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Mario Vargas Llosa: La tía Julia y el escribidor (Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter)

This may be well be Vargas Llosa’s best-known novel. It is based on his own story, when he married his aunt (by marriage) at the age of eighteen, though she was ten years older. (They later divorced.) The hero, called Mario, is a law student who is not interested in the law, who is working in radio. He is writing stories which, frankly, are not all that good. In the radio station he is working with the great Pedro Camacho, a Bolivian soap-opera writer, who is juggling around ten different soap operas. This is too much for one man. Not only does his health suffer but he loses track of both the plots and characters and things start to get chaotic. This is mirrored in the real life of Mario. He has fallen in love with his divorced aunt-by-marriage, Julia. They are having an affair but he is afraid that if his father (who lives in the US) finds out, he will be in trouble, as he is under age. He tries to conceal the relationship from his family, all the while struggling as a writer. Matters get increasingly chaotic, with the plots of Camacho’s soap operas and Mario’s real life intertwining. It is wonderfully told and wonderfully funny and essential reading. By the way, Aunt Julia wrote a response – Lo que Varguitas no dijo [What Little Vargas Didn’t Say] by Julia Urquidi, translated into English as My Life With Mario Vargas Llosa.

Publishing history

First published in 1977 by Seix Barral
First published in English in 1982 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Translated by Helen Lane