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The Uses of Literary Perspectivism in Vargas Llosa's ¿Quién mató a Palomino Molero?

Arnold M. Penuel

Centenary College of Louisiana

Mario Vargas Llosa's murder mystery, ¿Quién mató a Palomino Molero? (1985), like García Márquez's Crónica de una muerte anunciada (1981), comes off both as an engaging example of its genre and a significant exploration of social decadence. The ultimate interest of this short novel Ges, however, not in establishing the identity of the perpetrators of the crime but rather in exposing the prejudices that culminate in the murder and lead to another murder and suicide. To say this is not to slight the appeal of the genre's traditional elements in the novel. Indeed, much of the novel's interest stems from the almost uncanny psychological sleuthing of Lieutenant Silva, the chief detective. Beyond its value as a detective novel, Palomino Molero is a serious treatment of complex Peruvian social realities, artfully illuminating the prejudices, the corruption of consciousness and conduct, and the social injustices woven into the warp and woof of the Peruvian class system.

The action of the novel is set in Peru in the 1950s. Palomino Molero, a young airman, is found tortured and brutally murdered. Lieutenant Silva and his assistant Lituma, the two policemen who investigate the crime, discover increasing evidence of a cover-up to protect the powerful. The two men doggedly persist in their investigation out of a combination of professionalism and an intense curiosity aroused by the sadistic nature of the murder. Silva and Lituma interview anyone who could possibly provide information bearing on the crime. Finally, they piece together information implicating the air force base commander, Colonel Mindreau, whose daughter, Alicia, was amorously involved with Palomino. Confronted with the certainty of exposure, Colonel Mindreau kills his daughter and commits suicide. Before taking his life, he attempts to convince the two detectives that the order he gave to Lieutenant Dofú, a young officer in love with Alicia, to kill Palomino, was solely based on his wish to protect his daughter against an unthinkable liaison with a poor mestizo. The Colonel attempts to convince the policemen that his motives were not complicated by incestuous feelings toward Alice, as she had charged. He attributes Alice's accusation to a history of mental illness involving hallucinations. Intertwined with the investigative action is the story of Lieutenant Silva's equally relentless efforts to conquer the virtue of Doña Adriana, owner of a popular neigh borhood bar and restaurant. In the end, the good woman proves to be an impregnable for tress of virtue, totally routing the Lieutenant in a reductio ad absurdum of his machismo. At the conclusion of their successful investigation, Lituma is reassigned to a remote outpost, while Silva awaits notification of a similar fate.

Vargas Llosa's methods of exposing his country's social ills are by no means tendentious or simplistic. The novelist conceals his hand largely through literary perspectivism, both in his portrayal of the characters and in the way he focuses on the novel's events. His perspective consists of recourse to subtle intertextualities, exploitation of the disparity between the conscious and unconscious psychology of his characters, irony, paradoxes, the expression of contradictory opinions, and meaningful juxtapositions, resulting in meaningful ambiguities. In his illumination of the relations between the weak and the powerful in Peru, it becomes evident that Vargas Llosa, like Hegel, believes that the master-servant relation degrades both master and servant.

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Corruption of consciousness and conduct is not limited to the conventional literary heavies. As José Martín has affirmed, Vargas Llosa avoids the Manichean disjunction of many traditional protest novels (67-68)40. In his penetrating study of Vargas Llosa, José Miguel Oviedo has stressed the novelist's aspiration to create novels of an all -encompassing form (69-71) reflective of the «procesos sociales del momento... la teoría apocalíptica de la novela», according to which «los novelistas- buitres merodean agresivos y terribles oliendo la descomposición antes que muchos otros hombres; o hacen que estos hombres la reconozcan en las imágenes de la ficción» (72). In his study of Conversación en la catedral, David Gallagher has noted the novelist's effective recourse to perspectivism to approximate the complexity of human conduct (194). More recently, Dick Gerdes has also emphasized Vargas Llosa's perspectivism, affirming that the writer «has rebelled against all ideas that require literature to become something more than a means of discovering the multiplicity of conflicting perspectives that are created in all societies» (191). Gerdes later adds:

...Mario Vargas Llosa's readers view humanity from several perspectives, beginning with the confining and alienating circumstances of corrupt social values such as machismo: the maladaptation to dominant values of society; violence in some works, including the view of man kind functioning within wider parameters of historical and cultural myth and, in its extreme form in other works, deeply personal experiences and demonic obsessions.


Rosa Boldori de Baldussi thinks that Vargas Llosa, through ironic humor, turns his fictions into antiliterature. «En su evolución ha llegado hasta el empleo del humor irónico, que destruye el propio mundo narrado: literatura que es también antiliteratura» (200). With respect to the novelist's perspectivism, she trenchantly observes: «En el mundo varguiano hay una dialéctica permanente entre el dinamismo (lo vital biológico, los proyectos e inquietudes individuales) y la estaticidad (las estructuras jerárquicas: Religión, Militarismo, Policía, Poder político dictatorial)» [201].

While Julio Ortega may be right about certain shortcomings in Vargas Llosa's style in Palomino Molero, his condemnation of the novel simply disregards the novel's strength as a subtle and complex literary statement about significant Peruvian social problems endemic to Spanish America as a whole (975-78). Although he is also an excellent critic, Vargas Llosa's greatest strength lies in his ability to «think» novelistically. The distinguishing mark of his novelistic thinking is his particular brand of perspectivism, which, as indicated above, avails itself of diverse techniques and serves to illuminate various levels of reality. Writing of the function of the novel, in a passage cited by Martin, the novelist him self has mentioned five levels on which the novel can operate:

a) el sensorial

b) el mítico

c) el anímico

d) el metafísico

e) el místico


Palomino Molero exemplifies all these levels. Perhaps the most vivid examples of the sensorial level in the novel are the grisly images of the murder victim and Silva's voyeurism. The mythic plane manifests itself in the demythification of machismo and in the introduction of the Cervantine theme of appearance vs. reality. The psychic or mental level (el anímico) is evidenced in Silva's uncanny ability to penetrate the smoke screens of those he interviews, to gather significant information about the crime. The universalization of the psychology underlying Lieutenant Dofú's guilt feelings and the Colonel's suicide because of his failure to maintain appearances suggests the presence within each individual of universal moral standards that are ontological or metaphysical rather than merely individual. The novel displays a mystical element in the manner in which events underscore the organic nature of Peruvian society -how the destinies of the various social classes are intertwined. Another mystical element consists of the strange parallel between Silva's investigative effort and his sexual curiosity.

Novelists avail themselves of many techniques and devices to cover their tracks in order to avoid direct statements of their beliefs or inclinations, and to interest their readers in what they have to say by how they say it. Many of these techniques have become so transparent that they must continually devise new masks. In addition, they seek new methods adequate to express the changing realities they wish to explore literality. Among other aims, Vargas Llosa's perspectivism aspires to exploit as many levels of reality as possible. In my view, the ambiguities in Palomino Molero correspond to Vargas Llosa's desire to do

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justice to multifaceted realities. They conform partially to William Empson's fourth and fifth types of ambiguities: «An ambiguity of the fourth type occurs when two or more meanings of a statement do not agree among themselves but combine to make clear a more complicated state of mind in the author» (133). The fifth type occurs, according to Empson, «when the author is discovering his idea in the act of writing, or not holding it all in his mind at once...» (155). To some extent, the ambiguities may also arise in the act of conceiving the novel. Notwithstanding the ambiguities in Palomino Molero, in my judgment Vargas Llosa ultimately comes down on the side of the poor and oppressed. At the same time the reader is led to an understanding of the prejudices of both sides, the dynamics of their mutual dislike, and even to feel some sympathy for the rich and powerful, who, after all is said and done, are also victims of their own prejudices. My point is that Vargas Llosa's ambiguities serve to widen the reader's perceptions and sympathies within the frame work of the social relations he dramatizes.

Lieutenant Silva's subordinate, Lituma, is the novel's «center of consciousness.» Lituma's thoughts are presented (by a non-participating narrator) both directly and indirectly. The other characters are presented only through their words, acts, Lituma's words and thoughts, and each others' words -from an external point of view. Roughly half to two thirds of the novel consists of dialogue. Since Lituma is less perceptive than Silva, in making him the novel's center of consciousness Vargas Llosa increases the element of suspense and the reader's admiration of Silva's perceptiveness. Lituma usually displays a commonsensical interpretation of events, as in the case of the first interview with Colonel Mindreau, while Silva penetrates beneath the surface. Lituma is more spontaneous in his reactions, Silva more cerebral. Lituma, then, mirrors with more immediacy and greater accuracy the deepest feelings of his social class. Although the novel also registers Silva's feelings, the latter are less spontaneous, and more informed by experience and reason, especially in regard to his relations with Colonel Mindreau, Alicia, and Lieutenant Dofú. Lituma reflects the unrefined resentment of the pueblo in the face of the violation of elemental principles of justice and human decency

Among the most intriguing aspects of Palomino Molero are Silva and Lituma's respective motivations for solving the murder of Palomino. What is it that drives them to persist in the face of innumerable obstacles and the growing awareness that their superiors are likely to punish rather than reward them for their efforts? The novelist's perspectivism is as applicable to the motivation of the detectives as it is to other aspects of the novel. Silva and Lituma coincide in some of their motives and differ in others. As policemen, it is their official duty to investigate the murder to see that justice is done. The novelist places little emphasis on this motive, however, rather it becomes increasingly clear that no one would accuse them of dereliction of duty were they to drop the investigational together, or simply make a perfunctory inquiry and file a superficial report.

But Silva, as the admiration of his assistant evidences, is no humdrum detective:

Cierto el Teniente era un hombre recto y, por eso Lituma le tenía, además de aprecio, admiración. Era bocón, lisuriento, algo chupaco, y, cuando se trataba de la gorda cantinera, perdía la chaveta, pero Lituma, en todo el tiempo que llevaba trabajando a sus órdenes, lo había visto esforzarse siempre, en todas las denuncias y querellas que llegaban a la Comisaría, por hacer justicia. Y sin preferencia a nadie.


While both men are moved by a sense of duty and justice, Lituma is more visibly moved to compassion by the sight of the victim's mutilated body, exclaiming: «... Parece mentira que haya en el mundo gente tan perversa» (6). Later, he visits Palomino's mother, promising to locate and return her son's guitar. Lituma's sense of justice and his compassion are more mixed than Silva's with feelings of resentment and rancor toward those he and other characters habitually refer to as «los peces gordos» and «los blanquitos» who consider themselves superior to those of his social class, color, and race (29, 34, 36, 42, 68, 124, 125, 160). Although Silva also becomes irritated by the prejudices of some of his interlocutors, he disguises his irritation (122-23).

The novel begins with a vivid description of the victim's rotting, mutilated corpse, an image that haunts Lituma throughout the course of the investigation, frequently eliciting expressions of compassion. The grisly nature of the crime arouses in both detectives not only a keen curiosity about the identity of the murderer(s) but also about the cause of the

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rage producing such a brutal and perverse act.

Silva's passion for solving the crime is closely connected with his adulterous passion for Doña Adriana, the wife of the fisherman, Don Matías, and owner of the bar in which Silva habitually takes his meals. The Lieutenant constantly flirts with Doña Adriana; and despite her protests that she is a married woman, she appears to be not altogether displeased that the detective finds her attractive. Nevertheless, she sidesteps his passes and finally puts an end to his advances in what, for the Lieutenant, is an almost traumatic experience. The curiosity that incites Silva to pursue the murder investigation is a form of sublimation-specifically, displacement. The Lieutenant exemplifies Freud's belief that sexual curiosity is the prototype of all forms of curiosity. It further exemplifies his theory of sublimation. Throughout the novel, Silva's investigatory efforts alternate with his evocations of Doña Adriana and his efforts to seduce her. When Silva and Lituma go to Amotape to interview Doña Lupe, a witness to events surrounding the crime, Lituma is astonished, as the two men are eating, that his boss seems to have forgotten the purpose of their trip:

Pero desde que entraron a la choza de Doña Lupe era como si al Teniente Silva se le hubiera eclipsado la curiosidad por Palomino Molero. Toda la comida no había hecho otra cosa que hablar del nombre de Amotape, o, claro está, de Doña Adriana.


After reading the note indicating that Colonel Mindreau killed his daughter Alicia before taking his own life -information which brings to a close their investigation- Silva exclaims that he is going to bring to a resolution his pursuit of Doña Adriana. Already knowing the answer, Lituma asks him where he is headed. The detective replies: «A tirarme a esa gorda de mierda» (171). When Lituma learns from Doña Adriana that she has once and for all repelled Silva's siege of her virtue, Lituma muses: «La verdad, también el Teniente era cosa seria. Antojarse de su gorda en ese momento, en medio de la tragedia. Vaya antojo» (188, see also 10-11, 74, 84-88, 108-14 ).

On the positive side, Silva's sublimation of his love for Doña Adriana ensures that his efforts to solve the crime are passionate and persistent. However, his explicit and implicit machismo in attempting to overcome her virtue is clearly condemned. After all, he is pursuing a married woman who has given him no encouragement other than allowing occasional glimpses of a mild vanity. Silva's machismo not only becomes evident in his bragging to Lituma about her physical charms but also in direct remarks to her. Chatting about identifying Palomino's murderers, Silva asks Doña Adriana:

Si los encuentro ¿qué? -El Teniente chasqueó la lengua con obscenidad- ¿Me premiará con una nochecita? Por ese premio los encuentro y se los pongo esposados a sus pies, le juro.


Eventually, Doña Adriana unsexes Silva, in a reductio ad absurdum of his machismo. When he enters her bedroom one night with his pistol drawn (an obvious phallic symbol), expressing his fervent love of her, furious but inspired, she tears off her nightgown and exposes herself, challenging him in the coarsest manner possible to show her what he has:

Ya, pues, aquí estoy, qué esperas para calatearte, cholito -dijo Doña Adriana, con la voz vibrando de desprecio e indignación. Sacaba el pecho, el vientre, y tenía los brazos en jarras-. ¿O te da vergüenza mostrármela? ¿Tan chiquita la tienes papacito? Anda, anda, apúrate, bájate el pantalón y muéstramela. Ven, viólame de una vez. Muéstrame lo macho que eres, papacito. Cáchame cinco veces seguidas, que es lo que hace mi marido cada noche. Él es viejo y tú joven, así que batirás su récord ¿no, papacito? Cáchame, pues, seis, siete veces. ¿Crees que podrás?.


Doña Adriana's inspiration works; the Lieutenant is reduced to stammering that she has no right to make fun of him. Silva finds the female counterpart of his machismo extremely repulsive, and he leaves routed and humiliated.

The novel presents a wide range of emotions and attitudes revolving around love and sex: Doña Adrianas robust fidelity, the passionate love between Alicia and Palomino, Lituma's compassion for Palomino, the lust for el Chino Liau's prostitutes, and the sexual curiosity the children of Amotape exhibit about the mating burros. Passion, the common denominator of these emotions and attitudes, both unites and divides the characters. The common source of their best and worst conduct, passion is the basis for their self-fulfillment, destruction of others, and self-destruction. Palomino Molero provides a rich psycho-social vision of humanity in which passion, the fundamental determinant of the character's lives, flows into various channels, according to their psychological predispositions and social circumstances. At the same time, the novelist avoids determinism, leaving room in human conduct for reason and will power42.

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However much Silva's persistence is due to sublimation, he shows courage in persisting in the investigation despite Colonel Mindreau's involvement in the murder. He continues to ferret out the truth despite his growing awareness of the probable consequences for him and Lituma of a successful investigation. Moreover, he unceasingly brings to bear great psychological acumen and reason in the solution of the crime. Doña Adriana also manifests admirable will power and imagination in putting to an end once and for all Silvas attacks on her honor. Moreover, Lituma's efforts demonstrate compassion and a will to work for justice exceeding a mere sense of duty.

Among other things, Palomino Molero is manifestly an elucidation of Peruvian social tensions and prejudices on a variety of axes: rich vs. poor, powerful vs. weak, white vs. mestizo, military vs. civilian43. Prejudice exists on both sides, but the novelist leaves little doubt that in the main his sympathies lie with the poor, the weak, the mestizo, and the civilian. Still, the prejudices of these social under dogs lead them to misinterpret and exaggerate the acts of the rich whites; they invent and lend credence to false rumors about the reasons for the attempted cover-up of the crime. They are quick to believe such rumors because of their feelings of rancor toward the Colonel and the foreigners who work at the International Petroleum Company and who, like the air force officials, live so well in their separate compound. The lower class's prejudice can be summed up in their reductionistic labeling of their adversaries as «los peces gordos.» While they are basically on target in their perception that the rich enjoy special privileges and hold an exploitive attitude toward them, they err, with the exception of Silva and Lituma, in the particulars of that exploitation. Lituma fails to see, for example, that the Colonel's incestuous conduct is a motive both for the murder and the attempted cover up. In the first interview with Colonel Mindreau, Lituma attributes to racism alone the Colonel's haughty air and resistance to being interviewed. Although a racist, the Colonel resists the interview in part to discourage further investigation of a murder committed at his order. Observing the Colonel's haughtiness, Lituma asks himself «Por qué nos odias, pensó Lituma. Y por qué eres tan déspota, concha de tu madre?» (36). Later in the interview, revealing his prejudices but also trying to throw the policemen off track, the Colonel arrogantly asserts that it would be unthinkable for a mere airman like Palomino to have amorous aspirations toward any woman living in the officers' compound. On hearing this, Lituma thinks: «Un racista de mierda. Eso es lo que era: un racista de mierda» (42). Lituma is right, of course, but fails to understand (as does the reader at this point) the Colonel's tactic. An expert psychologist and detective, Silva sees through the Colonel's aim. When Lituma tells Silva that they have wasted their time, the detective replies that now he is sure that the Colonel knows a lot about the crime: «Esas son puras apariencias, Lituma -volvió a soltar la carcajada el Teniente Silva-. Para mí, el Coronel habló como una lorita borracha» (47).

Evidence of social prejudice is ubiquitous in the novel. Colonel Mindreau epitomizes the attitudes of his social class. The Colonel's attitude of superiority and arbitrary manner stem from his condition as a white, his status as a high-ranking air force officer, his economic status, and the special privileges accruing to the military in general. The armed forces «gozan de fueros, tienen sus tribunales donde sus miembros son juzgados y sentenciados» (44, see also 52, 71). They are virtually a law unto themselves. The Colonel's conduct reveals that he considers himself a member of an aristocractic caste which cannot under any circumstances contemplate intermarriage with airmen, the poor, and mestizos (cholos). The Colonel's views on this subject leave the impression that he virtually considers these people to be made of another substance. Explaining his attempt to persuade instead of forbid Palomino to desist in his courtship of Alicia, the Colonel tells Silva and Lituma that he refrained from fully elaborating his position to the airman:

Yo podría decirle a usted [to Silva], sencillamente: «Un avionero está prohibido de poner los ojos en la hija del Coronel de la Base, un muchacho de Castilla no puede aspirar ni en sueños a Alicia Mindreau. Sépalo y sepa también que no debe acercarse, ni mirarla, ni soñar siquiera con ella, o pagará ese atrevimiento con su vida»


That Palomino did pay with his fife attests to the depth of the Colonel's class feeling, not withstanding the complication of this feeling through his incestuous relations with his daughter.

Other characters' remarks indicate that the

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Colonel's attitude is not based simply on his incestuous relations with Alicia, or does not simply reflect the normal protectiveness of a father concerned that his daughter marry well. Doña Adriana observes of the Colonel and Alicia: «El Coronel Mindreau se cree el rey de Roma, basta verlo cuando viene al pueblo con su hija del brazo. Ni saluda ni mira. Y ella es peor todavía. ¡Qué humos!» (29). Lituma thinks enviously of the air force officials' mode of living, finding it comparable to that of the foreigners:

«Se dan la gran vida», pensó. Como los gringos de la International, éstos, detrás de sus muros y rejas vivían igual que en las películas. Y gringos y aviadores podían mirarse la cara por sobre las cabezas de los talareños, que se asaban de calor allá abajo en el pueblo, apretado a orillas del mar sucio y grasiento.


When Silva asks Lieutenant Dofú, another suitor of Alicia and the actual murderer of Palomino, why he says that the airman got what was coming to him, he answers angrily: «Porque picó muy alto...» (69). Alicia's racism becomes evident in her conversation with Silva and Lituma, offending both policemen. She asks if Palomino's mother was a cholamestiza»], to which the Lieutenant answers, saying that Palomino's mother «es una mujer del pueblo» (122). Alicia then replies, referring to Palomino, that «él no parecía cholo;» pointing out that he had fine features and a better upbringing than either Dofú or her father. She then adds: «Lo único que tenía de cholo era el nombre ese, Palomino. Y su segundo nombre era todavía peor: Temístocles» (123).

References to the International Petroleum Company, the foreigners, their separate compound, and their life style are frequent. Often, as in the passage cited above, they are mentioned in the same breath with the air force officials. Although no direct evidence is presented that they share the air force officials' prejudices, they are associated with them and are almost always mentioned with rancor because they live apart in a compound and, to all appearances, in a luxurious fashion. In attributing foreign-sounding names to Colonel Mindreau and Lieutenant Dofú, the characters are literally associated with the gringos and, by symbolic extension, with what is alien to Perú. They and the foreigners, with their separate compounds, are encysted in the flesh of the body politic, inimical to the true interests of Perú, to a Perú which would minister to the needs of all its citizens, rather than to special interests.

Initially ambiguous, because of the Colonel's assertion that his daughter suffers from delusions (155-57), ultimately, Alicia's charge that her father has behaved incestuously to ward her is convincing and strengthens the theme of social prejudice44. The Colonel's incestuous conduct symbolizes his social class's obsession with class purity and the consequent social endogamy it habitually practices. This theme underlines the Peruvian upper class's unwillingness to mix socially with other classes and to share the wealth and privileges with them.

Psychologically, the Colonel's incestuous feelings provide a motive for the murder of Palomino, explaining why he willfully uses the insanely jealous Dofú as his instrument in the crime. Beyond the Colonel and Dofú's personal jealousies, the extraordinary rage motivating such a brutal and gruesome murder symbolizes the unspeakable horror that their class feels faced with the threat of social leveling through intermarriage. The killer's rage is stressed at the very beginning of the novel: «Antes o después de matarlo lo habían hecho trizas, con un ensañamiento sin límites...» (5). Lituma «comprendió que también habían tratado de caparlo» (5). While the attempted castration reveals sexual jealousy and the pathological wish to destroy the victim's power, it also reflects the murder's machismo and, indirectly, the link between power and machismo in Perú's ruling classes, especially in the military.

Dofú's strange, desperate conduct in el Chino Liau's bar (56-73) and Colonel Mindreau's murder of his daughter and suicide add an interesting psychological dimension to the novel. A superb psychologist, Silva perceives that Dofú's guilt feelings underlie his provocative exhibitionism in the bar. In spite of the conscious intractability with which the air force officer reacts when Silva presses him for information about the murder, Dofú is over whelmed with guilt. On a deep psychic level a better self is revulsed by the crime he has committed. This split between conscious and unconscious impulses contributes to the theme of appearances vs. reality.

While Dofú is, at least unconsciously, reacting to a moral imperative higher than his own conscious desires, Colonel Mindreau's murder of Alicia and self-destruction presuppose

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his adherence to a social code that also transcends his individual welfare. Such adherence in turn lends tacit assent to the existence of ethical principles superior to the interests of individuals and the social class to which they belong. By allowing his crime to be exposed, the Colonel has disgraced himself and his daughter and violated his social class's code of conduct, which is based on the morality of appearances. Unlike Dofú, the Colonel evidences no conscious or unconscious guilt. His sin is largely against his social peers. In the name of self-aggrandizement the code permits crimes as heinous as the murder the Colonel has masterminded. What it does not permit is that such acts be exposed. Logically implicit, but not in the consciousness of the individuals adhering to the code, who have assimilated its strictures so deeply as not to feel even unconscious guilt, lies the existence of a higher moral law, the violation of which is simply considered impolitic rather than immoral. The deep assimilation (the clinical term is internalization) and constant reinforcement of the code so distances members of the Colonel's social class from awareness of the moral principles involved that correction through guilt feelings becomes virtually impossible.

The recounting of the humorous anecdote about the parish priest whose aversion to sharing his meals with strangers gave rise to the name of the town of Amotape is hardly gratuitous. According to the story, when the priest's servant saw a traveler approaching the town, she would alert the priest: «Amo, tape, tape la olla que viene gente» (82). Silva and Lituma have come to the town to destapar [«uncover»] information about the murder. Unmistakably, attention is called to the town's strange name at the beginning of the chapter: «Amotape, vaya nombre -se burló el Teniente» (81), and it is mentioned again before the actual telling of the story. Later, in another setting, Silva tells his friends that «el destape está muy cerca» (146). «Amotape» suggests two meanings: amo [«master»], tape [«cover»] and amo [«I love»], tapa [«cover-up»], both of which refer to the Colonel's attempted cover-up and the penchant his social class, the masters of Perú, exhibit for covering up their more than dubious activities.

The parallels with El Quijote constitute the most notable of the intertextualities in Palomino Molero, contributing significantly to the novel's perspectivism and to the development of the theme of appearances vs. reality. While it is a literary commonplace for a detective like Silva to have a less able subordinate at his side who never ceases to be amazed at his superior's cleverness, in several respects the Silva-Lituma partnership clearly evokes the relations between Don Quijote and Sancho Panza. Moreover, the Silva-Adriana relations offer a strong parallel to the Don Quijote-Dulcinea relations, albeit in an ironic fashion in certain respects.

Both Silva and Lituma, as indicated above, are motivated by a strong desire for justice. In this sense they evoke Don Quijote's idealism. Like Don Quijote, however, ultimately they are unable to impose their ideals of justice on society, though there is a kind of retributive justice in their causing the Colonel to commit suicide. But, as in Don Quijote's rescue of Andrés, there occurs an unfortunate side effect: Alicia's death. At least in Lituma's case, there seems to be the expectation of an insula to govern, a reward. At the beginning of the investigation, his cousin exclaims to him: «Resuélvelo y te ascenderán a general, Lituma...» (9). The giants they do battle against are «los peces gordos;» epitomizing evil and injustice.

Although Lituma's perceptions, like those of Sancho, serve as an ironic corrective to Silvas observations (especially with regard to Doña Adriana), his superior generally possesses a deeper understanding of reality. Ironically, unlike his literary forebear, who is insane only in matters of knight errantry, Silva sees clearly only in matters concerning his detective work. In his perceptions of Doña Adriana, he is completely mistaken; but then Dulcinea too was only a figment of Don Quijote's imagination.

With regard to perspectivism and its relation to discovering the nature of Cervantine reality, Silva teaches his squire Lituma the following Cervantine lesson:

Es otra cosa que tienes que aprender. Nada es fácil, Lituma. Las verdades si les das muchas vueltas, si las miras de cerquita, lo son sólo a medias o dejan de serlo.


In their interview with Colonel Mindreau, Lituma's reactions serve to expose the Colonel's racism and awaken in him the rancor typically felt by members of his social class, which, as it later turns out, is based on a partially mistaken interpretation of the Colonel's motives at the moment. Nevertheless, Lituma's impressions are generally true, since

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the Colonel is clearly prejudiced. On the other hand, Lituma gleans nothing from the interview to suggest that the Colonel was involved in the crime. Silva, however, as the following dialogue reveals, learned much:

-Entonces, no entendí nada, mi Teniente. A mí me pareció que el Coronel nos basureaba a su gusto, que nos trató peor que a sus sirvientes. ¿Acaso aceptó lo que fuimos a pedirle?

-Esas son puras apariencias, Lituma -volvió a soltar la carcajada el Teniente Silva.- Para mí, el Coronel habló como una lorita borracha.


Silva realizes that the Colonel's haughty manner was due not just to social and racial prejudices but also to an attempt to discourage further inquiry into the crime.

When Silva takes Lituma to the cliff over looking the beach to spy on Doña Adriana as she bathes naked, two details are reminiscent of El Quijote. Like Don Quijote, when he announces that the dust clouds raised by two flocks of sheep are two armies, what Silva announces as the approaching Doña Adriana appears to Lituma only as a small cloud of dust: «¿Era Doña Adriana esa nubecita de polvo, allá a lo lejos, procedente del sector de la costa que llamaban Punta Arena, o sus arrechuras lo hacía ver visiones al Teniente Silva?» (109). Later, when Silva passes the binoculars to Lituma so that he may feast his eyes on Doña Adriana's superb physical charms, as the Lieutenant sees them, Lituma, like Sancho, simply cannot see what his master describes:

-Yo no debo tener su buena vista, o, mejor dicho, su gran imaginación, mi Teniente -se quejó, devolviéndole los prismáticos-. La verdad, no veo más que la espumita.

-Entonces, jódete -susurró el Teniente, llevándose una vez más los prismáticos a la cara...- Yo, en cambio, la estoy viendo como se pide chumbeque. De arriba abajo, de adelante atrás.


Doña Adriana is Lieutenant Silva's Dulcinea. She is the source of his inspiration; for her the detective seeks justice in the world. Her name continually plays on his lips; thoughts of her are never far from his mind. He thinks and talks about her during the various phases of the investigation, and it is to her he goes, whether to spy on her or to attempt to make love with her, after fruitful interviews. Silva idealizes his Dulcinea, attributing to her a physical beauty, more specifically a sexual attractiveness, which may have a basis in fact but is not always evident to Lituma. Lituma is puzzled by Silva's interest in this plump married woman, thinking that his boss could have the pick of the young, attractive women in their neighborhood (25). But Silva's sublimation of his love is not on the high plane of Don Quijote's love for Dulcinea. The Lieutenant's love is much less sublime, much closer to its sexual origins. Machista rather than spiritual, Silva's relations with Doña Adriana constitute a degradation of the Cervantine prototype. After questioning Dofú about the murder, Silva exclaims to Lituma: «Porque, ¿sabes una cosa?, este cristiano no se morirá sin tirarse a esa gorda [Doña Adriana] y sin saber quiénes mataron a Palomino Molero. Son mis dos metas en la vida Lituma» (74). The following remarks which Silva addresses directly to Doña Adriana also demonstrate that his passion for her is his principal inspiration and the degradation of the myth:

Si los encuentro ¿qué? -El Teniente chasqueó la lengua con obscenidad-. ¿Me premiará con una nochecita? Por ese premio los encuentro y se los pongo esposados a sus pies, le juro.


In the end, Silva's Dulcinea suffers an enchantment, rendering her ugly and unworthy in the sight of her swain. The manner of her enchantment further degrades the myth; in the episode referred to above, Doña Adriana paradoxically turns Silva's machismo against him, placing herself, in Silvas eyes, on a level with el Chino Liau's polillas (185). What she really does, however, is to destroy the double standard for men and women by placing herself on Silvas level, expressing herself as obscenely as he does. By mirroring his attitude, Doña Adriana forces her would-be lover to see his machismo for what it is: a demeaning of both men and women. When Doña Adriana threatens to act out the full implications of his machismo, Silva is appalled. Paradoxically, Silva's inability to make love to Doña Adriana at this moment reveals that on a deeper psychic level he preserves a certain idealism about relations between men and women belied by his surface machismo. To this extent Vargas Llosa shows that his machismo is a surface phenomenon, a bluff, reflecting an unanalyzed tradition rather than a case of individual psychopathology. In this sense, Doña Adriana's «enchantment» sets the stage for a potential «disenchantment» of Silva, a possible cure of or liberation from his conventional machismo. What at first glance may appear to be a gratuitous or perplexing aspect of the novel is

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really a subtle exploration of machismo and the relations between the sexes, contributing at the same time to the Cervantine theme of reality vs. appearances.

Another intertextuality contributes further to the perspectives structured into this novel. The similarities between Palomino Molero (1985) and García Márquez's Crónica de una muerte anunciada (1981) are too striking to be accidental, and suggest that the Peruvian novelist wished to establish a novelistic dialogue with his Colombian counterpart. Both are short detective novels that can be enjoyed as such, but in both the surface events conceal a significant symbolic layer of social criticism. In both novels the ultimate interest lies not in who committed the respective murders but in the cultural conditions giving rise to the mentality that culminates in the crimes.

Both Palomino Molero and Santiago Nasar, the protagonist of Crónica, are innocent victims of extremely brutal murders. Both novelists employ the same word to characterize the murders. Vargas Llosa's narrator writes of «la ferocidad con que to habían maltratado» (24). Crónicas narrator grieves at the «ferocidad» of Santiago's destiny (102). In addition to his innocence, certain other details confirm that Palomino, like Santiago Nasar, as I have argued elsewhere, is presented as a Christ figure (758-59). When Palomino's mother looks at a picture of her dead son, it is «como si estuviera viendo al Niño-Dios» (15). Aghast at the brutality of the murder, Doña Adriana says that this is not the first time people have killed, «pero así, crucificando, torturando, jamás de la vida» (28). Later, she observes that Palomino sang with «una voz de ángel» (30). Recording Lituma's impressions, the narrator again speaks of a crucifixion: «Desde que lo había visto empalado, crucificado y quemado en el pedregal, tenía la sensación de que ni un solo momento había podido quitárselo de la cabeza» (112). Alicias language also indirectly associates Palomino with Christ. In response to Silva's query as to what Palomino was like, she replies: «Un pan de dios -la oyó decir. Y, luego de una pausa-: un angelito caído del cielo» (120).

Both novelists avail themselves of techniques highly appropriate to the detective novel, multiplying and complicating perspectives, not only to increase suspense but also to do justice to the social realities they wish to illuminate, and to cover their tracks. Silva and Lituma reconstruct events on the basis of a series of interviews with those suspected of having knowledge of the crime. An expert practical psychologist, Silva manages to penetrate beneath the surface of the remarks made by the people he interviews to divine their probable roles in the crime. Moreover, the rumors bandied about by various characters, which are usually false in their details but in character with the murderers' beliefs and prejudices, create additional perspectives on the theme of prejudice. García Márquez's narrator assumes the guise of an investigative reporter who also interviews a large number of people in an attempt to reconstruct events occurring twenty-seven years earlier. The multiple contradictions make the reconstruction extremely difficult, though not impossible.

Both novels attack the ideal of purity in human affairs. Palomino Molero demonstrates the destructiveness of the ideal of social purity based on race, color, and caste, militating against those who, in Lituma's words, «se creían unos príncipes de sangre azul» (28). Vargas Llosa's novel directs the main force of its criticism at the military, which he depicts as behaving with all the arrogance of a corrupt aristocracy. Crónica attacks the Church's doctrine of instinctual renunciation, which sets up virginity or sexual purity as one of life's highest goods. In both novels the ideal of purity is revealed to be extremely destructive of life and human happiness. The ideal of purity was also, of course, an object of satire in el Quijote.

Vargas Llosa's multifarious perspectivism enables him to do justice to the complex, paradoxical, and ambiguous Peruvian social realities on which he focuses in Palomino Molero. While his perspectivism allows him to explore artfully and without tendentiousness that wavering line that separates good and evil in the human heart, it also permits him to ruminate the special difficulties of pursuing the truth in a corrupt society, in which the individual can hardly escape the taint of corruption. Moreover, his perspectivistic approach dramatizes the paradox that in such a society individual efforts to achieve authenticity through the quest for truth almost inevitably result in a form of professional or social self-destruction.

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Works Cited

Boldori de Baldussi, Rosa. Vargas Llosa: Un narrador y sus demonios. Buenos Aires: Fernando García Cambeiro, 1974.

Empson, William. Seven Types of Ambiguity. 3rd edition. New York: New Directions, n.d.

Gallagher, David. «Vargas Llosa: la fecunda aventura.» Asedios a Vargas Llosa. Santiago de Chile: Editorial Universitaria, 1972.

García Márquez, Gabriel. Crónica de una muerte anunciada. Buenos Aires: Editorial Oveja Negra, 1981.

Gerdes, Dick. Mario Vargas Llosa. Boston: Twayne, 1985.

Harss, Luis. Los nuestros. Buenos Aires: Editorial Suramericana, 1977.

Hernández, Ana María. Rev. of ¿Quién mató a Palomino Molero? by Mario Vargas Llosa. World Literature Today 61 (Spring 1987): 250-51.

Martín, José Luis. La narrativa de Vargas Llosa: acercamiento estilístico. Madrid: Editorial Gredos, 1974.

Ortega, Julio. «García Márquez y Vargas Llosa, imitados.» Revista Iberoamericana (Oct.-Dec. 1986): 971-78.

Oviedo, José Miguel. Mario Vargas Llosa: la invención de una realidad. Barcelona: Editorial Seix Barral 1982.

Penuel, Arnold M. «The Sleep of Vital Reason in García Márquez» Crónica de una muerte anunciada. Hispania 68 (Dec. 1985): 754-66.

Vargas Llosa, Mario. Contra viento y marea (1962-1982). Barcelona: Editorial Seix Barral, 1983.

——. ¿Quién mató a Palomino Molero? Barcelona: Editorial Seix Barral, 1986.