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“The Conservatives”: Lights’ critique of Fernán Altuve’s book

Let’s start with a truth like an oak: in Peru the conservative right has ceded the initiative to the left in the cultural field. The reasons for this circumstance exceed the objective of this column, but the absence of names and works from that ideological sector in the intellectual debate is obvious. One of the few exceptions to this situation is the work of Fernán Altuve-Febres (Lima, 1968), a politician, academic and writer whose prodigious career includes rigorously prepared historiographical and literary analysis books based on extensive baggage. We can disagree with Altuve’s ideas; however, that should not be a reason to belittle his silent and constant work involved in rescuing the national traditionalist heritage, as testified, for example, by the recent study on José Pancorvo, “Poeta y misístico del Incarrey” (2022).

Reaffirming this direction, Altuve-Febres has just published “Los conservadores”, a volume that brings together the portraits of seven decisive figures for understanding the evolution of ultramontane thought in our country. In his excellent prologue, the author skillfully justifies two essential aspects of his project: the first is the choice of intellectual biography as a method that facilitates “exposing these ideas in a chronological set, but in such a way that each thinker preserves the richness of every ideology. The second is the historical arc that is addressed, which covers the years between the decline of the Kingdom of Peru and the establishment of the Republic as we know it: four decades that serve as a precise framework to “begin the study from the first doctrinal postulates of independent Peru. Both options give this book a comprehensive look at the period under study, in addition to a coherent vision of the Peruvian conservative corpus that – Altuve-Febres points out correctly – lacks organicity; his claim to give it shape and continuity works within the scheme he has proposed.

As for the biographies that make up “The Conservatives”, we recognize in them an agile and fine, classic prose, as well as an outstanding bibliographical effort. Also the unconcealed admiration of Altuve-Febres for his referents, which is absolutely legitimate; however, some of his assessments may be controversial. He maintains that the ecclesiastic Blas de Ostolaza was a “brilliant speaker” and a man characterized by temperance, despite the fact that other sources, such as Julio Caro Baroja, did not hesitate to describe his speeches as “poor” and Javier Lasarte mentions that they were “well-known their bad habits and their arteries to rise”.

But these objections pale in comparison to the investigative and multidisciplinary achievement that our author rounds off. There are fascinating notes, like the one where Altuve-Febres speculates based on the fact that José de la Riva Agüero y Sánchez Boquete, the country’s first president, could have been that Peruvian general who appears in Stendhal’s “Rojo y negro”. Beyond this propensity for the tasty anecdote, perhaps the greatest virtue of “The Conservatives” is the revival of characters whose vital and intellectual avatars have fallen into ominous oblivion: José María de Pando, José Ignacio Moreno, Juan

García del Río or José Joaquín de Mora. It would be a mistake to take this book as a peremptory work on those personalities. Rather, it is a plausible starting point to reassess his contributions and finally begin to seriously discuss the legacy of conservative thought in Peru and its uncertain future.

The token

“The Conservatives”

Author: Fernán Altuve-Febres

Editorial: Taurus

Year: 2022

Pages: 207

Relationship with the author: cordial

Assessment: 4 stars out of 5 possible

Source: Elcomercio

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