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This review is taken from PN Review 59, Volume 14 Number 3, January - February 1988.

Michael Schmidt VALENCIA, JUNE 1987
 
In ancient Peru, when the great Inca died, his concubines and wives accompanied him to the other world. His amaltas or wise men were despatched as well. They'd served him: they rewrote history to legitimize his power and policy. His death was the final chapter of their work. A new emperor, with new concubines and wives, spawned new amaltas, too, so that history could be dressed to his advantage, and memory reforged.

The Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa told this parable at the International Congress of Intellectuals and Writers at Valencia during the second week of June. The theatre of the lavish new Palace of Music should hold 400 people. 650 squeezed in. 200 were invited intellectuals and artists. The rest were students, some veterans of the Republican Army of 1936 who expected something rather different - more history, less theory - and members of the public. They came for a series of 'round tables' and debates about the role of the intellectual in the modern world. Spain and her American children emerged as our real subject.

Vargas Llosa talked about ways in which writers create memory, how they lie to tell deeper truths, and how - if they serve an emperor, a dictator or an ideology - their days are numbered with their master's. We'd come together in a critical spirit, to look back to the II Congress of Writers against Fascism and in Defense of Culture, that legendary intellectual outing half a century ...


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