The Green House is a sequence of stories that eventually make sense but it looks like the chapters have been shuffled randomly. The temporal sequence is continuously altered, so the reading becomes a bit of a puzzle. Slowly one understands the chronology. By the end, the stories look like miniature Shakespeareian tragedies of ambition, love and murder.
A story has to do with Adrian Nieves, a pilot in the jungle. A village has a convent whose most outspoken nun is Sister Angelica. Nieves leads Sister Angelica and her escort of soldiers (granted by the friendly governor Don Fabian) to kidnap children from the peaceful Stone Age villages so that the nuns can raise them like Christians. A teenage girl from the jungle who has been raised at the convent, Bonifacia, lets the children run away because she feels pity for them. Sister Angelica accuses her of being evil and makes her feel guilty. Don Fabian sends the soldiers to look for the children, who are eventually found. Nonetheless the nuns expel Bonifacia, who begs in vain to be forgiven.
Another storyline is about the old Aquilino, who is escorting his friend Fushia up the river. Aquilino is a trader who spent his life plying the river back and forth with his merchandise. Fushia, an ethnic Japanese, was a Brazilian fugitive who had become a criminal after being unjustly jailed. Fushia tells Aquilino how Julio Reategui made a fortune through smuggling rubber. Don Fabio had introduced Fushia to Reategui. They had been business partners for a while, but Fushia's dream of getting rich had not materialized, whereas Reategui had even become the governor of the region (only now retired and replaced by Don Fabio). Fushia had been blamed for the illegal trade of rubber. His revenge on Reategui had been to seduce the same girl that he wanted: Lalita. Fushia pretended to sell Lalita to Reategui in exchange for a boat and money so he could escape. He then instructed Lalita to escape. Lalita was madly in love with him and followed him into the jungle, where they set up operations with Nieves and an indio named Jum. Now Fushia calls Lalita a whore, but Aquilino reminds him that she merely obeyed him, and out of love. Fushia promised Lalita that he would make her rich. The jungle was a safe place for him, a wanted man, and he was sure he could rob the indios with help from Nieves, Panticha and Jum. She was the only white woman in that part of the world and lonely most of the time. Her only friend was Aquilino, who even helped her give birth to their son, hence named Aquilino too. Aquilino was the man who helped Fushia sell the loot.
Nieves' story actually began in the nearby garrison, where corporal Roberto Delgado asked captain Artemio Quiroga for permission to visit his family in the jungle. The captain granted him three weeks and gave him a pilot, Nieves, and a porter. They were attacked by indios and only Nieves escaped unharmed. He decided to desert because he hated the life at the garrison. He found employment in the jungle with a white couple who were running an illegal business: Fushia and Lalita.
Another story centers on Lituma, who has returned to the city after spending several years in jail. His old buddy Josefino welcomes him. Lituma has decided to settle there. He wants to celebrate at the local brothel, the Green House, but there is something that Josefino has to tell him first, something unpleasant: his wife Bonifacia has become a whore at the Green House and now goes by the nickname of Wildflower. After he was arrested for causing the death of a wealthy ranchero, Seminario, Bonifacia was pregnant and penniless. Josefino claims that he fled town right away because he was afraid of being implicated as an accomplice, and that Bonifacia remained alone. Lituma visits Wildflower at Chunga's brothel. He only pretends to believe Josefino's story. He knows the truth: Josefino took advantage of Lituma's arrest to seduce Bonifacia, who was already pregnant with Lituma's baby. Lituma beats the hell out of Josefino while Wildflower exults, but then Lituma turns against Wildflower too, sending her back to her whoring duties at Chunga's place.
Another story has to do with Don Anselmo, a talented harp player who arrived in town one day with lots of money and a mysterious past. He opened the brothel where the town ends in the desert. People started coming from all over. The Green House made the city popular. It also made lots of enemies for Don Anselmo, particularly Father Garcia.
Reategui was disturbed by the news that the indios were refusing to sell rubber to him like in the old days. Some white "teachers" had educated them and stirred them up against him.
Lalita was faithful to Fushia while he mistreated her, beat her and cheated on her. Eventually she ran away with the pilot, Nieves. By then Fushia had become impotent because of an uncured infection that was eating up his legs. Aquilino is the only friend that Fushia has, but defends Lalita's actions.
On the mission to rescue the children Nieves befriended the sergeant, Lituma, a jungle boy, and offered to introduce him to his wife Lalita and to the girl who helped the children escape, Bonifacia, who had moved in with them. Lalita immediately sets out to arrange a marriage between Lituma and Bonifacia, except that Bonifacia is very shy: she has always lived among women.
Antonia was an orphan who had been adopted by the wealthy Quirogas. One day the Quirogas were attacked and killed. She survived by miracle but lost her eyes and her tongue to the vultures. Blind and mute, she was adopted by a washerwoman, Juana Baura. One day Antonia disappeared and the whole town searched in vain for her. Anselmo confessed that he had convinced her to live with him in the brothel where only the prostitutes knew of their affair. The pervert had seduced the poor girl and got her pregnant and she had died giving birth. The women of the town, furious and led by Father Garcia, set the Green House on fire. Anselmo cries that Antonia's baby is burning alive. The cook saves her: Chunga.
A new lieautenant is odered to track down and arrest the white bandits that have been robbing indio villages in the jungle. He takes Lituma with him but Nieves refuses to follow them and suggests another pilot. An indio, Jum, was punished as an example after Delgado was beaten and Nieves disappeared (some believed killed). Jum, though, always claimed that Delgado was a thief and that Nieves was not killed but ran away. Jum demanded that they returned what was stolen and a little girl who had been taken by Reategui. Jum claimed that the indios stopped selling rubber to Reategui because he was cheating them. Reategui delivered the little girl to the nuns, so she could be raised properly. The nuns reproached him, though, for punishing Jum without a trial. Reategui defended his action claiming it was for the common good. It was his last action as a governor before retiring to a distant city.
Bonifacia marries the sergeant Lituma and the nuns come to the wedding and forgive her. Lituma gets in an argument with the rich ranchero, Seminario. They play Russian roulette and Seminario loses, i.e. kills himself. Lituma is arrested for having caused the death and sentenced to ten years in prison. Josefino pretends to be a friend but he is already eyeing the pregnant Bonifacia. (The story is told by Chunga at the Green House, where Bonifacia is now a whore named Wildflower).
Chunga is now the owner of the Green House. Josefino was five when the first Green House burned down. Anselmo, now old, refuses to talk about it. Anselmo consoles himself with the orchestra that he organized and that is popular all over the place. Many brothels opened along the river after the Green House was rebuilt.
The soldiers find that Fushia's band has long left the jungle. They only find Pantacha gone crazy, who tells them that Nieves is the pilot who deserted and then became an associate of the bandits. Now Lituma understands why Nieves didn't want to join the expedition. Lituma goes back to warm Nieves and give him a chance to escape, but Nieves is tired and lets Lituma arrest him instead.
Fushia has only one friend left, Aquilino, who helps him reach a city where he can get cured. Fushia has to spend his entire meager fortune to survive. His enormous ambition gave him nothing: a rotting body. The modest Aquilino has fared a lot better in life.
Years later Aquilino is still visiting Fushia at the hospital where he is attended by nuns. Fushia has lost a leg and is rapidly losing his mind. Aquilino has seen Lalita in town: she is now married to a policeman and raises all her children together (Fushia's, Nieves' and the new ones). FUshia doesn't even understand him.
Anselmo dies and Wildflower even fetches his lifelong nemesis Father Garcia to bless him before he dies. Lalita learns that Nieves has finally been released but he probably left the country. Their son, also called Aquilino, is getting married. Before Anselmo died, Chunga also called the doctor, Zevalos. Zevalos is the one who brought CHunga to the world: her mother Antonia died in his arms. Father Garcia still has not forgiven the pervert who seduced Antonia and then caused her death. Zevalos remembers how Antonia died while he was operating her. His memories are mixed with the abortion that Josefino forced on Bonifacia and that almost killed her too.
The mystery of where Anselmo came from dies with him: he told Bonifacia that he too came from the jungle like her but nobody believes her. Father Garcia, after having cursed all the sinners of the Green House, especially Lituma who lives on Bonifacia's prostitution, walks away with Zevalos: they are the only survivors of that generation.
This is the chronology of events:
- The partners: Fushia and Reategui. The explorers: Delgado and Nieves.
- The bandits: Fushia, Nieves, Lalita, Jum. The convent: the nuns and Bonifacia. Anselmo and the first Green House.
- The fugitive: dying Fushia and Aquilino. The household: Nieves, Lalita and Bonifacia. Antonia and the burning of the Green House.
- The spouses: Lituma and Bonifacia. Nieves in jail.
- Lituma in jail. The adulterers: Josefino and Bonifacia. Lalita and Fats.
- Chunga's Green House. The old Anselmo and his band. Bonifacia as Wildflower the prostitute.
Romanzo satirico imperniato attorno alla missione segreta del capitano
Pantaleon, un ufficiale modello dell'esercito Peruviano che un giorno
viene incaricato dagli alti vertici militari di istituire un bordello
nella giungla, per evitare che i soldati violentino le donne locali.
Pantaleon, con l'aiuto dei pittoreschi professionisti del caso
(protettori e prostitute incalliti) e del comprensivo tenente Bacacorzo,
l'unico a conoscenza della sua vera identita`,
si dedica anima e corpo all'iniziativa, riscuotendo un grande successo e
la riconoscenza dei corpi militari, ma scatenando anche le ire dei benpensanti,
sobillati dall'ipocrita giornalista radiofonico Sinchi (in realta`
interessato soltanto a ricattarlo) e dai seguaci del predicatore
Fratello Francisco, i quali hanno preso a crocifiggere persone come
sacrifici propiziatori e sono diventati un altro cruccio delle autorita`.
L'attivita` aumenta vertiginosamente: Panta deve arruolare sempre piu`
prostitute, ampliare la sua piccola flotta privata per il trasporto
delle stesse, studiare piani sempre piu` ambiziosi di penetrazione
e diffusione del servizio nella giungla. Panta si tuffa alla missione
con dedizione quasi maniacale. I superiori nella capitale sono divisi,
alcuni entusiasti altri disgustati, ma tutti accettano "Pantalandia" come
il male minore. Sinchi, debitamente remunerato, adesso ne parla persino
I guai cominciano quando la moglie Ponchita, che gia` mal sopportava
l'incognito, scopre la vera missione del marito e scopre anche che lo
stesso se la fa con una delle prostitute. E tutto cio` dopo che e` appena
nato la loro prima figlia (frutto anche quello dell'aria della giungla).
Ponchita lo abbandona portandosi
via la figlia.
La madre Leonor rimane, ma e` diventata una delle seguaci di Francisco,
un'altra delle ragioni per Ponchita di andarsene (ha paura che facciano
alla sua bambina cio` che hanno fatto a un altro bambino: crocifiggerla).
La prostituta viene crocefissa dai bigotti e lui tiene un discorso funebre in
uniforme, scatenando le ire dei suoi superiori, che gli avevano intimato di
tener nascosto il suo vero grado. Francisco si fa a sua volta crocifiggere dai
suoi stessi seguaci per evitare l'arresto. Il servizio delle "visitatrici" viene
sospeso e Pantaleon riprende la sua carriera militare nella capitale fra le
amorose braccia della moglie.
Il romanzo e` strutturato per comunicati e rapporti, che trasformano la vicenda
comica in una serie di atti burocratici.
Kafka e Buzzati.