Also during my Beijing trip, I was able to read and finish 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature winner Mario Vargas Llosa’s Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. I am familiar with other writers from South America, but this is my first venture into Llosa’s universe (the book was a gift from a good friend of mine). It is not a long book, but it is full of insight, humor, and self-derision. [Apparently, it was also the subject of a Keanu movie from 1990 called “Tune in Tomorrow” – anyone see this one? mixed reviews out there]. The chapters move along parallel lines of the narrator (and probably mostly the voice of the author himself as I understand the book is sort of autobiographical) in the odd-numbered chapters and stories of the scriptwriter in the even-numbered chapters. Actually, I felt kind of stupid because I didn’t realize that the even chapters were the scriptwriter until about Chapter 6. Perhaps this realization comes earlier to other readers? In any case, there is this rocambolesque story of the 18-year old narrator working in a radio station and hell-bent on the pursuit of his 35-year old Aunt Julia and in the meantime fascinated by the Bolivian scriptwriter Pedro Camacho’s astounding success with radio serials (obviously in the epoque before televised soap operas) and his ensuing mental collapse. The preface quote to the book is about writing about writing about writing, and it is this obsession with writing that eventually unravels Camacho entirely as he starts mixing plot lines, bringing back dead characters, forgetting character names – all of this we learn from intertextual dialog between the narrator and his colleagues as well as the stories themselves starting in about Chapter 12 or 14. The overall atmosphere is relatively light and there are moments of high comedy particularly in the narrator’s story of trying to find some backwater judge to marry him as a minor to his aunt. I found it highly entertaining but I am not sure that this book alone deserved a Nobel so I am taking suggestions of other Llosa books that I should try.
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