Sunday, 13 January 2013

blood of requited love [manuel puig]

The film version of Puig's Kiss of the Spiderwoman was one of those breakthrough movies, all those years ago. We watched it dazzled by Hurt's transvestite turn. Images of people being bundled into Ford Falcons in the streets of Buenos Aires barely resonated. The world still felt like a vast entity, full of hidden corners, of which only occasional glimpses rose to the surface. Kiss of the Spiderwoman was one of these glimpses and one suspects, like Dorfman's Death and the Maiden, that the writer succeeded in connecting his country's recent political history with another, more elemental, ahistorical sense of terror which audiences around the world could grasp without having any real knowledge of the localised conflict they emerged from.

As such, it might be said, Puig's work was my first, pre-emptive entry into a world which has subsequently become almost as much my own as that of my homeland. Which made Blood of Requited Love, to use the clumsy English translation of the title, all the more disappointing. It's an intricate, quasi-poetic text, which tells the story of the young Brazilian, Josemar's, love affair with an even younger girl, along with ample descriptions of his other love affairs with other young girls. Puig's writing is tortuous and voyeuristic, leaving an uncomfortable taste. Which is presumably done on purpose, either to revile the reader, or to titillate. The circular machinations of the story, whereby its becomes increasingly unclear who Josemar's lover really is, feels artfully contrived, a kind of post-modern Robbe-Grilletian game. The glaring absence of any discernible historical or political context feels like the choice of a writer seeking to move away from the template his greatest success engendered. 

The whole of Latin America has apparently moved on, wars been have won and lost, and what's left is a range of questions which a new generation of Latin American writers are addressing with an urgency Puig once showed. 

No comments: