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Jorge Icaza: El chulla Romero y Flores [The Lad Romero and Flores]

This novel reminded me of Smollett as much as anything. It is a story of a naïve innocent – the eponymous Luis Romero y Flores, whose family was distinguished but had fallen on hard times, not least because of the debauchery of his now late father. Romero y Flores is now working in the Department of Economic Research in a lowly position when he is plucked out of obscurity by his boss (much to the chagrin of his colleagues, who behave as though they are straight out of a Dickens novel, at once groveling to the boss, conniving, complaining, looking for the easy advantage and, of course, eager to squash any rival).

Romero y Flores sets out on his new job – to audit the accounts of the rich, little aware that his job is more not to audit the accounts. His first stop, for example, is at the house of the Presidential Candidate, where he is firmly put in his place by the Candidate’s wife. From there, he has a series of adventures, many of which involve his flighty but ultimately heroic fiancée/wife and his mother-in-law, who is certainly not heroic but conforms to many of the stereotypes of mothers-in-law. Most of the book ends up being a savage but very funny put-down of the various denizens of Quito, from the high to low, from those he audits to those he, generally inadvertently, tangles with. There is the obligatory disguised-as-woman gag, mistaken identities and all the mother-in-law jokes you could want. Nevertheless, while this novel is certainly not a boom novel, it is certainly well worth reading if you can read Spanish.

Publishing history

First published in 1958 by Editorial Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana
No English translation