By Mario Vargas Llosa
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Additional info for A Fish in the Water: A Memoir
The worst of the whole thing,” she says, “was the gossip. What people made up: the rumors, the lies, the whispering campaigns. I was so ashamed! I didn’t dare set foot outside the house. ” Luckily, Grandpa Pedro, Granny Carmen, Mamaé and all her brothers had behaved very well, cosseting her, protecting her, and making her feel that, even though she had been abandoned by her husband, she would always have a home and family. I was born on the second floor of the house on the Bulevar Parra, where my grandparents lived, early on the morning of March 28, 1936, after a long and painful labor.
That your papa isn’t dead. ” “Of course. ” But I didn’t know that, or even remotely suspect it, and it was as if the world had left me paralyzed with surprise. My papa, alive? And where had he been all the time I thought he was dead? It was a long story that up until that day—the most important day in my life till then and, perhaps, in my later life, too—had been carefully hidden from me by my mother, my grandfather and grandmother, my great-aunt Elvira—Mamaé—and my aunts and uncles, that vast family with which I spent my childhood, first in Cochabamba and then, once my grandfather Pedro was appointed mayor of this city, here in Piura.
I remember the Urioste and Beverley swimming pools to which Uncle Lucho took me, in which I learned to swim, the sport I liked best as a youngster and the only one in which I managed to acquire a certain skill. And I also remember, with the greatest affection, the little stories and the books that I read with mystical concentration and absorption, totally immersed in their world of illusion—the stories of Genevieve of Brabant and William Tell, of King Arthur and Cagliostro, of Robin Hood and the hunchback Lagardère, of Sandokán and Captain Nemo, and, above all, the series about Guillermo, a mischievous little boy my age, about whom each book in the series recounted an adventure which I tried to repeat afterward in the garden of the house.