I have at last read The Grass is Singing which is brilliant and impactante, epoch making for many reasons. Of all books mentioned in this post, this is the one most worth discussing. I will therefore discuss it least.
I have also been reading The Poisonwood Bible, which is a good book although Kingsolver is not Lessing. The morbid reason I enjoyed it is that it is about the Congo, which is poorer than Peru.
By chance I read a large part of the Cuba Diaries, which was interesting, in part because I also went to Cuba while the author was there.
The Cuba Diaries, however, were most fascinating because I am currently located in another really poor country. When I came back from Havana, people who had also been there wanted to commiserate with me about how terrible it was. I said, have you been to Lima or San Salvador?
That was some time ago. Now, typing with one hand because I must use the other to hold the computer’s plug into the wall (bathroom plugs are typically the only ones which work easily, but I fear water droplets and shorting the machine out, electrocuting myself or starting a fire), I say that although I cannot say it to most of my Peruvian friends, who are upbeat and hopeful about the current economy, Peru currently reminds me not of Cuba but of Nicaragua.
Think wartorn-ness, capitalism, ruins, smoke, neoliberalism, garbage, foreign investment, grime, more smoke, hunger, and lots of poets and much culture buried, yet still growing in the pile, and very charming people who are also far more resilient than I can imagine being.
I do not want to say it but I think both of these countries have been ruined for the foreseeable future. I think everyone not engaged in subsistence farming should be removed except for some caretakers and engineers, so that the land can heal itself.
Update: Of course, I wrote this days ago on the coast and now I have been in beautiful, uncongested, unpolluted Huamachuco for a week and I don’t feel the same way – even about development, which they seem to be doing in a smart way here.