairsshook as he pounded up them, and the door opened wide. Therehe was, shaped like a barrel, filling up the doorway. He looked athim, looked at the woman, at the rumpled bed, at the blanket, atthe fallen mosquito netting. He was holding a revolver in his hand,shifting heavily from one foot to the other.

"I don't know," murmured the boy, struggling against themineral substance his tongue had become. The partially obscuredbody was moving on the wooden floor. But not groaning anymore.

"You whore, what's going on?" Fats Iscariote was panting, hiseyes bulging like a grasshopper's. "What happened, Carrenito?"

The woman had finished dressing and was slipping on hershoes, moving first one leg, then the other. As if it were a dream,Tomas recognized the flowered white dress she had worn thatafternoon when he saw her get off the Lima plane in the TingoMaria airport, where he and Iscariote had gone to meet her andtake her back to Hog.

"Ask him what happened." Her eyes flashed and she movedher hand, pointing at the man on the floor, at him, at the managain.

"She was so angry I thought she was going to come at me andscratch my eyes out," said the boy. His voice had sweetened.

"You killed the boss, Carreno?" The fat man was dumb-founded."You killed him?"

"Yes, yes,t' screamed the woman, beside herself. "And nowwhat's going to happen to us?"

"Damn," Fats Iscariote said over and over again, like a robot.He didn't stop blinking.

"I don't think he's dead," stammered the boy. "I saw himmove."

"But why, Carrenito?" The fat man leaned over to look at thebody. He straightened up immediately and stepped back in dismay."What did he do to you? Why?"

"He was hitting her. He was going to kill her. Just for fun. Igot mad, Fats, I really lost it. I couldn't take all that shit."

Iscariote's moon face turned toward him, and he scrutinizedhim, craning his neck as if he wanted to smell him too, even lickhim. He opened his mouth but said nothing. He looked at thewoman, he looked at Tomas, and sweated and panted.

"And that's why you killed him?" he finally said, shaking hiscurly head back and forth as mindlessly as one of the giant headsat Carnival.

"That's why! That's why!" the woman cried hysterically."And now what's going to happen to us, damn it!"

"You killed him for having a little fun with his whore?" FatsIscariote's eyes shifted back and forth in their sockets as if theywere made of quicksilver. "Do you have any idea what you've done,you poor bastard?"

"I don't know what came over me. Don't worry, it's not yourfault. I'll explain it to my godfather, Fats."

"Stupid fucking amateur." Iscariote held his head. "Youmoron. What the hell do you think men do with whores, youprick?"

"The police will come, there'll be an investigation," said thewoman. "I didn't have anything to do with it. I've got to get outof here."

"But she couldn't move," the boy recalled, his honeyed voicebecoming even sweeter, and Lituma thought: "You mean you'dalready fallen for her, Tomasito." "She took a few steps towardthe door but stopped and came back, as if she didn't know whatto do. Poor thing, she was scared to death."

The boy felt Iscariote's hand on his arm. He was looking athim regretfully, compassionately, not angry anymore. He spokewith great resolve:

"You better disappear, and don't show your face at your godfather's,compadre. He'll shoot you full of holes, who knows whathe'll do. Go on, make yourself scarce, and let's hope they don'tfind you. I always knew this wasn't the job for you. Didn't I tellyou that the first time we met?"

"A real friend," the boy explained to Lituma. "What I didcould've gotten him in hot water, too. And still he helped me getaway. A huge fat man, a face as round as a cheese, a belly like atire. I wonder what's happened to him?"

He held out a plump, friendly hand. Tomas clasped it firmly.Thanks, Fats. The woman, down on one knee, was searchingthrough the clothes of the man who lay motionless on thefloor.

"You're not telling me everything, Tomasito," Lituma interrupted.

"I don't have a cent, I don't know where to go," the boy heardthe woman saying to Iscariote as he went out into the warm breezethat made the shrubs and tree branches creak. "I don't have a cent.I don't know what to do. I'm not stealing."

He broke into a run, heading for the highway, but slowed toa walk after a few meters. Where would he go? He was still holdingthe revolver. He put it back in the holster, which was attached tohis belt and concealed by his shirt. There were no cars in sight,and the lights of Tingo Maria seemed very far away.

"Believe it or not, Corporal, I felt calm, relieved," said theboy. "Like when you wake up and realize the nightmare was onlya nightmare."

"But why are you keeping the best part to yourself, Tomasito?"Lituma laughed again.Along with the sounds of the insects and the woods, the boyheard the woman's hurried steps trying to catch up with him. Hefelt her beside him.

"But I'm not hiding anything, Corporal. That's the wholetruth. That's exactly how it happened."

"He didn't let me take a cent," she complained. "That fat shit.I wasn't stealing, just borrowing enough to get to Lima. I don'thave a cent. I don't know what I'm going to do."

"I don't know what I'm going to do either," said Tomas.

They stumbled on the winding little path covered with deadleaves, slipped in the ruts made by the rain, felt the brush of leavesand spiderwebs on their faces and arms.

"Who told you to butt in?" The woman immediately loweredher voice, as if regretting her remark. But a moment later she wenton berating him, although in a more restrained way. "Who madeyou my bodyguard, who asked you to protect me? Did I? Youfucked up and you fucked me up too, and I didn't even do anything."

"From what you're telling me, you were already hot for herthat night," Lituma declared. "You didn't pull out your revolverand shoot him because the stuff he was doing made you sick. Admitthat you were jealous. You didn't tell me the most important part,Tomasito. "

Excerpted from Death in the Andesby Mario Vargas Llosa Copyright ©2007 by Mario Vargas Llosa. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

--Deze tekst verwijst naar een alternatieve kindle_edition editie.


  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00A25SJGU
  • Uitgever ‏ : ‎ Faber & Faber; Main editie (18 oktober 2012)
  • Taal ‏ : ‎ Engels
  • Bestandsgrootte ‏ : ‎ 1074 KB
  • Tekst-naar-spraak ‏ : ‎ Ingeschakeld
  • Schermlezer ‏ : ‎ Ondersteund
  • Verbeterd lettertype ‏ : ‎ Ingeschakeld
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Niet ingeschakeld
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Ingeschakeld
  • Printlengte ‏ : ‎ 285 pagina's
  • Aantal pagina's van bron-ISBN ‏ : ‎ 0312427255
  • Klantenrecensies:
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