La Habanera dances in the streets
And like every night
Pedro Comacho sells peanuts
Outside the Tropicana Club
That lyric is from Yello’s song La Habanera, with its exotic and slightly sleazy Latin American vibe as interpreted by a couple of eccentric Swiss musicians. It has been a favourite song of mine for many years. I also remember long ago seeing the film version of Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, starring Peter Falk at his most brilliantly annoying, as the scriptwriter Pedro Carmichael. So it was a pleasant surprise to read the original book and find that the scriptwriter’s original name is Pedro Camacho. (Close enough.) It added a depth of association to the book, at least for me.
And the book is really fun. Apparently is is based on Mario Vargas Llosa’s actual experiences, but it’s not actually autobiographical: it’s the story of “Mario”’s affair with his aunt Julia, and also of Pedro Camacho’s tenure as a scriptwriter for a Peruvian radio station. Camacho’s scripts are interleaved with the story and they do reflect it, but they are also amusingly outre and become more and more unhinged as things progress. Pedro Camacho has a great way with words and ideas and is definitely the star of the story(ies).
The former informer of the secret police
Is still standing outside the club
Pretending to be blind
He watches the last plane to Miami
Disappearing in a flaming purple sky
Now he knows
He has been left behind