In tribute to Mario Vargas Llosa, the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature winner, here is my review of his great novel Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter that I first published here on 25 July 2008:
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1977) by Mario Vargas Llosa represents Peru in my ongoing effort to read a work of fiction by an author from every nation on the Earth called Around the World for a Good Book. The supposedly autobiographical novel is told from the point of view of Marito a law student who also works producing news updates for Lima’s high-brow station, but dreams of becoming a writer. When Marito is 18, two people come into his life and it turns his life upside down. The first is Aunt Julia, the ex-wife of Marito’s uncle, with whom he falls in love with despite being half her age. The other is Pedro Comacho, a work-a-holic writer of radio serials who gains great acclaim creating lurid soap operas for the more popular low-brow radio station.
Chapters of the book alternate between Marito narrating how he woos and eventually tries to marry Aunt Julia in a absurdly complex series of events (and still refers to her as “Aunt” the whole time). If that doesn’t seem soap operish enough, the chapters in-between are the plots of Comacho’s radio serials which come across as well-constructed, gripping short stories. Yet, as the character Comacho works his way to a nervous breakdown, the stories become more confusing with characters showing up from other stories. Is it a masterpiece of expiremental literature or is he just going insane?
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is funny, sexy, and satirical. Writers in particular are shown up for their pretension while at the same time Vargas Llosa shows the skill and effor that goes into their craft. The novel also a nice flavor of Lima in the 1950’s. This is an enjoyable, fun but not dumb novel that I recommend highly.
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (Picador Books) by Mario Vargas Llosa. Pan Books Ltd (1984), Paperback, 374 pages