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the Complete Review
the complete review - drama


The Young Lady from Tacna

Mario Vargas Llosa

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Title: The Young Lady from Tacna
Author: Mario Vargas Llosa
Genre: Drama
Written: 1981 (Eng. 1990)
Length: 76 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: La Demoiselle de Tacna - France
  • All English editions of The Young Lady from Tacna are currently out of print
  • Spanish title: La señorita de Tacna
  • Translated by David Graham-Young
  • Included in the collection Three Plays
  • First English-language productions, as Señorita from Tacna in New York in 1983, and then as The Young Lady from Tacna in Los Angeles in 1985

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Our Assessment:

B : fine play of story-telling and memory

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The Young Lady from Tacna is a cleverly structured play that nicely evokes the past, while also dramatising the creative act.
       The stage has two sets. One is Belisario's study -- "anywhere in the world in 1980". Belisario is a writer, "between forty and fifty, or even older", struggling over a story. The rest of the stage is in his grandparents' house, in Lima in 1950, when Belisario was still studying to become a lawyer (or pretending to). The central figure there is Mamaé, an "old lady of about a hundred".
       Mamaé has "found the perfect means of escaping from this misery that surrounds us", as she is a doddering old woman by now, fantasizing about the past and lost in the present. Around this Belisario invents his story -- a mix of the fact and fiction of Mamaé's life story, built on her recollections and contrasted with the situation in the 1950s-present. She becomes young again on the stage, and relives an early romance and disappointment -- nicely managed by Vargas Llosa, with Belisario as a helpful onstage intermediary.
       The whole story of the family, which has fallen on ever-harder times, and Mamaé's place in it (she was taken in by Belisario's great-grandparents when she was orphaned at age five or six, and raised like their own daughter) is neatly described, as are Belisario's struggles to create. He eventually concludes:

A writer is someone who writes, not what he wants -- that's what the normal person does -- but what his demons want him to.
       The Young Lady from Tacna is an effective piece of theatre, and Vargas Llosa's artist a convincing one, his struggles in creating a story nicely conveyed.

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Mario Vargas Llosa: Other works by Mario Vargas Llosa under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa was born in 1936 and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010. He has written many works of fiction and non-fiction, and has run for the Presidency of Peru.

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