Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Bad Girl and the Good Boy

The bad girl has many names. She is Lily, comrade Arlette, Mme Robert Arnoux, Mrs Richardson, Kuriko, and Otilia. The bad girl has many nationalities. She is Chilean, Peruvian, French, English, and Japanese. The bad girl lives in different places. You can find her in Peru, in France, in Cuba, in England, and in Japan. The bad girl is a gold-digging femme fatale, who was risen in poverty. She promised herself never to be poor and never to starve again. The bad girl became a ruthless insensitive woman, who used people and then abandoned them. Including the good boy.

The good boy has only one name. He is Ricardo. The good boy has one nationality. He is Peruvian, whose long life dream to live in Paris has lead him to lead a boring but stable life as a translator in the capital of love. He meets the bad girl as a teenager in Peru, where Lily pretends to be Chilean. His infatuation and obsession with the bad girl begins then and there and lasts more than 50 years. Ricardo meets her again years after that in Paris, as the comrade Arlette, a mock agitator for the socialist reforms in South America. His devotion is awaken once again. Ricardo takes care of the bad girl, loves her more than life, and is ready to do anything to provide her with everything she needs. The bad girl answers him with cruelty. She abuses him, mocks him for his lack of ambition, uses him as a love toy, and then abandons him for a richer and more prosperous man. Thus, she becomes the wife of a French diplomat and an English aristocrat and then the lover of a Japanese mafioso. Ricardo and the bad girl intertwine their destinies all around the world, London, Paris, Tokyo, Madrid, Ricardo chasing her, the bad girl hurting him.

This is the story of a different love story. If we can really call it a love story. This is The Bad Girl by Noble Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa. The bad girl is an impossible combination of pragmatism, adventurism, and rebelliousness. Her difficult life has taught her that money and power are essential for happiness. Thus, she looks for wealthy men to provide her with everything she has been missing. Ricardo is romantic and sensitive. He never forgets his first teenage love. No matter how many times the bad girl exploited him, hurt him, or betrayed him, the good boy took her back every time. For nearly 50 years all over the world, his love and her egocentrism and egoism meet and part.

Is this a love story? I say yes. Ricardo loves the bad girl, that's for sure. He admires her ambition, her volatility, her beauty, even her harshness and insensitiveness. The bad girl also loves Ricardo to some extent. Yet, it takes her a whole life time to discover that not money but affection and respect bring happiness. She is abandoned by husband after husband looking for the stability money give and ignoring the simple but real life that Ricardo offers her. The Bad Girl by Llosa is the touching story of two souls, who are so different but so much made for each other. He needs her craziness and she needs his calmness. He needs someone to take care of and she needs someone to show her the right way. Destiny is cruel but also just for Ricardo and the bad girl.

The novel largely reminds us of Flaubert's Madame Bovary. The similarity is not accidental. Llosa admired Flaubert's talent and his depiction of the ruthless and egoistic woman and her loyal admirer. However, this time the student has surpassed the teacher. Flaubert is the master of realism mainly because he uses reality and transforms it into another, alternative existence, where passion overwhelms, immortal and undiminished by time. Llosa deservingly receives a Noble prize for his mastery of postmodernism. The Peruvian author takes a revolutionary story and turns it into a contemporary love story spanning through decades and continents.

The Latin American boom of incredible authors is a fact. Marquez, Cortazar, Fuentes, and Llosa experiment with the traditional literature, challenge the established conventions, and discuss the effect of the political turbulences in the Southern continent. Deservingly, two of them are already Noble prize winners, with Llosa being most probably the most influential and powerful of them


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