Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa - review by Paul Binding

Paul Binding

Vital Imagination

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter


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The fifties was the great decade of radio soap-opera. I myself am always very mindful of this aspect of the period since my own godmother devised and was the principal coordinating scriptwriter of Mrs Dale’s Diary, and for that reason, as a child, I was as confirmed an addict of that seemingly unending serial as anyone. A remarkable collusion existed between its makers and the audience. A pretence was established that everyday life was the serial’s subject. Yet everyone knew that its prolixity of vivifying incident (which rarely left the central characters seriously scathed) was precisely what was missing from most listeners’ lives. The cliff-hanging nature of almost every programme’s end injected the audience with a desired excitement, enough to carry them forward to the next day.

The self-perpetuating obsessive fascination of the Fifties soap-opera – again, for both maker and listener – is central to the Peruvian novel Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. The many serials that Pedro Camancho, the Scriptwriter of the title produces for Radio Central, Lima, must have been contemporaneous with Mrs Dale

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