THE POLITICAL AWAKENING OF THE YOUNG GORE VIDAL (as told by himself) by Donal Kennedy

In 1946, aged 20, having served in the US Army and having had his first novel “Williwaw” published to critical and public acclaim, Gore Vidal betook himself to Guatemala to write another novel. He would have gone to Europe but that ravaged continent was not then open to tourists.


He got to know and talk with the young President of the Guatemalan Congress, a poet called Mario Montelforte Toledo, touted as a future president of that republic. They’d drink beer together while Mario would tell him all the gossip. The President’s car had run off the road recently whilst he was being driven by an American girl from a news magazine.Then Mario twitted Gore about his wealthy friends in Guamala City whose palace occupied a whole city  After a ritual denunciation of the rich and the powerful Mario began to talk about politics:
“We may not last much longer”
“We, who?”
“Our Government. At some point we’re going to have to raise revenue.The only place where there is money is pulpo”. El pulpo means the Octopus, also known as the United Fruit Company, whose annual revenues were twice that of the Guatemalan state. Recently their workers had gone on strike; selfishly they wanted to be paid $1.50 a day for their intersting work

Gore”What’s going to stop you from taxing them?” I was naive. This was long ago and the United States had just become the Leader of the Free World.
Mario “Your Government.They kept Ubico (our party) in power. Now they’re getting ready to replace us.”
Gore – I was astonished. I knew vaguely about our numerous past intervention in Central America. But that was past. Why should we bother now?           “Why should we bother about a small country like this?”
Mario  -“Businessmen. Like the owners of United Fruit. They used to pay for our politicians.Now they pay for yours. Why, one of your big Senators is on the board of El Pulpo”
Gore – I knew something about senators. “Which one?”    Mario -“, He has three names. From Boston, I think.”…

Gore -… “Henry Cabot Lodge? I don’t believe it.”  Lodge was a family friend. As a boy I had discussed poetry with him; in fact he was a poet’s son. Years later, as Kennedy’s Ambassador in Vietnam, Lodge would preside over the murder of the Diem brothers.

From Palimpsest – A Memoir

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