Typewriter Magic! (Mario Vargas Llosa)


Image of a 1950s typewriterOur book club recently delved into authors from South America, and Peru's Mario Vargas Llosa came highly recommended.

International Literature

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, published in 1977, is a spirited romp from the clattering typewriter of this prolific writer/observer of the human scene.

Everything Is Not As It Seems

We follow the adventures of an 18 year old law student who works at a radio station. For more gullible readers, like yours truly, it takes awhile before one discerns that the chapters alternate between "real life" and scripts.

There's the character-driven, cliffhanger radio script plots written by the fictional Bolivian writer, Pedro Camacho, who literally churns out the serials.We also follow the young man's work and love life with "Aunt Julia," an alluring non-blood relative 15 years older.

"Excuuuse me--this is real?"

Our book group discussed the pacing and 18 year old Mario's increasing involvement with his older lady friend, which culminates in comic machinations to arrange a marriage (he is a minor and Julia is not a Peruvian citizen).


All of a sudden, one book club member who does better research inserted the fact that this book is a thinly-veiled autobiography by Vargas Llosa about his first wife.

Vargas Llosa and Julia Urquidi really did go off to Europe in the 1950s where he began his long writing career. He was also politically involved, running as a presidential candidate in 1990 but defeated by Alberto Fujimori.

I'm still reeling from the fact that the colorful, memorable characters who populate Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter may be realistic fragments of author Vargas Llosa's days in Lima, brought to life on his magical typewriter.

Blurring Distinctions

In the novel, as the Bolivian scriptwriter collapses through overwork, he loses track of his radio script characters and the details begin to merge confusingly.

Who's real? The sadistic rat catcher? The poor black prisoner? The police officer? You decide.

Author Bio:

Karen Y. is a member of two book clubs. She reads frantically, looking for structure, meaning, and author's intent. Materials related to Japan, food, arts and crafts, travel, and style attract her like a magnet.

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