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Corner of the Dead

Lynn Lurie

Publication Year: 2008

This powerful novel depicts the reign of violence perpetrated in Peru in the 1980s by the Shining Path guerrillas, a Maoist-based organization, and the subsequent authoritarian counterattack by the Peruvian government. It explores these horrific events through the eyes of a young American photojournalist and humanitarian worker, Lisette, who bears witness to the genocide of the Peruvian Indians in whose village she has chosen to live. “I use the camera to block my view,” says Lisette. This is the start of her double vision—trying to forget and trying to recall—and her struggle to come to terms with the human capacity for cruelty. But the grim reality in Peru is so overpowering that she carries it with her back to New York and through the rest of her life. Having abandoned a lover along with the fight, she desperately tries to find meaning beyond that of mere survival.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Title Page

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pp. v-

Copyright Page

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pp. vi-

Dedication

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pp. vii-

Part I

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Chapter 1

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pp. 3-5

THERE ARE PLACES in the Andes where we are afraid of dust. Of what might be borne in the dust. We crossed the border and two men in camouflage stepped out from a shack with a corrugated roof, machine guns strapped like mail bags across their chests....

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Chapter 2

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pp. 6-10

I AM STARING at the toast on my plate. The lightly browned texture reminds me of freckles. I carve a mouth by cutting a section from the middle, curve the empty space upwards to make a smile....

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Chapter 3

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pp. 11-14

Outside the hotel window the streets of Ayacucho were frozen like those in a travel poster. I strained for the sound of an Indian harp. All I heard were gunshots. I tried to convince myself it was the sound of a muffl er backfi ring. Rolff was the fi rst person to introduce himself. I waited for the rest of his name. He only...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 15-

THERE WERE three more villages that day. Then a month of villages. Rolff made lists. Arye wrote down phone numbers and passed them to Marta. Marta spent the evenings making calls. I used the camera to block my view....

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Chapter 5

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pp. 16-22

The wind and the dust, I learned, had been condemned to carry ashes. I wanted to say we had been to one village or another; that we had looked but had found nothing. This, Arye would not allow. In our first week Arye bought...

Part II

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Chapter 1

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pp. 25-31

L I M A . Is this you? Still gray. I ask Karl if he sees gray or is it that I am still seeing what I remember from when I was here three years ago with Arye, even though I am here again and am no longer working off memory. It is gray, he says,...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 32-34

AT SUNSET we gather in Enrique’s courtyard. His house is the best in the village although only half-finished. In the two years we live here, the holes where windows should have been are never filled. The radio is set to...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 35-37

IT WRAPS ITSELF around me. Exhaustion and dread and I am shaking. We fell asleep earlier than usual last night. It was the cold. I’m not sure who woke first or if we woke at the same time but it was to a chorus...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 38-42

THE NEXT MORNING we eat our bread and butter. I was afraid to go for milk. Usually I buy it from the woman across the way and boil it for fifteen minutes. I get up from the table to go outside to wash the dishes when Karl tells me to sit. I’m going to leave this...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 43-44

I WALK FASTER toward the cuyera. The light is on in the bedroom. I run up the path, calling to Karl. I don’t want him to be frightened by the noise outside the window. He’s listening to the radio. He looks like a sick pale child with tear-stained cheeks. When I sit...

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Chapter 6

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pp. 45-47

BUSES AND CARS are ambushed. Men in camoufl age block the roads. There are raids in the mountains, people are rushing to escape although it isn’t clear where. They are not aligned with anyone. They...

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Chapter 7

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pp. 48-51

I ASK FOR ONE PORTION. The meat woman asks why only one. Karlos is away. She invites me to stay with her in the apartment above the store, just until he gets back. She calls me by the name he sometimes uses,...

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Chapter 8

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pp. 52-

I HAVE THIS DREAM. Coffee cups rattle on the table, shaken by the force of military jets flying back and forth across the same path of sky. Coffee runs down the sides of the cups. Dark puddles pool on the glass table....

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Chapter 9

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pp. 53-58

THE FIRST Catholic church in this country is at the entrance to the next town over. Its ceiling is made of reeds from the river. A mural on the inside wall tells the story of the conquest. Inside it I am safe even...

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Chapter 10

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pp. 59-60

H E ISN’T BACK. It has been more than two days and two nights. And that was all he said it would be, two days and two nights. In the afternoon I do laundry with the women. They laugh at me and it is true I don’t know how to do the wash without washing myself. After changing...

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Chapter 11

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pp. 61-

MY NIGHTMARES could be from fever. How high my temperature is I’m not sure. I can’t get up for the thermometer. I’m shivering with cold and my throat...

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Chapter 12

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pp. 62-66

I A M FALLING, but, cannot land. I’m not desperate for aspirin but I am dreaming of water, of many glasses of cold water with perfectly formed ice cubes. I reach for one and begin...

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Chapter 13

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pp. 67-

I’LL BE BETTER tomorrow and by tomorrow Karl will be back. What day is it? Is it day already? Blanca wants to know how to...

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Chapter 14

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pp. 68-69

KARL ASKS if I know what day it is. I’ve been sick since you left. Thanksgiving. How do you know? A mountain climber...

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Chapter 15

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pp. 70-74

KARL AND I see them as they wind down the mountain behind our house. They go to Enrique’s, knowing who he is and where he lives. We think they have listened to Enrique when they do not stay. Men gather in front....

Part III

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Chapter 1

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pp. 77-78

LIMA . What has happened to you? There are no lights as far as we can see. Passengers from other buses are asleep on the steps. We hear reports of looting in the city center. There is no choice but to spend the night with them outside the terminal....

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Chapter 2

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pp. 79-80

EL CUARTEL GENERAL DEL EJ

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Chapter 3

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pp. 81-

WAVES POUND against the rocky shoreline. A Peruvian Alcatraz. Each time I hear them crash ashore, I jump. Even when we are deep inside the prison and under, I hear the waves breaking through....

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Chapter 4

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pp. 82-

ONE MORE. Karl insists. It takes a few days to travel to Puno. If he weren’t pushing me, I would have given up already. At nearly thirteen thousand...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 83-86

WE HAVE NO NEWS, Karl tells Amparo. But we will keep looking. It’s possible he’s nearby, that he hasn’t been taken to prison. He could be with...

Part IV

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Chapter 1

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pp. 89-90

AN ENVELOPE arrives addressed to me. Inside are photographs Karl took of ice and snow. Now I know I left the note I wrote that morning. The bicycle I buy on Third...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 91-

I HAVE NO USE for this lovely felt hat the women in my village gave me. Blanca selected the embroidered ribbons in orange, purple and blue because they matched the ones that wrapped around the brim of her nearly identical hat. The hat is stuffed somewhere in...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 92-

IT IS THE END of the day check-in before they let me go home. The doctors know it is important that I am on time. I worry when someone is late. Late might mean gone. It is why I never make anyone wait....

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Chapter 4

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pp. 93-94

KARL WROTE TO ME for many years after I left. His envelopes were blue. I remember some of his letters by heart. To remember by heart is to remember by feel. This is the worst way to remember. I saved this one. I received it...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 95-97

I TELL THE DOCTOR about our last vacation. The way caravans of families surround us. I use my hands and draw a wide circle indicating the beach. Everyone knows, somehow, the acceptable distance for....

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Chapter 6

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pp. 98-101

AT THE NEXT SESSION the doctor asks how the steak was. I stare at her neatly crossed legs. She doesn’t really want to know. She picks a piece of lint from her woolen jacket. It’s her way of checking facts....

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Chapter 7

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pp. 102-103

RICHARD HANDS ME a wrapped box. Anniversary day. This will be our last. We don’t yet know this. I have nothing for him. Inside his box is a wallet. I keep looking at it, hoping in the looking it will turn into something else. Or I will be able to make...

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Chapter 8

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pp. 104-107

NO LEAK IN THE CEILING. It hasn’t rained for a very long time. Even if it had, only the penthouse would leak and we don’t live on the top floor. The lintel could be rotted though. That would be a way to get rain. But to date our...

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Chapter 9

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pp. 108-109

N O , I ’ D RATHER NOT, I say. Why is that? It’s just a place. The doctor tries to get me to look her in the eye. The rhododendron bushes. The missing. I’m always seeing what’s missing....

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Chapter 10

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pp. 110-112

FROM OUR BEDROOM window I could see the Andes, and closer still, our outdoor spigot. Once the water came out the color of rust. When the clouds lifted, after six months of rain, it looked as if the summit could be reached in an...

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Chapter 11

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pp. 113-

PHOEBE CAME into my bed, sunk her head into my abdomen, the bones of her skull pressed against my spine. Once she lived inside me. The...

Part V

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Chapter 1

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pp. 117-

I SCRAPE MY PALMS against the bottom of the pool. I focus on the moving shapes and shadows, they are like continents on the map I am charting in...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 118-119

THE PHONE RINGS. This hardly ever happens. I’m awake and then asleep until the next ring. It stops. I could go on this way not feeling thirst or hunger. Today, however, Phoebe is relying on me to...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 120-122

I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE. Why? The doctor asks. I don’t want to be falling apart. Are you? I decide not to look up. Is there a pill to take to avoid the next stretch? The part where I collapse? If I can sleep I dream of not being able to do what I’m supposed to do. My sister is with me...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 123-127

I TELL THE DOCTOR about the house falling apart, that I don’t think I can keep it up much longer. Keep what up? The idea of having to go back to work. There’s a kind of lizard in the Amazon with...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 128-130

WHAT DID YOU BRING? The doctor asks. The box is on my lap. Photographs of Perú. I take a deep breath and open it. This is Arye from the first time I went to Perú. I didn’t...

Part VI

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Chapter 1

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pp. 133-134

THE HUDSON RIVER laps against the landfill of lower Manhattan, stretches to the bedrock of New Jersey. Outlines of tree branches reflect like jagged spears. I have been walking for a long time. I come most every day....

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Chapter 2

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pp. 135-136

KARL STAYED in our village for many years after I left. This letter is from five years later. I was married, I think he knew but I’m not sure, maybe not....

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Chapter 3

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pp. 137-139

THE TRUTH and Reconciliation Commission was convened. Karlos wrote requesting my negatives. I sent everything. It is possible Arye was the forensic anthropologist working in our area. And it is possible that....

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Chapter 4

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pp. 140-141

YOU SEND ME photographs of your Andes. The ones that are outside your bedroom window. These photographs remind me of the mountains we once saw together....

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 143-

I am most grateful to the gentle people of Gatazo Zambrano, Chimborazo Province, Ecuador. Especially the family Rea Cuvi and the young girl I once knew there (a ti un abrazo fuerte). On this side of the equator...

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613761236
E-ISBN-10: 1613761236
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558496545
Print-ISBN-10: 1558496548

Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Juniper Prize for Fiction

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Indians, Treatment of -- Peru -- Fiction.
  • Political fiction.
  • Psychological fiction.
  • Photojournalists -- Fiction.
  • Americans -- Peru -- Fiction.
  • Sendero Luminoso (Guerrilla group) -- Fiction.
  • Peru -- History -- 1980- -- Fiction.
  • Peru -- Politics and government -- 1980- -- Fiction.
  • Genocide -- Peru -- Fiction.
  • Indians of South America -- Peru -- Fiction.
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