Nobel Prize Winners discussion

32 views
Discussion Archive > Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter

Comments (showing 1-44 of 44) (44 new)    post a comment »
dateDown_arrow    newest »

David  | 343 comments Mod
Please use this thread for everything to do with Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter


Aloha | 69 comments Thanks, David. Time for me to put aside Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid and start cracking Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. I hope to finish it this weekend and start the discussion.


message 3: by David (last edited Jun 28, 2012 11:00PM) (new)

David  | 343 comments Mod
Aloha wrote: "Thanks, David. Time for me to put aside Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid and start cracking Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. I hope to finish it this weekend and start the discussion."

Don't rush, I've set the start date to July 10th to allow people plenty of time to obtain their copies if they haven't already got them. Twenty chapters? say five a week? do you think that that is a reasonable pace?


Aloha | 69 comments I can finish it in less than a week, but five chapters a week looks good to me.

It's an enjoyable read so far. I like Llosa's style of writing. Right now, it has several disparate scenes that I'm wondering what the connection is. This is only the beginning and I'm sure they'll all weave into each other somehow.


message 5: by Aloha (last edited Jul 09, 2012 06:01PM) (new)

Aloha | 69 comments FOR DISCUSSION:

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is a humorous surreal novel by Mario Vargos Llosa, the Peruvian writer who is the recipient of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature. The story has two main plot lines. The first is the realistic anchor of the 18 year old Varguitas (diminutive for Vargos) falling for his 32 year old divorced aunt by marriage, Julia. The second follows an obsessive Bolivian scriptwriter, Pedro Camacho, hired by the station Varguitas work for, to churn out numerous soap serials daily. The second plot includes the short stories from the serials created by Camacho. The increasingly surreal stories alternate with the Varguitas plot line as he passionately pursues his aunt and observes Camacho’s mental decline from overwork. The short stories are full of uproariously funny details with a cliffhanger as to how the situation would turn out. This goes in tandem with Varguitas’ and Julia’s increasingly risking family scandal and disapproval.

Aunt Julia:
The romance with aunt Julia is based on Llosa’s early life. At 19, he married his maternal uncle’s sister-in-law, Julia Urquidi, who was 10 years older.
My Life With Mario Vargas Llosa

Pedro Camacho:
There were speculations as to who the real life Pedro Camacho was. According to Llosa in The Paris Review, Pedro Camacho never existed.

http://www.theparisreview.org/intervi...

INTERVIEWER

Tell us about Pedro Camacho in Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter who writes serials for the radio and starts mixing up his own plots.

VARGAS LLOSA

Pedro Camacho never existed. When I started to work for the radio in the early fifties, I knew a man who wrote radio serials for Radio Central in Lima. He was a real character who functioned as a kind of script machine: he wrote countless episodes with incredible ease, hardly taking the time to reread what he’d written. I was absolutely fascinated by him, maybe because he was the first professional writer I’d ever known. But what really amazed me was the vast world that seemed to escape from him like an exhalation; and I became absolutely captivated by him when he began to do what Pedro Camacho does in the book. One day, the stories he wrote started overlapping and getting mixed up and the radio station received letters from the audience alerting them to certain irregularities like characters traveling from one story to the next. That’s what gave me the idea for Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. But obviously, the character in the novel goes through many transformations; he has little to do with his model, who never went crazy. I think he left the station, took a vacation . . . The ending was much less dramatic than the novel’s.



A biography of Mario Vargas Llosa:

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prize...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Va...


Aloha | 69 comments Questions for Discussion:

1. How does the quote at the beginning by Salvador Elizondo in The Graphographer relate to the structure of the story?



message 7: by Aloha (last edited Jul 09, 2012 06:11PM) (new)

Aloha | 69 comments 2. The structure of the novel goes well with an excellent book I’m currently reading, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. In Chapter XIX, Douglas R. Hofstadter discusses the concept of “contrafactus”,

"That is what Contrafactus is all about. In everyday thought, we are constantly manufacturing mental variants on situations we face, ideas we have, or events that happen, and we let some features stay exactly the same while others "slip". What features do we let slip? What ones do we not even consider letting slip? What events are perceived on some deep intuitive level as being close relatives of ones which really happened? What do we think "almost" happened or "could have" happened, even though it unambiguously did not? What alternative versions of events pop without any conscious thought into our minds when we hear a story? Why do some counterfactuals strike us as "less counterfactual" than other counterfactuals? After all, it is obvious that anything that didn't happen didn't happen. There aren't degrees of "didn't-happen-ness". And the same goes for "almost" situations. There are times when one plaintively says, "It almost happened", and other times when one says the same thing, full of relief. But the "almost" lies in the mind, not in the external facts."

In what ways are the stories about what “could have” happened?
Are some more possible than others?

How does that relate to the “real” plot line of Varguitas’ relationship with Julia, Camacho’s obsessiveness with his craft, and the end results of their situations.



Aloha | 69 comments 3. In the beginning of the book, Varguitas placed high importance and snobbery on what makes literature. At the end of the novel, he changed his opinion on the difference between high literature and the soaps that Pedro Camacho churn out. What is your opinion on that? What are the similarity? What are the differences?

The soaps garnered huge followers glued to the radio, even those who hid their secret obsession while touting great literature. Do you think a work is influential if it affects most people, or if it has the most intellectual and artistic significance?



Aloha | 69 comments 4. In Chapter 13, with the serials getting mixed up with each other, Pedro Camacho stated to Varguitas:

“I’m not the one who’s mixing them up; they’re getting mixed up all by themselves. And when I realize what’s going on, it’s too late. I have to perform a juggling act to get them back in their proper places, to invent all sorts of clever reasons to account for all the shifting around...”

What does he mean by that?



Aloha | 69 comments 5. What were some of the taboo topics touched upon in the novel? What were the attitude towards them? Were you satisfied with Llosa's handling of them?


Aloha | 69 comments 6. I saw in a couple other reviews that Llosa has a misogynistic point of view in his writing. Do you see it in this novel?


Aloha | 69 comments 7. Some people think this book has elements of Magical Realism, in which Garbriel Garcia Marquez is representative of. However, maybe due to his estrangement from Marquez, Llosa claims that his style is unlike Magical Realism. Do you agree?

http://www.english.emory.edu/Bahri/Ma...



Aloha | 69 comments 8. In order to resolve the crazy character/plot mix up, Camacho wrote the hilarious ultimate resolution to his problem. What do you think of his solution?


Aloha | 69 comments 9. Were you happy with the ending of the novel?


Aloha | 69 comments Well, I think that's enough food for thought. If you think I need to post more questions, let me know. :oD


David  | 343 comments Mod
Aloha wrote: "Well, I think that's enough food for thought. If you think I need to post more questions, let me know. :oD"

Thanks so much, you've certainly got us thinking.


Aloha | 69 comments You're welcome, David. If nobody responds, I'm going to start yodeling. An empty space has great acoustics for yodeling.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

I must admit I didn't want to read this book. I read one of his and it was just so boring and made me question the point of the whole novel. But seeing how much work you put into the discussion, Aloha, I have a lot of respect and I can't just pass by with clear conscience. The questions and the preparation posts you put forward are enough to read Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. Even if I end up not liking the book anyway.


Aloha | 69 comments Thanks, Lila. I'm really good at making people feel guilty. :oD I hope you'll enjoy the novel. The first reading, I rushed through it too quickly to make it for this deadline. I didn't spend the time to enjoy the humor of it or to understand the meaning of it. Also, I had watched a lot of Latin American zany situational comedy movies, which numbs me to them. I did a preconception of the book because of that. When I read the book again, I found it laugh out loud humorous and appreciated the details he put into it.


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Aloha wrote: "Thanks, Lila. I'm really good at making people feel guilty. :oD I hope you'll enjoy the novel. The first reading, I rushed through it too quickly to make it for this deadline. I didn't spend t..."

Oh, it's not that I feel guilty (a little bit, maybe) but mostly I appreciate how much effort you put into the discussion and it would just be hypocritical of me to ignore it, since I'm always complaining how I have no one to discuss books with o_0.
It's also possible that The Bad Girl: A Novel which I read in Polish translation might just have been suffering from a case of a bad translation. And I like humor in novels, so who knows. I will definitely not approach it with an attitude that I won't like it.


Aloha | 69 comments What you said about translation difficulties reminds me of what was said in a review:

http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/06/28...

"Camacho's soaps are written as narratives in the novel, not as scripts, and they alternate with the realistic story of Mario and Aunt Julia. In the first soap I faulted the translator for a rush of cliches, not yet aware this was the work of Camacho and not of Helen R. Lane, whose formidable translating skills are equal to both the manic tone of Camacho's madness and the ruffled normalcy of Mario's daily life. (This, by the way, is the second of Miss Lane's translations of important Latin American novels to appear within the past year, the previous being Ernesto Sabato's ''On Heroes and Tombs.'')

The Camacho serials start simply and grow in complexity...."


message 22: by David (last edited Jul 11, 2012 11:51AM) (new)

David  | 343 comments Mod
Aloha wrote: "Questions for Discussion:

1. How does the quote at the beginning by Salvador Elizondo in The Graphographer relate to the structure of the story?"


On the face of it, the story of our hero the news journalist and his relationship with Aunt Julia is interspersed with stories derived from Pedro Comacho's soap opera scripts. However, since there is a clear assertion from Vargas Llosa that Pedro Camacho never existed, these scripts must be attributed to our hero. But since this novel is alleged to be the most autobiographical of Vargas Llosa's oeuvre, the quotation from Elizondo seems to point to a kind of spiral linking Vargas Llosa, the author with our hero of the main narrative and with the increasingly surreal scripts churned out by the character of Pedro Comacho. I presume the dedication to Julia Urquidi Illanes is Vargas Llosa's first wife, the real life 'Aunt Julia'. Just a guess after having read two chapters.


Aloha | 69 comments Julia Urquidi Illanes is Vargas' first wife. She wrote a rare book, which you can buy for about $500 on Amazon, My Life With Mario Vargas Llosa.

Yes, I think it is a spiral linking with Llosa. The structure is like a Russian nesting doll. From his interview, Llosa mentioned that the second plot line of his affair with his aunt came after the plot line of Pedro Camacho, in order to anchor down the surreal elements surrounding the scriptwriter. Reading into the story, I think it is more of an autobiography of his development as a writer, more than about his affair with Julia. Varguitas was having a hard time creating because he was trying to recreate life as realistically as possible, whereas Camacho was spitting out stories after stories right out of his head. While Varguitas needs more imagination in his work, Camacho has ungrounded imagination.

The Russian nesting doll aspect reflects the autobiographical nature of Vargos' story, and his relationship with writing. In the external most, we are reading about his life and his writing life. Vargos is observing, recalling, and writing about his past with aunt Julia and the scriptwriter. Pedro Camacho never existed, but Vargos was inspired by a scriptwriter who wrote for Radio Central in Lima. He is recalling his memory of this man, piecing his own observation about himself and creating another man, Pedro Camacho, to tell his own autobiography. The character Pedro Camacho, in turn, creates his own characters, which came to life for Camacho and his audience. They became so lifelike that Camacho sweared that they were the one that went out of control on their own, and he had to do damage control.


message 24: by Mo (new)

Mo | 11 comments Aloha wrote: "Well, I think that's enough food for thought. If you think I need to post more questions, let me know. :oD"

Aloha, Aloha. I'm really excited to read this book. I've read a little Vargas Llosa years ago. I have to finish one or two other books first, so please be patient! I might not get started for a week or so.


Aloha | 69 comments No Mo worries. I'm juggling a few myself. I just finished Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. The last chapter where the Tortoise and Achilles were discussing whether they are inventions in some author's mind makes me wonder whether Vargas Llosa was influenced by GEB. But Aunt Julia was first published in 1977 and GEB was published in 1979. Interesting.


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

I just started reading it yesterday and am only a few pages in but can tell it's actually quite funny


Aloha | 69 comments It is hilarious! It pretty much laughs at life's miseries and foibles. One of my favorite short story is the one in which the man accidentally hit a girl with his car. I also love how Camacho decided to start all over once his characters got out of hand.

I haven't read Vargas' other work, but I read that it was a huge departure from the type of work that earned him the Nobel. Aunt Julia is my first book by him. I'd like to read The War of the End of the World, his most famous book that is tragic in tone, now that I see his writing style. I like the details he put into his book.


Beth (eparks4232) | 21 comments I just finished and loved the book. I buy Llosa's argument that this isn't magical realism. The tale is much more straightforward than the magical realism novels I have written. The zany plot elements are still possible, without magic, and the plot craziness in the serial episodes are clearly not intentional narrative devices from Camacho's point of view, but the result of overwork/mental decline. I read The Bad Girl last year, and it didn't do much for me. Vargas Llosa will never be my favorite Latin writer, but this was more fun. My review is at http://bethslistlove.wordpress.com/20....


message 30: by Aloha (last edited Jul 23, 2012 04:46AM) (new)

Aloha | 69 comments I agree with you, Beth. To get the differentiation between Magical Realism from Fantasy or plain plot craziness, I highly recommend
One Hundred Years of Solitude. The best way I can describe it in my personal experience is with my mother, who talks of ghosts, "witch doctor" type of medicinal cures, ESP and ancient charms in a matter of fact way, with no doubt as to their validity as a part of life.


David  | 343 comments Mod
This book proves that Vargas Llosa is a master story teller, and with finely drawn characters and superb plot he demonstrates his superlative skill of having the reader experience a heady range of emotions in every chapter. I can't praise this book too highly.


message 32: by Aloha (last edited Jul 27, 2012 02:16AM) (new)

Aloha | 69 comments He is indeed the master storyteller. I would like to read his other books. Whether it's humorous or not depends on what time period the work was done. He started having humorous slants to his writing in the 1970s. Aunt Julia was written during that period.


David  | 343 comments Mod
Aloha wrote: "3. In the beginning of the book, Varguitas placed high importance and snobbery on what makes literature. At the end of the novel, he changed his opinion on the difference between high literature ..."

I've long been puzzled by the notion that some writing warrants being termed 'literature' and other writing doesn't. I have the rather simplistic view that writers write and seek to publish their writing because they think that they have something to say that will interest and entertain others. I know this seems to run counter to conventional wisdom that seeks to compartmentalize writing into 'genres', some of which attract approval of the literary establishment and others don't, but any such compartmentalization is largely arbitrary and of relevance only to critics. The acid test for me is whether or not I'm entertained and beyond that, how well I'm entertained.


David  | 343 comments Mod
Aloha wrote: "4. In Chapter 13, with the serials getting mixed up with each other, Pedro Camacho stated to Varguitas:

“I’m not the one who’s mixing them up; they’re getting mixed up all by themselves. And whe..."


This is an interesting question and trying to answer it made me wonder if each author really has a finite list of characters or character types who tend to get used over and over again. However, the gradual promotion of Lituma and the parallel demotion of Concha is perhaps, taking the muddle a little too far, it is a little too contrived. Is it simply that Camacho, no doubt because of overwork, has lost control of his characters. It seems plausible to me.


Aloha | 69 comments I enjoy being entertained by writing. Part of the entertainment for me, though, is innovative ideas. My mind craves ideas that makes it spin. Somehow, pure entertainment after entertainment doesn't do it for me. If it's not something that has many levels to it for me to think about, I don't remember it after I've read it beyond that I enjoyed it.

David wrote: "Aloha wrote: "3. In the beginning of the book, Varguitas placed high importance and snobbery on what makes literature. At the end of the novel, he changed his opinion on the difference between hi..."


Aloha | 69 comments I think it's because he's lost control of his characters due to his mental state. I think Camacho's statement is indicative of how little grasp we all have over our mental states, or how little we know about ourselves. Sometimes it seems as if we do things beyond our control. It's funny how Lituma was one of the ones to die in the major clean-up attempt by Camacho. I don't know how common "Lituma" is as a name, but it later showed up as the priest Gumercindo Lituma, "a former Guardia Civil brutally beaten by his wife and children (for raising rats?)". The rats story actually belonged to Don Federico Tellez Unzategui. Then there's the nun Sister Lituma. So, obviously, Camacho is mixing up the characteristics of his people.

David wrote: "Aloha wrote: "4. In Chapter 13, with the serials getting mixed up with each other, Pedro Camacho stated to Varguitas:

“I’m not the one who’s mixing them up; they’re getting mixed up all by themse..."



David  | 343 comments Mod
Aloha wrote: "I think it's because he's lost control of his characters due to his mental state. I think Camacho's statement is indicative of how little grasp we all have over our mental states, or how little we..."

I don't know how common or otherwise the name 'Lituma' is either, but there was a character of that name in Vargas Llosa's much earlier book, The Green House. Makes me wonder if the names Vargas Llosa gives to his characters have a particular meaning in Spanish. I wonder if anyone can throw some light on this?


David  | 343 comments Mod
Aloha wrote: "5. What were some of the taboo topics touched upon in the novel? What were the attitude towards them? Were you satisfied with Llosa's handling of them?"

Interesting notion, taboos. In my dotage I'm beginning to wonder if there are really any taboos left, particularly in a modern secular society. Is there anything that we feel we cannot discuss about our modern world. There may be things which we find distasteful to talk about, but would we regard them as taboos in the sense that we feel they must never, ever be mentioned? I don't think so. I would be interested to hear what others think?


David  | 343 comments Mod
Aloha wrote: "6. I saw in a couple other reviews that Llosa has a misogynistic point of view in his writing. Do you see it in this novel? "

Misogyny seems to me to be rather overdone these days. Are there many men who truly hate women about? There certainly seem to be a number of women who want to believe that misogyny is rampant but in my rural haven I can't say that I come across much real misogyny. It strikes me that Vargas Llosa is no more misogynistic than the average Latin American male. Women have always been an interesting topic of conversation amongst groups of males and will continue to be so, but such conversations are rarely, in my experience, misogynistic. Men whinge about 'women' in the same generalised way that I'm sure women whinge about 'men', it means very little in the great scheme of things.


David  | 343 comments Mod
Aloha wrote: "7. Some people think this book has elements of Magical Realism, in which Garbriel Garcia Marquez is representative of. However, maybe due to his estrangement from Marquez, Llosa claims that his ..."

I don't detect any elements of magical realism in this book. Yes, there are larger than life characters and curious twists of plot but no magic realism as I understand it.


Aloha | 69 comments I think there are still some things that you can't discuss in public without drawing some sort of an attack on your character, especially things that are out of political correctness range. Authors and artists encounter that when presenting an idea in the work, that's not necessarily how they feel, but ended up being accused of believing the idea.

David wrote: "Aloha wrote: "5. What were some of the taboo topics touched upon in the novel? What were the attitude towards them? Were you satisfied with Llosa's handling of them?"

Interesting notion, taboos..."



Aloha | 69 comments This is my first LLosa work, but it seems to be that he was merely recording an attitude of the average Latin American male. I don't see any personal misogyny on his part. In the book, he did mention that Varguitas was concerned with being able to capture real life as much as possible.

David wrote: "Aloha wrote: "6. I saw in a couple other reviews that Llosa has a misogynistic point of view in his writing. Do you see it in this novel? "

Misogyny seems to me to be rather overdone these days...."



Tabea | 10 comments I know I am rather late to the party (in fact I am still not done reading the book), but I found a BBC radio 4 podcast where Llosa discusses this novel and thought others might enjoy it. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00frj1q


Aloha | 69 comments Thanks, Tabea!


back to top