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Puig, Manuel (1932-1990)  
page: 1  2  

Eventually, each changes (that is, seduces) the other. Through his talks with Valentín, the apolitical and frivolous Molina begins to care about the problems of the socially outcast and in the end sacrifices his life for Valentín's political cause. In turn, the doctrinaire marxist guerrilla Valentín learns from Molina that fantasies can also be liberating, even revolutionary.

As their relationship deepens, Valentín agrees to have sex with Molina. While their love making conforms to the stereotypical passive and active roles found in traditional Hispanic society, and Molina sees himself as a woman trapped in a male body who wants to have sex with a "real" man, sex is nevertheless presented as an oasis outside history and politics where individuals can find a liberating space for intimate communion.

In El beso de la mujer araña, the reader hears the words of the two protagonists without intervention from a third-person narrator. The only authorial intervention is a series of eight erudite footnotes dispersed throughout the chapters whose purpose is primarily to inform the (Hispanic) reader about various theories concerning the origins and nature of homosexuality.

The last note, however, presents the work of a so-called Danish scholar, Dr. Anneli Taub (an invented figure) who summarizes all the theoretical models previously presented and, in addition, proposes a political and revolutionary theory of homosexuality. Dr. Taub urges homosexuals to organize and to participate in the political process.

When it first appeared, the open portrayal of homosexuality in El beso de la mujer araña was unsettling for many members of the Hispanic literary establishment who found it difficult to accept an openly gay novel. Yet, though it was considered a flop with intellectuals and critics, the novel, nonetheless, gained popularity and eventually became a best-seller.

By portraying the gay Molina as sympathetically complex, Puig counteracted the Hispanic world's intolerance toward homosexuality. In the end, El beso de la mujer araña is perhaps the most popular politically incorrect gay love story ever written. Despite its stereotypical notions of femininity and traditional passive-active sex roles, El beso de la mujer araña clearly articulates the triumph of the redemptive forces of love.

Puig's Death

When Manuel Puig died in 1990 at the age of fifty-seven, the New York Times obituary claimed that he had suffered cardiac arrest following a routine gall bladder operation. What was most puzzling, however, was that the obituary mentioned Puig's two "sons," thus making him appear to have been heterosexual.

In 1993, the Colombian writer Jaime Manrique wrote an excellent article for Christopher Street ("Manuel Puig: The Writer as Diva"), in which he recounts a number of personal encounters with Puig, whom he describes as openly homosexual.

Manrique's article reads like a detective story in which he searches for answers concerning the "mysterious" death of the Argentine writer. Manrique reveals certain details that lead him to believe that Puig died of AIDS. If this was so, why then the cover-up? Manrique suggests: "After all, if homosexuality is the greatest taboo in Hispanic culture, AIDS is the unspeakable."

Francisco Soto

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social sciences >> Altman, Dennis

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literature >> Manrique, Jaime

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Christ, Ronald. "A Last Interview with Manuel Puig." World Literature Today 65.4 (1991): 571-578.

Clark, David Draper. "Manuel Puig: Selected Bibliography." World Literature Today 65 (1991): 655-662.

Kerr, Lucille. Suspended Fictions: Reading Novels by Manuel Puig. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.

Lavers, Norman. Pop Culture into Art: The Novels of Manuel Puig. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1988.

Manrique, Jaime. "Manuel Puig: The Writer as Diva." Christopher Street 203 (July 1993): 14-27.

Tittler, Jonathan. Manuel Puig. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993.


    Citation Information
    Author: Soto, Francisco  
    Entry Title: Puig, Manuel  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated September 15, 2010  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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