(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is a comedic novel about the education of young Mario (called variously Marito and Varguitas) that combines numerous elements of Vargas Llosa’s own life with the fictional relationship with Aunt Julia and Pedro Camacho in Lima in the 1950’s to form an autobiographical fable of identity that is neither autobiography nor history but rather an artistically rendered portrait of the artist as a young man. The primary narrator of the work, Mario, recounts, from a distance of at least twelve years later, his youthful love for his aunt by marriage, their improbable courtship and hilarious attempts to circumvent the law to get married, and his own life as a law student, radio newswriter, and would-be short-story writer. Each of the novel’s twenty chapters, except the last two, which conclude Mario’s narrative, are arranged so that the odd-numbered ones are Mario’s attempts to describe his life and fortunes and the even-numbered ones are actual scripts of soap operas by Pedro Camacho, the indefatigable and prolific Bolivian scriptwriter.

The work begins with a semiserious Mario introducing himself as a student and news director of Radio Panamerica, the lesser of Lima’s two radio stations owned by the Genaro family, with the importation of Pedro Camacho from Bolivia to write original radio serials to replace those which the Genaros brought from Cuba, and with the arrival of the newly divorced Aunt Julia, also from Bolivia. Mario’s initial encounters with Camacho and Julia are equally unpromising but turn out,...

(The entire section is 640 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter has become one of Vargas Llosa’s most popular novels and has been freely adapted for film under the title Tune in Tomorrow (1990); the film was in English and its setting moved to 1950’s New Orleans. Like other novels by this author, this narrative presents two definite textual portions telling two different types of stories. The first story depicts the autobiographical account of the narrator’s love affair with his aunt by marriage, Julia. This relationship causes an uproar in the narrator’s family, for Julia is not only a distant relative but also a divorcé from Bolivia who is twelve years older than the narrator. Hence, the lovers must elope.

The second textual track contains segments of soap operas composed supposedly by Pedro Camacho, the scriptwriter who figures in the title of the novel. Camacho, a machinelike writer of radio soap operas, eventually overloads his memory and has a nervous breakdown, bringing catastrophic consequences to his works. His characters become entangled in different stories, and situations become chaotic, culminating in apocalyptic tragedies in which the characters expire en masse.

Vargas Llosa’s skillfulness becomes evident when he occasionally brings together those two different tracks. These points of contact occur when the narrator’s personal affairs begin to acquire the characteristics of Camacho’s melodramatic sagas and also when people...

(The entire section is 490 words.)