By Mario Vargas Llosa
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Extra resources for A Fish in the Water: A Memoir
In the photograph that survived (they showed it to me many years later), Dorita can be seen posing in her white dress with a long train and a transparent veil, wearing an expression not at all radiant, but solemn, rather, and in her big dark eyes a somber shadow of curiosity as to what the future would bring her. What it brought her was disaster. After the wedding, they immediately journeyed to Lima, where my father worked for Panagra. They lived in a little house on the Calle Alfonso Ugarte, in Miraflores.
The street fights between Apristas, Urristas, and Socialists were frequent, and I was aware of it because in those days—when a street demonstration often turned into fisticuffs—I wasn’t allowed to go out of the house and more police came to guard the prefecture, which at times did not prevent the Aprista hoodlums, once their demonstration was over, to creep as close as they could to throw stones at our windows. I felt very proud to be the grandson of somebody so important: the prefect. I went with Grandpa to certain public functions—inaugurations, the parade on national holidays, ceremonies at the Grau barracks—and was puffed up with pride when I saw him presiding over the meetings, receiving the salutes of the military, or delivering speeches.
She had read in the newspapers that my grandfather was prefect of Piura and presumed that Dorita was with him. What had her life been like? Had she remarried? And how was Ernesto’s young son? She had written the letter following instructions from my father, who, driving in his car to his office, had heard on the radio news of the appointment of Don Pedro J. Llosa Bustamante as prefect of Piura. The second was a trip of a few weeks that my mama had made to Lima, in August, for a minor operation.