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Archive for June 27th, 2008

At some point every author gets asked about her muse, the one author who inspires her to write. Normally this is a difficult question to answer as there are so many great writers out there. But a little introspection usually throws up one clear favorite.

In my case the clear answer has to be Mario Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian author, or rather, one book of his – Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (Spanish: La tía Julia y el escribidor), translated brilliantly into English by Helen R. Lane.  The book was first published in Spanish 1977. The first English imprint arrived in 1983.

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is a story about Mario, an 18 year old boy who falls in love with his 32 year old divorcee aunt-in-law, Julia. The semi autobiographical novel is based upon a fictional period in the author’s life when he, an aspiring writer, was working part-time at a radio station that broadcast soap operas.

The radio station where Mario works hires a Bolivian scriptwriter, Pedro Camacho, to write the serials. Camacho, a writer of prodigious output and unbridled imagination, imbues the soaps liberally with his own prejudices – all villains are pug-faced Argentines and all heroes have a broad forehead, clear penetrating gaze, aquiline nose and are the very soul of goodness and moral rectitude.

Each chapter in Mario’s tumultuous romantic life (he and his aunt are forced to keep their liaison discreet on account of it being a scandalous one) is followed by a riotous radio novella penned by Camacho.

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is as much Camacho’s story as it is Mario’s. The soaring trajectory of Mario’s romance with his aunt – initial wooing while Aunt Julia plays the coquette, her surrender, their secret trysts and their marriage  – is mirrored in reverse with Camacho’s – his rise to fame, hysterical adulation and downfall.

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is one of the most brilliantly written novels I have read and my own book, Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions, while a completely different genre (chicklit-meets-crime), is an open tribute to it.

Read the full article in Asian Age. And ignore the misleading headline. Not my doing!!

Warning: For casual readers, do not attempt Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter without a comprehensive dictionary.

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