Friday, 23 July 2010

Green house, Sancti Spiritus

I was moving some books around to try to get some more space on the shelves when I started flipping through the pages of La casa verde (The Green House), the complex but compelling and in the end highly rewarding novel written by Mario Vargas Llosa in 1965. Immediately the interwoven stories set in the Amazonian jungle and the northern Peruvian town of Piura over several decades came back to my mind. The title refers to the brothel built and managed by don Anselmo on the outskirts of Piura. The establishment prospers until the news spread through town that Antonia, whom Anselmo had abducted and kept in the tower of the Green House, died while giving birth to his daughter. An angry crowd led by padre García then burns the brothel to the ground. Yet years later the Green House is rebuilt by Chunga, the daughter of Antonia and Anselmo.
The story of the brothel is only one of the three main stories (each includes several sub-stories) in a novel in which Vargas Llosa skillfully creates with non-chronological double narratives within chapters and even paragraphs a puzzle for the reader. Yet each story is linked ultimately to the others and complements and enriches them. Progressively all the pieces fall into place, leaving the reader with a sense of deep satisfaction.

Needless to say, one would imagine the Green House of the novel to be much more luxurious than the house above, in the small Cuban city of Sancti Spiritus. Still the fading pastel-like colours of this façade are very appealing.

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