This book began to take shape when, in the first draft of chap-
ter 1 on the “dialogue” between Atahuallpa and Valverde in Caja-
marca, I included a rather abrupt reference to the poem “Pedro
Rojas” by César Vallejo. I suspected then that the bristling con-
flict between voice and writing displayed dramatically in 1532 was
somehow still alive in written Andean culture, and that it was ex-
pressed in the profound and impossible nostalgia that our writers
feel for lost orality. With apologies to Derrida, this assumes that
the authenticity of language resides in the spoken
I later
discovered that under literature’s ever- mysterious spell that cer-
tain dreamers have tried to reduce to an iron- clad grid, there were
other symptomatic correlations between the Andean representa-
tions of the Inca’s death and Vallejo’s poem: the many deaths of
the Inca and those of Pedro Rojas, or the Messianic signs in some
of the former and the resurrection image at the end of Vallejo’s
poem, for
I also suspected that José María Arguedas’s
“stone of boiling blood” had something to do with Pedro- piedra
(stone) and blood- Rojas (red). I took the title of this book from
a verse of Vallejo’s poem when I finally realized that this text, al-
though present throughout my research, had received only tan-
gential mention in this study. I have no idea along which twists or
turns “Pedro Rojas” evaporated temporarily from my conscious-
ness. Then it dawned on me that, instead of a classic “conclusion,”
I could explicate Vallejo’s incredible poem. So, happily, little is
concluded and much is left
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