Until the appearance of this volume a study of the Peruvian short story has been lacking. While several short story writers have been acclaimed both in Peru and abroad (Enrique López Albújar, Ventura García Calderón, and José María Arguedas are good examples), it is fair to state that Aldrich is the first scholar to attempt the history of Peru’s modern short story.
His plan is rigorously chronological. Clemente Palma is first introduced as the creator of the genre, and he is followed by Abraham Valdelomar, Enrique López Albújar, Ventura García Calderón, José Carlos Mariátegui and the Amauta group (María Wiesse, César Falcón, Arturo Peralta, and Emilio Romero). After these come the “Writers of the Thirties” (José Díez-Canseco, Fernando Romero, Arturo Burga Freitas, and María Rosa Macedo) and the “Writters of the Forties” (Francisco Vegas Seminario, Alfonso Peláez Bazán, Porfirio Meneses, and Francisco Izquierdo Ríos). At this juncture Aldrich points up the special importance which he attaches to two writers by devoting an entire chapter to “Ciro Alegría and José María Arguedas: Pivotal Figures.” He concludes with a chapter on “New Directions Since 1950” (Enrique Congrairs Martín, Julio Ribeyro, Sebastían Salazar Bondy, Rubén Sueldo Guevara, Carlos Zavaleta, Eleodoro Vargas Vicuña, and a few other young writers.
Obviously Aldrich has read everything available that might contribute to his investigation, and through residence in Peru he has also become personally acquainted with many of the writers whom he studies. His work is the better for his thorough knowledge of his subject, and its most notable merit lies precisely in the wealth of factual material which he has assembled, particularly dealing with the biography and the bibliography of the writers.
However, his book is less satisfying in the area of criticism. Although interesting insights sometimes appear (as, for example, when he compares the use of dialogue by Valdelomar, López Albújar, and García Calderón), for the most part Aldrich does not really attempt a real critical overview either of the writers themselves or of the development of Peru’s short story as a literary genre. Almost without exception his essays follow a fixed pattern of biographical and bibliographical data about the writer in question, followed by a general discussion of his literary production (themes treated, techniques used, and some comments about the alleged merits or weaknesses of his works). Occasionally Aldrich pauses briefly to compare a few writers of a given period, but the approach is strongly oriented toward individuals or groups of individuals and a critical synthesis is lacking.
Nor is any consistent effort made to deal with influences at work upon Peru’s writers except very briefly when decadent modernista influence upon Clemente Palma is discussed. Surely Peru’s writers have read some Spanish, Spanish American, French, Russian, or North American short stories, and their reading must have taught them something ! Aldrich’s book would have been richer if such matters as these had received more attention.