Fourth of June 1989: thus, in a packed town square, Mario Vargas Llosa was proclaimed candidate for the presidency of the Republic in the town of his birth, Arequipa.

A short time later my father came to London, a visit made at the suggestion of Adrian Beamish, the British ambassador in Lima, who thought it would give my father the chance to establish contact with members of the British government.

Octavio Paz was in London at the time, and my father arranged to meet him. I had assumed that I would be accompanying my father, but strangely, he told me that I was to remain behind. He had sensed that the meeting was not going to be an easy one. And it wasn’t. Octavio spent the evening telling my father that, although his bravery was admirable, the sacrifice he was about to make would be infinitely regretted later. He spoke about the tradition of failure among intellectuals who had devoted themselves to politics, but in my father’s case the prospect was more serious because he was too valuable a novelist to abandon literature. ‘You’re our leading novelist,’ he told him in a moment of high emotion. Octavio also said that the limited mandate of a presidential term was too short to be able to do anything significant in a country as monstrously difficult as his own. ‘The thing is that you’re a progressive,’ he joked. ‘You believe in method.’ Then, just before they parted, Octavio assured him: ‘The best thing that can happen, Mario, is for you to lose.’


A Fish Out of Water
The Consultant