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Literature / Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter

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Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (Spanish: La Tía Julia y el escribidor) is one of the best-known novels by Mario Vargas Llosa. It is the story of a 18-year-old Peruvian boy named Mario Vargas falling in love with a divorcee more than ten years older than him, which also happens to be his uncle’s sister-in-law. Mario, however, works in a radio station and is an aspiring writer, which doesn’t help put bread on the table.

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It is also the story of a writer of radio Soap Operas called Pedro Camacho (the titular scriptwriter), a Bolivian who’s hired by the station to write novelas for them, based on the fame he has on his native country. Camacho is a fanatical writer, spending all day long writing all sorts of stories with all the Soap Within a Show clichés you could think of, bringing attention and lots of money to the station. However, he also starts losing control of his stories, blending them together without realizing it...

The novel is written as two separate stories; the odd chapters deal with the main plot, while the even chapters (except for the last one, which serves as a sort of epilogue) take the form of excerpts from Camacho’s Soap Operas, which are conveniently mentioned before or after by the characters in the main story.

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One of Vargas Llosa’s “comical novels”, it was adapted into a film, Tune In Tomorrow, with Peter Falk and Keanu Reeves.


This book provides examples of:

  • Author Appeal: Camacho’s stories are full of his own personal obsessions.
  • Author Avatar: Mario Vargas, obviously.
  • Back from the Dead: Some of Camacho’s dead characters appear again in other stories, though that’s more because he’s losing track of them.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Richard and Elianita on one of the novelas.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Sgt. Lituma, in one of the first novelas.
  • Canon Welding: Camacho starts to bring all his stories together. Some of the listeners are confused or frustrated by this, while others think it’s great and compare him to Balzac. The truth is that he’s losing his mind and can’t keep track of the stories anymore.
  • Child Hater: Lucho Abril Marroquín, as a consequence of a medical treatment.
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  • Cliffhanger: Camacho’s novelas always end with a series of "tune in for the next episode" questions. However, they’re never really resolved except for a passing reference made by his Canon Welding.
  • Creator Breakdown: in universe, the excessive workload of Camacho increasingly takes a toll on his sanity and his work until he finally has a meltdown, is interned, and lose his writing talent forever.
  • Cultural Translation: The movie moves the setting from Lima to New Orleans.
  • Da Editor: Both Genaros are benevolent versions. Rebagliati at the end is a straight example.
  • Driven to Madness Camacho. He eventually gets sane enough to function, but at the price of losing both his talent and the memories of ever having had it.
  • Film at 11: Camacho’s style of Cliffhanger.
  • Groupie Brigade: Tons of women show up at the radio station when Lucho Gatica pays a visit. They practically maim him trying to touch him.
  • Little People Are Surreal: Pedro Camacho, a man with a lot of mannerisms and tics, is described as "on the very borderline between a man extremely short in stature and a dwarf".
  • Lurid Tales of Doom: Pascual’s favorite news stories. He even has to be restrained by others to avoid filling the time slot with them, something that becomes obvious when nobody’s doing it.

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