Alfredo Bryce Echenique: La vida exagerada de Martín Romaña [The Exaggerated Life of Martín Romaña]
This is another long novel from Bryce Echenique and another very fine one. It is primarily a Bildungsroman but with elements of the picaresque, not to mention homage to writers such as Laurence Sterne and Cervantes. It is also a thoroughly magnificent novel and it is a matter of great wonderment that it has not been translated into English (it is, of course, available in French).
The story is set in Paris and is one of those Latin American novels where the hero (and, all too often, the author) has fallen in love with Paris. However, Martín Romaña, while also enchanted by Paris, finds that the reality is less attractive. He has come to Paris with his girlfriend, Inés, and they get married there. However, the pair of them get involved in a Latin American revolutionary group. Martín merely wants to write but is continually pushed by Inés to be more ideologically committed. Martín tries to write a revolutionary novel but he is not, at heart, a revolutionary and it is a failure. Inés leaves him (and Paris), which causes Martín to fall apart. He gradually gets himself back together and does write the story of his life which, of course, we are reading. He manages to overcome his ghosts – Inés has given up the revolution and married a rich man (he goes and visits her briefly in Rio), he has rejected Paris and Hemingway as his muse and has even knocked down a successful novelist (called Bryce Echenique). And now he has his whole story written down in his blue notebook and a very good story it is.
First published in 1981 by Argos Vergara
No English translation
Translated into French as La vie exagérée de Martín Romaña by Editions du Seuil in 1991
Translated by Jean-Marie Saint-Lu
Also available in Polish