A novel by Mario Vargas Llosa, it is written in a pseudo-biographical tone.
The name of the protagonist is the one of the author and is narrated from a first person perspective, although the story is entirely
Mario Vargas (the character) is an aspiring writer who daylights as a
radio news writer, whose job actually consists of stealing bits of news from the
local newspapers and paraphrasing them in order to broadcast with impunity.
The novel is set in Peru in the days of radio dramas and is through this that he
meets Pedro Camacho.
Pedro Camacho is the scriptwriter. He writes the dramas with feverish
obsession, never pausing to look back and correct any mistakes he might have
written, but always carries on, pounding on his typewriter like there's no
tomorrow. He claims to be from Bolivia and for reasons that are never
explained, seems to have a personal vendetta against Argentina in general,
making fun of the country and it's people on small remarks and side notes in his
The novel switches from the authors point of view to the dramas being written
by Camacho (presented not in script format but in novel). The author's
story is an "impossible love" story. He meets his divorced aunt (by
marriage) and falls for her. She is a woman in her mid thirties and he is
only eighteen years old. She is rejects him at first but eventually agrees
to his advances. Mario is an impulsive man and is willing to defy his
family (his dreaded father and hysterical mother) in order to marry Julia.
The main problem is, the legal age of consent (at least for marriage) was 21,
and so Mario and Julia begin a journey to a remote part of the country to find a
mayor (with the legal power to marry) who is willing to look the other way when
birth certificates are produced.
The scriptwriter's chapters begin normal enough, a family drama, a police
story, a controversial priest, each a different chapter of different radio
novels. The problem is, in his obsession, Mr. Camacho's mind starts
slipping, and soon details from one novel start appearing where they shouldn't.
He confuses the stories and the characters. Opinions in the audience are
divided as to why this might be happening. Some think the man is losing
his mind, some think he is a genius that is merging his novel into one big drama
and poor Pedro is unable to do anything to correct the situation except write
This book is a comedy, and if you go for Latin-American authors, it will keep
you laughing all the way. It will also give you an insight into the mid
20th century peruvian society, the scandal of divorce and re-marriage, the
relationship of a younger man and an older woman, and a country's addiction to
radio soap operas.
Sources: Amazon.com review and my own