Claudia Salazar Jiménez: 2019 National Book Festival

>>Jose Miguel Nieto: Good
morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is a true honor for
me to present on behalf of the Ambassador of Peru one of the most recognized Peruvian
writers of her generation, Claudia Salazar Jimenez. It is also a pleasure to
express the satisfaction of the Peruvian Embassy
to participate as a sponsor of this
great event. Claudia Salazar Jimenez,
born in Lima, Peru, is a literacy critic,
professor, cultural manager, and the founder of the literary
journal “Fuegos de Arena.” Claudia studied literature at
the University of San Marcos in Lima, and holds a
Ph.D. in literature from the New York University. She edited the anthologies
“Escribir en Nueva York 2014” about Hispanic-American
narrators and “Voces para Lilith 2011” on contemporary South
American women writers. Claudia is also the founder
and director of PERUFEST, the first Peruvian cinema
festival in New York. Her first novel, “The Blood of”
— won International Novel Prize for the Americas, which
has been translated into English by Deep Vellum. She also received the
TUMI-USA Award in 2015. Her most recent publication is
the collection of short stories “Coordenades Temporales 2016,”
and the youth novel “1814, Year of Independence.” Part of his work has also
been translated into French, Portuguese, and German. She currently teaches at
Brooklyn College in New York. Thank you very much. [ Applause ]>>Madhulika Sikka:
Okay, hi, everyone. Good morning.>>Good morning.>>Madhulika Sikka:
I’m Madhulika Sikka. I am executive producer of
audio at “The Washington Post.” I’m also an avid reader, so
it is always just a complete and utter joy to come to the
Book Festival every year, and even more so to
have the privilege to interview one of the authors. Just to give you a lay of
the land, I’ll be speaking with Claudia for about 20, 25
minutes, and we’re very keen to take your questions
after that. So please formulate them,
and have them ready. It is much more interesting
and vibrant than hearing me ask all the
questions the whole time. There are microphones
over here and over here. Claudia will be signing her book
at 12:30 in the lower level, so you can go and find
out more from her then. So let’s get started.>>Claudia Salazar
Jimenez: Okay.>>Madhulika Sikka:
Welcome, Claudia.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
Thank you, and thank you, everyone, for being
here this morning.>>Madhulika Sikka: So as I was
just telling Claudia, for me, coming to this novel — I came
with completely open eyes, open thoughts, because I
really didn’t know much about this period in Peru. There was a guerrilla movement in the ’80s called
the Shining Path. Some of you may have
heard of it. Some of you may not have, but it was a particularly
brutal movement. Seventy thousand people or
so died during that period, a period that was described
as the time of fear. And I really wanted to start
with hearing from you — what are your memories
of that time? I mean, you were a child,
but it was clearly something that pervaded life in Peru.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
Thank you for the question, and actually, I have the first
idea about the use of the word “guerrilla,” about
the Shining Path. I think it’s a terrorist group,
so I think it’s very important to start in defining
terms, right?>>Madhulika Sikka: They defined
themselves as guerrillas.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez: They
defined — actually, they — themselves as a political
party [laughter]. Yeah.>>Madhulika Sikka: Interesting.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez: And they actually were actually
terrorism, so it’s very, very important to
define that, I think. And that time was the
entire ’80s in Peru, so I was a child there. And I actually — what I
remembered the most is the fear, and I opened the novel with a
scene when we have a blackout. Blackouts were very, very
common in Peru during that time. I even remember the first time
I was in Lima with my parents. I was around four or five years
old, and then, in the city — we were in the car when
the power center — the entire city just black
out, entire — the black. I remember the obscurity,
and then, this was very — something that repeated a
lot of times during the ’80s, and even at the beginning
of the ’90s. So it was always the idea
that the Shining Path is — even in — even if it is
happening in the Andes, not in Lima, the capitol, but in
the Andes, there’s always a fear that the Shining Path were
at any point coming to Lima, and they were going
to kill us all. That was –>>Madhulika Sikka: So
even at such a young age, you felt that visceral
— my life is in danger.>>Claudia Salazar
Jimenez: — the — my life, my family’s life, even
— you cannot actually verbalize that at that time, but you
can see from your parents, from your family, your friends,
something was going on there. And actually, by the — I think
by the middle of the ’80s, we were allowed to watch
more TV, and actually, the Shining Path started
being more brutal. So we have a constant of
— you know, annihilation, or a lot of people dying, lot of
destruction in the cities also. Because the Shining Path were
coming to Lima very quickly.>>Madhulika Sikka: It’s
interesting you talk about what you saw
on TV, because — I mean, one of the things
I want to get to is one of your characters
is a photojournalist. And she wants to go
out to the countryside to really document what
is happening there. How did they come about? I mean, what was their ideology
that sort of moved them? The leader was a
philosopher professor –>>Claudia Salazar
Jimenez: Yeah.>>Madhulika Sikka: — who
decided that there needed to be a movement to
support poor working people.>>Claudia Salazar
Jimenez: Yeah, and that brutal violence, right? That actually was
one of my questions, because the Shining
Path, as a movement — if it is possible to use that
word for that group, you know. It’s very difficult
for me to find — to try to find a
precise word for that. And my main question,
especially when I was working on this character —
not a photojournalist, but the character is
actually from guerrilla, from the Shining Path. That was my question. How is — how was that possible,
that this so-educated people, you know, specifically from
humanities, from — some — a lot of them were philosophers, especially the women
were social workers. This character’s
a social worker. How these people were
so social conscious, and they actually ending killing
the most poor, the most — I don’t know, innocent
people in Peru? How? Why that happen? And trying to answer that
was a part of that process of the construction
of the novel. I don’t know if one of the
possible answer is the — they have a lot of ideology
from the — from the — they even repeat
that like a mantra. They are like a Leninism,
Marxist ideology, but also, they were a lot — they
receive a lot of influence from the Cultural Revolution
Mao’s, you know, from China. And they was trying
to replicate that — the Cultural Revolution
in China in Peru. The only problem was actually
they were trying to — you know, the communist
ideology comes from the ideology of the proletarian, but
actually, in the Andes, we don’t have proletarians. We have peasants,
and that try — that’s one very important
problem, because they tried to impose that communist
ideology and the socialist
structures in the Andes. And they just cannot do that, because they find
another reality. It’s like when you have the
— that important, like, crush with an ideological
reality, and they didn’t know
how to manage it. And they just start killing
people in order to force them.>>Madhulika Sikka: And
the peasants were the sort of innocent victims as a result, because they didn’t
understand what was going on. And it didn’t –>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
Well, they were talking –>>Madhulika Sikka: — it
didn’t speak to their life.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
— yeah, absolutely. Like a — what is this
ideology of the proletarian? But we are not that, so
what are you talking about?>>Madhulika Sikka:
So for those of you who haven’t read the
book yet, I recommend it. It’s a — it looks
like a novella almost. It packs a huge, huge punch. There were three characters
whose experience we lived through during this period,
and they are all women. And to me, that was one of
the things that really stood out about this book, because
I think it’s fair to say that our knowledge
and understanding of so many movements from
whichever side you’re looking at is mostly told
through the eyes of men. And I wondered why you wanted to
tell this story through the eyes of three very different women
who represent different types, classes of people who were
affected by it, and why telling that story through women and their experience was the
device you decided to use.>>Claudia Salazar
Jimenez: Yeah, because precisely
what you just said. The entire human history was
told through the eyes of men. So I think our — the entire of
our stories and history are — they came from the men vision,
so at this point in history, I — in the — even in Peru,
in the literary tradition, Peru literary tradition, always
when you speak about war, when you speak about violence, it’s always from the
point of view from men. So we already know
that’s nothing new, right? So there — actually, in
Peru, there’s a lot of novels and short stories
about this period also, but always from the
point of view — from a soldier, from a general,
from a politician, so, you know, from a guerrilla — men, always. So my take was to introduce — I mean, to put the
voice of women there. But I was thinking also,
what is the meaning of this? What’s the meaning of
putting the bodies of women in telling a story, right? I think it’s not only just
to use women characters, because we know sometimes — sometimes, even if you have a
women character, doesn’t imply that you have a feminine
perspective. I think it’s very important to
make this distinction, right? And I think the feminine
perspective has to do with — we tell the stories
that are not told yet. So you have to tell the story
from the other perspective, which is usually the perspective of the margins, not
the other voices. And also, what was
very important for me, assuming this feminine
perspective, was try to tell this story
from other characters, but also trying to do —
trying to break a language. Because usually, when we
tell the common stories about violence, there
is always a kind of linear perspective, right? Because — and also, keeping
that — at the same time, you keep the logic of violence. My problem when I was
thinking on how to tell this — I was thinking, okay,
if I am going to repeat, going to use the same
rhetoric that we were using by the entire literary
tradition, at what point I am only
repeating that violence? So I was trying also
to recombine language, to at some point
— to make language to do something different
with this story. That’s why the structure
and the — you can say that. The structure and the voices –>>Madhulika Sikka: Yeah,
I mean, and the structure and the sort of narrative
devices you use are — there’s a mix of
them in the book, which I think also is
something that contributes to how the narrative
hits you as a reader. Because there are many
instances where it is sort of stream-of-consciousness
about violence in a way that I would imagine one might
experience that violence. One doesn’t experience violence
in perfectly formed sentences, sort of words and phrases. The thing that struck me
about focusing on women — and in fact, you
referenced this — the photojournalist in the
book, she talks about the work that she’s trying to do, what
she wants to see when she goes out there, how she is encouraged by a television reporter
whose words are censored. And he says, “The only way to
show this is through pictures,” and, you know, she talks
about how these are photos that push you to look outside
the frame, that gesture at all that hasn’t been captured. How much is outside the frame? What stories will get away? And I feel that you can apply
that to the stories of women, that those are the
stories that get away. Those are the ones in
the peripheral vision –>>Claudia Salazar
Jimenez: — yes.>>Madhulika Sikka: — of anyone, whether
you’re government, whether you’re military,
whether you’re journalism, especially in a war-like
situation. Was that sort of
an intentional way of using a journalist
character in that way?>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
Absolutely, yes, yes, yes, yes. When I was trying to decide
which kind of characters I want to use in the novel, this one
was the first one, and actually in the first version,
in the beginning — the starting version
of the novel, she was just a journalist,
not a photojournalist. But when I was developing the
novel, I decided that I need — I need her to thinking about
images also, because of the idea that was is happening
outside the frame, you know. And I definitely decided
— and also, I mean, returning to your
former question, I decide to use three different
character, three different women because I needed — there’s — when we talk about
the female voices, there’s not just one voice. I think it’s very
important to decide that there’s not one
women voice, right? We have to use a very
different perspective, a very — you know, different perspective,
and not only because — from the matter of gender, but also from origin
and social class.>>Madhulika Sikka: Right.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
That was more important for me, to introduce also the peasant
character who’s a very poor woman from the Andes, and also
the guerrilla woman who’s sort of from the middle class,
but also very educated.>>Madhulika Sikka: Yeah, I
think that the class structures that are evident through
these three women is really interesting, and, you
know, I think any of us who do not have this
experience, or have lived through a country going
through this sometimes think, “What is it that makes somebody
join a terrorist movement?” And we often focus — well, particularly in the
current climate we live in — young men, and usually we hear about young men who
join a movement. Now, your — one of your
characters, Marcella — she is a social worker
and teacher. She is married. She has a daughter. She lives what might
be considered a sort of relatively –>>Claudia Salazar
Jimenez: Good life.>>Madhulika Sikka:
— normal, good life, and she becomes a guerrilla
with the Shining Path. And I’m just interested
in how you examined that. You know, it seems that
the catalyst for her — she relies on the government
for finances for projects in the social work
that she’s doing. They lose some money for
one project, and it seems to put her over the edge. And she decides it’s time to go. But there’s so much about
her that is rebelling against the normal
structures of being a woman, and what’s expected of
women in society there. And those two things collide
to turn her into a member of the Shining Path, and that
was sort of unexpected to me. I expected to hear a sort
of political disposition, not also a very sort of — a mix
of sort of gender challenges, which start from her as a child. She is brought up Catholic. She is a devout Catholic. She decides she wants
to be a priest, and she is told she
can’t be a priest. Why not? Because she’s a girl,
which doesn’t sit well with her. So that, to me, was sort of — the roots of being a woman in this society can turn
you into a guerrilla. Am I reading that wrong?>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
No, I mean [laughter] –>>Madhulika Sikka:
Because I so –>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez: — you never know what exactly can
happen in anyone’s head, right? Like, what is going on there? And as I told you at the
beginning, that’s why one of my main questions
in the novel — what turns some very educated
person, very rational person into a kind of fanatic, right? Because these people
were actually very, very fanatics about
the ideology. And actually, I — from the
— of the three characters, that was the most
difficult for me, because I was trying
to get into her. And I actually did a lot
of research for that, and it was very difficult. Because in Lima, there is — there are two kind
of archives in Lima. The first one was the — a lot of testimonies
from the Truth Commission in Peru, from the –>>Madhulika Sikka: —
yeah, Peru did have –>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez: — we have a Truth Commission
there.>>Madhulika Sikka:
— after this period, which I thought was
interesting, too.>>Claudia Salazar
Jimenez: Yeah, so kind of 16,000 testimonies. I read some of –>>Madhulika Sikka: Wow.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
— not all of them, possible, but I was reading
specifically the testimonies on sexual violence. So just to get in
the idea of the — what happened to women
during that time, and also, to get idea of the
ambiance in the Andes — definitely was more brutal
than in the capitol, right? But to get to know more
about the terrorists was kind of difficult, but there
is a part of the archives that actually they don’t want
you to get access to that. And it’s very kind of
dangerous to get access to that. If you get some access there,
you can be accused of trying to making an — I don’t
know how to say that. So an apology — no, what’s
the — an apology for the — for terrorism, an
advocate for terrorism. So you can — you became a
kind of suspect for that. Even so, I tried to get access
to that, and at the end, I got access to two testimonies
of the main character — the main, actually — the main
leaders of the Shining Path. And one of them is a woman,
and that character, Marcella, was very based on
that character. Her name is Eleni Paragir
[assumed spelling]. She was actually the number
two of the entire structure, and what’s very shocking for me was actually the
religious background for her. And it looks like from that
idea, from very fanatic, religious structure was a very
— not like a very strange break from that, but actually I
think kind of a continuation of that kind of thinking.>>Madhulika Sikka: Right,
that’s what struck me, that she was a very
religious person. She was failed by her
religion, and found another — another thing to
believe in, in a way.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez: Yes,
something to put your faith on.>>Madhulika Sikka: Exactly.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez: Particularly her
strength, right?>>Madhulika Sikka: Yeah. And what’s interesting — she’s
seduced by them in a way that –>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
By him, by the leader.>>Madhulika Sikka: — by the
leader, and, you know, she — she really thinks about her
lot as a woman, which clearly, the seeds of that
were in her early sort of disappointment
with Catholicism. But even on her wedding night
— I don’t think for most women, this would lead to joining a
terrorist movement [laughter]. Let me just say this at
the front end [laughter]. But she — you write —
and this is her thinking. “On her wedding night, there
would come children, a house, a kitchen, work too, diapers,
plates, kitchen, dress, makeup, over, and over, and
on, evermore. Having a husband and
daughter was holding me back from the revolution. Now it was time for
my body to be trained, for my body to be
disciplined, to transform into a revolutionary weapon
— tougher, more warlike, none of this husband,
kitchen, children.” I will state for the record,
I’ve never had any desire to join such a group, but
this passage really spoke to me [laughter]. I love my husband. I love my children [laughter]. But I think that that is what
makes her somewhat contemporary, and this was in the
’80s, in Peru, a place I don’t know much about. But I think that sort of
consciousness of a female — were there a lot of women
in the Shining Path?>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
Actually, yes, and actually, I think one of the reasons —
because the Shining Path was so kind of popular
within middle-class women at that time was because the
Shining Path allows a lot of women to get into the
higher levels of the party. That’s why, and that’s why
it’s very seductive in that. But there’s a lot of
sociology studies about this, kind of feminine — the introduction of women
into the guerrilla, et cetera. But at the same time,
I was thinking on that when I was trying to — when
I was writing the novel. And one — something very
interesting became the idea of even if you — when you
have women in that kind of a structure, that
doesn’t imply that a kind of institution is
not patriarchy also.>>Madhulika Sikka: Right.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
Because the Shining Path a lot of — I mean, allow a lot of
women get into the leadership, actually, the structures became
— and they still were very — you know, very vertical, very patriarchal in
that kind of view. And actually, I think from
the three characters — actually Marcella probably
is the one that keep that masculine voice even between the — even
being a woman.>>Madhulika Sikka: Yes,
and I think she keeps that masculine voice
because she’s very involved in the upper end
of the movement. And she does become involved
violently with this movement.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
It’s part of becoming part of the institution,
at the same time.>>Madhulika Sikka:
Yeah, exactly.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez: So
you want to revolution that, but at the same time,
you’re part of that. So, no, just try to keep
the hierarchies, right?>>Madhulika Sikka: Yeah. I just want to alert people to
think about their questions. I’m going to get to them
in just a few minutes. I want to quickly go through
the other two characters. The most sympathetic one I find
is Modesta, a peasant woman who has a husband and children. They — again, it’s almost as
if the Shining Path appears out of nowhere, and completely
upends her life in a way that she has no idea what to
do, and realizes that she has to kind of live through it. It’s incredibly painful,
and she — is she representative
of how the people who supposedly the Shining
Path were representing –>>Claudia Salazar
Jimenez: Were helping.>>Madhulika Sikka: —
were — or helping –>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
The revolution for them –>>Madhulika Sikka:
— exactly — were just completely
disconnected from what was going on?>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez: — another problem during
this period, but also — I mean, the poorest people
in Peru doesn’t suffer only from the violence coming
from the Shining Path.>>Madhulika Sikka:
But also from the army.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
But also from the state, because the Peruvian state
— they were trying to — I mean, to go against the
Shining Path, but actually, they don’t know who they are. They don’t know how to do it. So sometimes, they
just confusing — they were very confusing
between the Shining Path and the peasants. So they wasn’t sure if —
okay, maybe you’re a peasant. Maybe you’re the
Shining Path also. Okay, just let’s try
it and kill them all. That was the first step of
the internal war in the Peru. It was them — because, I
mean, how — how we can — how we can kill a lot of them? Okay, maybe they —
maybe if we can — if we arrive to a village,
and maybe we kill 60, maybe five of them are
actually from the Shining Path. But we are kind of —
start winning this.>>Madhulika Sikka: Something
we’ve called collateral damage.>>Claudia Salazar
Jimenez: Definitely.>>Madhulika Sikka: Yeah.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
And they kind of feel allowed to do that, because they don’t
feel that the peasants were kind of citizens, real citizens. They are Peruvian citizens. They’re kind of second-class
citizens.>>Madhulika Sikka: Right, and the class structure
is interesting because the news photographer —
she’s a young woman in her 20s who lives in the city. She’s white, I guess,
would be –>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
Yes, upper-middle class.>>Madhulika Sikka: —
white, upper-middle class, moves in circles where
people are connected to the politically
powerful, to the military. She has this sort of idealism
of, “I’m going to go out and find out the real
story,” but she is not averse to using the connections
she has in order to get out to tell that story. But in the milieu that she
is in, the way you describe that class of people who are
dismissive, and, you know –>>Claudia Salazar
Jimenez: Frivolous.>>Madhulika Sikka: — yeah. And it’s like this thing
is happening over there, and we don’t really
know much about it. But these are terrible people,
and they must be stopped, regardless of the damage. I don’t know. You were probably too young
to know people like that at the time, but were
they based on some kind of [laughter] people who
you might’ve encountered?>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
That was — this was — I’m telling you, it was — it was the kind of
political perspective at the beginning of the war. The — I mean, the official
vision of the conflict — no, it’s very far away. It’s not happening here. We’ll have to contain them, because maybe they
are all savages. That was idea — not
just the Shining Path, but also the peasant. You know what? They are not human,
at some point. That’s why we have to
contain them, to avoid them — they came to Lima, right? That was the most
important part of that. So at the beginning, yes, and
even when the war was close to the ending, there was idea
of — okay, we are in Lima, but there’s a kind
of bubble, you know? We are protected,
because we have money. We have no problem with that. Even when there was a lot of —
and a lot of things happening in Lima, but in Lima, in the more peripheral
districts in there.>>Madhulika Sikka: If
anyone wants to move to the microphones, please do. As soon as I see someone,
I will call upon you. The violence — I think we
can’t talk about this book without talking about the
violence against these women. Several of — all three of the
women are raped in this book. It’s something we hear
a lot about in war, and the way you describe
it is –>>This down a bit –>>Madhulika Sikka: — you
use almost exactly the same description for each
one of those rapes. Somebody is raped
by the military. Somebody is raped
by the Shining Path. I guess that’s something that
you couldn’t not have, right, in telling this story? How much of that did we
learn about in the truth and reconciliation
sort of investigation? Like, how did — how did we
come to know about that kind of violence against women?>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
Actually, that scene — I prefer to name it scene — was one of the first
scene that just came up when I was still
writing the novel. And then, it was knew
that actually was a lot of rapes during this time,
and socially very well-known that none of these rapes go
through any kind of, you know, judgment, any kind
of reparation. Nothing happened. Like, the life for
women just continued to be the same after this. So I think it was very important to think also not
just what happened, what kind of violence
we have during war, but how this violence
against women across — I mean, across this
kind of historical time. Not just during war, but
also how this violence against women is something
that cross history, something that cross
geographies.>>Madhulika Sikka: Right.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez: That
it’s always almost the same. I mean, I was reading also some
testimonies from the Civil War in — don’t remember
the name, the Tutsis –>>Madhulika Sikka:
Yeah, in Rwanda, yeah.>>Claudia Salazar
Jimenez: — in Rwanda, yes. And I had opportunity
in New York to see — to watch a photographic
exhibition about the women with their children –>>Madhulika Sikka:
Children, yea.>>Claudia Salazar
Jimenez: — from rape. And each picture has alongside
a brief testimony of the women, and I was reading that
as I was actually think about — it’s the same. I mean, the pain is the same. Even the word choice
are the same. For me, it was like a — what
kind of rhetoric of pain, rhetoric of rape, at
some point, is very — is the same for every
woman on the planet.>>Madhulika Sikka: Right, and
in these three women, whichever, quote, “side” they’re
on, they all went through the same experience,
which I think is heartbreaking and thought-provoking as well. Because you could not have
three more different women, three more different
experiences, all of them who are victims.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez: Very
different, but they became –>>Madhulika Sikka: Yeah, yeah.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
— at the same time. And I decide to make they
— to use the same — the same scene, just make
some very small changes, some words actually to make
this more — like, stronger.>>Madhulika Sikka:
Right, no, it –>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
For some readers, just told me when they — when they read
the second — the second rape, they think it’s a kind of
mistake from the — in the book. So they have to — but I
read that before, right? So even that movement,
I — I mean, I — definitely, I was
thinking on that. Even the reader think on
that — was kind of mistake, like shouldn’t be
repeating that. Why? And when they get
to the third one — no, no, no, this shouldn’t
be done, but yes, maybe. What kind of difference are?>>Madhulika Sikka: — I think
it reinforced this stuff. All right, we have a
question over here.>>No, I don’t really have a
question, but I have a comment. I’ve had a number of
Latin-American friends. They’re all upper-middle class. One in particular was a
Venezuelan, and he lived in a lovely house, drove
a Mercedes, had a job, professor at the university. They had a maid, and
yet, he was a communist. And I’ve always wondered — do they not understand
what communism is? And what’s the thinking
behind that? That’s it.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
[Laughter] I think –>>Madhulika Sikka: Let’s
put that situation in Peru –>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez: — should answer that
your own [laughter] — your own ideology position, but
one thing is very important, one thing that’s very
important to distinguish, right? Even as I said, the Shining
Path recognize themselves as a political party. They even said the Communist
Peruvian Political Party. That wasn’t their
real name, right? They were actually a party,
and a problem for the left in Peru was actually
the Shining Path. Because after that — I mean,
my entire generation was — okay, if they were communists, and the communists kind
of — they — right? But there is idea, very — what happened during the
’90s was another thing, but you got a fear that being from the left implies
being a terrorist, which actually isn’t
true, right? We already know that. I mean, we know that communism
ideology isn’t terrorism, something very different. But in Peru during
the ’80s, I mean, as a child, we got that idea. And actually, in the ’90s,
definitely you learn a lot. You go to university,
and it’s very different. But I think for the right
in Peru, was very — was very essential, because
we have a generation — apolitical, thinking
non-political, taking a lot of distance from
politics thinking. But at the end, you have
to distinguish this. I mean, the left doesn’t imply
being a terrorist, right? But it was very difficult for us
as a generation to distinguish that because of the
Shining Path.>>Madhulika Sikka:
Another question over here?>>So you mentioned that you
went through the archives and did a lot of research,
reading testimony especially. Curious if there was an angle
in particular that you wanted to take on in the book,
but you missed out, and you keep thinking about it. And maybe also — what
other books should we read? Like, as a Peruvian, I don’t — I haven’t read a lot of
history books, but I really want to start engaging in that. So I’d love recommendations.>>Claudia Salazar
Jimenez: Okay, thank you for the question. I was — when I was
writing the novel, for me, it was very difficult to try
to define one point of view. I mean, my only point
of view was trying to catch the feminine
perspective, right? And saying that, I didn’t
want to impose from — want any perspective
from the Peruvian state, or even from the Shining Path. And I loved that,
because some — I mean, a lot of readers told
me very different reactions to the novel. One of them just tell me, “I
really love your novel because, you know, it’s very
ideological distant, doesn’t take any
ideological side.” Well, perfect, thank you. Another person told me, “I love
your novel because, you know, it’s very — it’s very
against terrorism.” Okay, thank you, right? Another person — was another
one — one journalist here — not here in D.C.,
but in New York. He was making me an interview,
and before the interview, he told me, “May I make a
question before starting, just off the record?” I mean, okay, just do it. Do you have any affiliation to
the Shining Path [laughter]? Okay, no, on the
record, no [laughter]. Yeah, because you have one
character that is a terrorist. Yeah, but it’s fiction, right? That’s the freedom
of fiction also, and I don’t think it’s
kind of very productive to say you have one
character that is from the — very productive, right? And another person — and I
know this — he was an academic, and I know he had some
affiliations with some people from the Shining Path. Once, he told me, “I
really like your novel, but I think it’s
very reactionary.” So he kind of — and
that word, right? Reactionary was a word used very
commonly by the Shining Path to define everything that
wasn’t there from the ideology.>>Madhulika Sikka:
Well, I think that range of reactions shows
you got it right.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
For me, yes [laughter]. You know, no ideological –>>Madhulika Sikka: Exactly. So any reading recommendations
for that questioner?>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez: —
reading recommendations — yeah. There’s one by Gossano Puerto
Guerrero [assumed spelling] — took the name, and then
there’s another one by Gustavo Arriti
[assumed spelling]. They’re kind of very
— kind of introduction to the Shining Path ideology, and definitely you can have
access, because it’s online, the report from the
Truth Commission. It’s like nine — nine very big
books, but then you have the — not entirely the
testimonies, but you have a kind of rationale of what happened. And we just celebrated
the 16 years, like, a couple of days ago, the
publishing of the report, yeah.>>Madhulika Sikka: So I’ve
two questions over there. Those are the two
I’m going to take, so we can have enough time — oh, three, if you
make them quick. Okay, sir, you first.>>Thank you for being here. I’m Peruvian. I left Peru in ’97, so I’ve read
a lot of the work that comes out from writers
from that period, including Jose Carlos
Aguerro [assumed spelling]. And then you have all the people
that left Peru in the ’80s, like Masoti [assumed
spelling], et cetera. But my question is, not a
lot of people understand that the repercussions
of this time period of Peru have created sort of
like a cultural almost near-war which is tearing
the country apart, even to this day,
politically-speaking. And there’s sort of a battle
for memory also ongoing in this country for Peruvian-Americans being
told perspectives from the right or from the left,
and these beliefs that start dividing people. So what do you think the
role of a cultural artifact, like a book as yours, is, or do
you see it mostly as art first, before as a artifact of memory?>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
I don’t think it’s possible to make that kind of divorce
between art and politics. I think art is always political. Art is always, in this
case, a work of — a task of memory also. And I think the main object,
if it is possible to say, about writing in general is
to make people think about it. It’s not to be complacent about
what happened, try to be — to introduce all the possible
perspective, and also try to — what happened with the
examples I just gave you, right? Just to open the writing
space to the readers, so the readers can put
themselves into it also. That’s why I think my novel
gets these two so-different reactions, because
every reader — each reader was putting
themselves onto that. And I think definitely
if I just got some — just one perspective,
one reaction, I think I would fail
as a writer. I think any writer
should be open that — and even from people from
different ideologies, right. I think that.>>Madhulika Sikka: Okay,
we’ve got two questions, if we can make them brief.>>Okay, thank you. Oh, thank you. Yes, I have a question. Something that surprised
me — when you said that, during the research that
you did in the library, you find some documents
that couldn’t be read, that is kind of like forbidden. Don’t you think that is
kind of like a censorship? And the second part
of the question is, given that you couldn’t
reach those documents, did you have the opportunity to
talk to real women that passed through that time in
different, you know, positions, like the peasants, or the
guerrilla, or the middle or high-class in the city?>>Claudia Salazar
Jimenez: About the research? I can — I can understand at some point why the
Peruvian state was trying to confine these documents. They weren’t — they
weren’t so prohibited. They were so — they just
make you pass, like, a — like, a tough process
to get the thing. I just go to that archive. I was trying to invent some
things to get access to the — you know, like I am kind of
research, blah, blah, blah. And actually, it’s not so
prohibited, but they have a kind of very eerie aura, you know. They’re sort of — this is from
the Shining Path, you know. This is from the terror time. I thought it was a — almost
the same fear during that time from that archive, because
it wasn’t only documents. It was kind of memorabilia also,
objects, stuff, photographs, a lot of, you know,
pictures, images. It was kind of a very
eerie place to go. But actually, when I got
access to that, even the people from the library were very
kind after you pass the kind of veil at the beginning. But I can understand
why that kind of persistence to
that, you know. The final report was
just presented, like, a couple of years before that,
and there was a kind of tension in the Peruvian community
from that.>>Madhulika Sikka: It’s a
challenge for a lot of places to relive that history. Okay, last question over here.>>All right, thanks so much. You mentioned the one
perspective you did want to capture was the
feminist perspective, and there were a couple
things that were –>>Claudia Salazar
Jimenez: Feminine.>>– feminine?>>Claudia Salazar
Jimenez: Feminine.>>Yeah [laughter]. But there are several
things that were highlighted that make it seem
almost universal, or at least more
broadly tangible, which makes it all
the more powerful. But I’m wondering if
there are any things that you would highlight as uniquely Peruvian
feminine perspective.>>Claudia Salazar Jimenez:
You know, I am very troubled with the notion of uniqueness in
relation to a national identity. So, yeah, I was —
it’s some kind of thing about the uniqueness
which is possible to — I mean, I am forcing this, this
idea, because you’re asking. No, thinking of specifically
in the — on that historical context,
right, because I think — I mean, the perspective of the
novel is a more universal thing of violence against women. That’s very, you know,
universal, but specifically in that time in Peru, I
think it’s more related to this division,
you know, between — so this kind of different
citizens in one country. Not so specifically
Peruvian, right? Because if you think in
almost any country — I mean, in here now, is more
evident that we have, like, first-class citizens and
second-class citizens, and some people that
are not considering — considered citizens at all, not
even considered humans at all. That’s why I think it’s
very difficult to talk about something very unique and
Peruvian, but I think, yeah, that kind of division between
who’s human and who isn’t — something that is
very not-Peruvian, but very universal also. I arrived to that again. Thank you for the
question, yeah.>>Madhulika Sikka: It’s a
really remarkably powerful book, and I learned a tremendous
amount from it. And Claudia, I wanted to thank
you for the conversation.>>Claudia Salazar
Jimenez: Thank you. Thank you, everyone,
for being here. [ Applause ]

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