Saturday, September 14, 2013

How to Become a Writer: Marciano Guerrero (Part 2 of 20)

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When I was eight years old, I recall that life in my small town —Viru, in northern Peru— was droll, and uneventful. Nothing extraordinary ever happened there. Not that it mattered much to me because at that age I lived a rich, exciting life in my imagination. Glorious, with child-eyes I would devour the comics, magazines, and adventure illustrated books that either my mother or my father would bring from their trips from the larger city.

The Count of Montecristo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Three Musketeers, Superman, Batman and Robin, The Shadow, Robinson Crusoe, Jane Eyre, Gulliver, Scaramouche, and many other fictitious beings were my intimate friends. Each and every story ever published by Emilio Salgari —an Italian writer of action, suspense, and swashbucklers — I read and re-read to exhaustion; my reading compensated for the lack of real action in that sleepy town of my childhood.  But all that was to change.

Yet, despite my young years, I felt a sense of apprehension and dread. In a small town where everyone knew each other, adults would abruptly shut up when I walked into their conversations. Even at home, servants and family retainers would whisper, disband, and go about their business. One evening, after supper, I noticed that several women had come to see my mother who wasn’t feeling well. When I saw the priest —father Morelos— hurrying to join the group, my heart seemed to stop. God help me! I knew something was wrong and I didn’t know what. Frightened more than curious, panicked beyond control, I crashed into their meeting and with tears in my eyes I threw myself into my mother’s arms and begged her not die. Without wasting a second, my mother told me that her illness wasn’t serious at all; that it was a different type of pain that she was experiencing.
 “Father Morelos, take him into the other room and explain what is happening,” she said. “He’s old enough to understand. Besides he knows all about political intrigues.”
Good old father Morelos, a rubicund Spanish priest who once or twice a week came to dine with us, told me that my father had left town.
 “But he will come back soon; it’s a matter of weeks,” he hastened to add.
Although his Castilian accent mixed with Latin expressions sounded strange to my ears, I understood every word he spoke. In sum, my father had travelled to Arequipa, in southern Peru, to join General Odria—a coup d’état was imminent.

As expected, General Odria, with the support from other Army officers, was installed as dictator in late 1948.

My first experience with political power and with the power of the written word came when I asked my father to enroll me in the Guadalupe High School. A school of heroes, of personalities, of celebrities, composers, musicians, poets, diplomats, and leaders of the nation was my choice. Yet a public school it was. Children from even the remotest hamlets and villages in the Andes, and from different social strata, were admitted there based on a tough entrance exam. While most well-off families enrolled their children in prestigious catholic and other private academies, I was determined to attend Guadalupe much against my parents' wishes. The school was then run by the military, and the director was a lieutenant colonel. But somehow I managed to win my father's approval, and he sided with me, promising his help.

Despite the years that have gone by, I still recall with much nostalgia the single word the director wrote on the presidential card that my father had handed him. The director wrote: “Approved.” My father had gotten a recommendation from General Odria --by then duly elected president of the republic-- that said: “Please help my nephew Marciano Guerrero who is soliciting admission to your prestigious school. And kindly call my aide-de-camp … when his admission is formalized.”
With such recommendation, no entrance examination was required, and for the record: the president of the republic was not my uncle, nor was I related to him in any degree. It was all a power play.

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  • Updike: Use of Infinitives
  • Possessive Nouns
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  • Truman Capote's Techniques
  • How To Create Great Villains
  • War on Adverbs
  • Using Rhetorical Tools
  • Ed McBain Sold 90 million books
  • Hook Your Reader
  • Dante and Writing
  • Derrida and Writing
  • Literature Transforms Us
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