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Alfredo Bryce Echenique: Un mundo para Julius (A World for Julius)

Julius is a boy, aged between five and eleven during the course of the novel, growing up in a rich family in Peru. He has two older brothers and an older sister but is essentially brought up by his nanny, an Indian woman called Vilma, and the other servants, having relatively little to do with his parents. His father died when he was only one and his mother has remarried. The couple do what the well-to-do usually did in Peru – go to cocktail parties, the club and the functions – and ignore their family. But, while detached from his parents, Julius is certainly not unhappy. Indeed, the great skill of this book – and it is considered one of the foremost novels of Latin America – is to paint a wonderful portrait of the young Julius in a thoroughly sympathetic, humorous style. It is clear that this novel is semi-autobiographical and that Bryce Echenique has a considerable nostalgic affection for this world while, at the same time, mildly mocking it. The world is changing, as Peru becomes more industrial, but Julius’ family do not really seem to notice or, indeed, care and, unlike other novels with this theme, their world does not come crashing down around them. Of course, it is not all plain sailing for Julius, as well as the death of his father, he loses his beloved sister, Cinthia, who dies of tuberculosis and a favourite servant. But Julius survives these tragedies and, with his acute imagination and humour and his realisation that his class has its faults, becomes, by the end of the book, when he is eleven, a boy on the threshold of manhood and someone who will be his own person and not just a caricature of his class, like his brothers and step-father.

Publishing history

First published in 1970 by Seix Barral
First published in English in 1992 by University of Texas Press
Translated by Dick Gerdes