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Manuel Puig and the Uses of Nostalgia Author(s): David William Foster Source: Latin American Literary Review,

Vol. 1, No. 1 (Fall, 1972), pp. 79-81 Published by: Latin American Literary Review Stable URL: Accessed: 11/05/2009 16:37
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at the present moment, of a sort of wave society is possessed, focus on the pre-War of nostalgia, with particular years of the thirties. more of a subtle the War itself although Argentina, provided point of social was more rise of Peronism in the mid-forties and economic demarcation (the wave has of of this Indeed, one noticeably nostalgia. partaken cataclysmic), a could undertake survey of the publications during revealing bibliographic Aires the last five years or so on the tango, or on Buenos bar caf?-and in question. that the presidency Of of Juan course, society of the period a watershed for Argentine Per?n, provided society and culture has intensified even more the sense of loss vis-?-vis the thirties and the early forties. Is not as the in Argentina, the imminent of Peronism resurgence govern military ment prepares in 1973, itself one facet for free and open elections promised even it has not widely of nostalgia? been noticed, the Buenos Although aura about it, includ has an antediluvian Aires of Julio Cort?zar's Hopscotch some hasty critics wanted to of the language, which ing the colloquialism as the Paris-based see merely author's loss of touch with the Buenos Aires a this preoccupation with Buenos Aires, slang of today.1 Sharing by-gone a young whose influence was felt throughout the country, is Manuel Puig, novelist whose talents have ranked him with Cort?zar. Estern Puig's first novel, La traici?n de Rita

most has

(1968),2 has been hailed by Rodriguez Monegal

a Latin-American second novel, its superficial



as one of the

by Rita

novels of the sixties.3 Now the Argentine as Bo Little published pintadas quit [Painted Mouths] an the novel catchiness, represents Despite intriguing (I969).4 as a novelist of Puig's in the earlier work. demonstrated follow-up qualities a cen the reference to the late-nineteenth Subtitled follet?n (i.e., pamphlet; a a one of at novel the tury practice serially, publishing chapter time), as a whole a serialized work reads like the all-too-familiar of soap script important 1 Emir the deliberate presentation of a thirties and Rodr?guez Monegal mentions forties aura for the novel in his discussion of a novel by Guillermo Cabrera Infante, "Estructura y significaci?n de Tres tristes tigres," Sur, No. 320 (1969), 38-51. 2 Buenos Aires: Jorge Alvarez, 1968. The English translation, done by Suzanne in 1971. Jill Levine, was published by Dutton 3 Books See, for example, his comments in "The New Latin American Novel," Abroad, 44 (1970), 45-50; pp. 49-50 in particular. * Buenos Aires: 1969. Four editions of the novel were published Sudamericana, in 1969 alone, and two more had been published by April 1970.



each chapter is headed opera of the thirties and forties era. In addition, by a one of the hoary tangos by Alfredo Le from Pera associat quote prominent of Carlos Gardel that pop ed with works, figure par excellence, (whose a sur the course, have also enjoyed Thus, nostalgic profitable renaissance). narrative with the concerned face of the work?the gray anguish proper?is the trivial emptiness the Argentine lower-middle of routine classes, with some level of to achieve the pitiful with existence, attempts by individuals concerns of the dominant These emotional satisfaction. are, to be sure, many the propriety of the Le Pera quotes.5 As of the tangos of the period; hence a blurb, his novel one is and in general in affirms insistently Puig popular, a see it as accessible can to of the readers beyond spectrum easily sophisti can be the only audience Llosa. cates who of a Vargas of to if we examine more However, closely what Puig may be attempting nar we with almost the de of find do, that, beginning riguer fragmentation his focus is decidedly rative chronology, anti-psychological, anti-personality a certain amount of verisimilitude and anti-naturalistic autonomy, (despite In the contemporary Latin-American of tone and language). novel, whether or the one confronts fantasies of Garc?a M?rquez the exuberant depressingly he cannot escape the realization of Vargas humorless Llosa, mythographies as such are that that individuals dictum of the new-novel insignificant, as an abstract must novel the stuff of the human be generality personality to say?and to the opportunity it alone provides because perceive?something human unknown Nor the valid subliminal, concerning experience. universally access cannot to it is such and human mal levels, provide contemplation an to access which the novel is styled just such anti-personalist provide (like, armar Model 62, modelo say, Julio Cort?zar's for para Assembly] [62, narrative from the outset In the case of Puig's narrative, chronology (1968). of of tone in the lines The and blurs bleak uniformity confuses autonomy. no are matter human how dressed of the portrayal emotions, up super they to the pres and evil, contributes in terms of moral strikingly good ficially ence of an rather than the multiplicity and comple of conflicting experience a more naturalistic fiction. of and growing interacting personalities menting, is the'validation that In one sense, Puig's novel of a popular suspicion of of the soap opera derive, not from the baseness a uniform it appeals, of but from the fundamental validity its scripts are predicated. Of course, Puig has some way upon which humanity to go in order to defend his novel of the virtue of those guardians against the scandalous taste to which the modern novel who would of insist that it must be difficult and inaccessible to all but the most intense a work of art in the best cinatingly experimental, in short, be self-consciously readers, Donoso's fas tradition of the vanguard (like Jos? obs El but in the end monumentally novel, boring, that it must, successes

5 See a recent sociological study of the themes of the tango by Dar?o Cant?n, El mundo de los tangos de Gar del (Buenos Aires: Instituto Torcuato Di Tella, Centro de Trabajo, no. 60). This was origi de Investigaciones Sociales, 1969) (Documento in the Revista latinoamericana de sociolog?a, 68, 3 (1969). nally published




is inescapably Like the tango, it is unashamed hand, Puig's work interesting. a that is presented but with from the cold, ly sentimental, sentimentality cruel point of view of one who knows that it is a pathetic defense mechanism some basic human truths. For one example, the story of Orpheus against a the in would have made focus of both the tango and tango,6 and good as recrea seen in and in an interpretive the soap opera, Boquitas pintadas, are we to tion of those basic human be absurd truths, it would deny that one not in the presence of modern manifestation of myth. Of course, any novel is the The about and both illusory. putative complex deceptive simplicity which narrative the multiple line, a form of narrative goes beyond parataxis of but facile narrative threads of the sprawling soap opera or the novel to be sure, the sense of mythic reinforces, realism, panoramic proportions that go beyond the gray misery But at the same time, of individual destinies. no matter or to be on the novel may how "popular" appear "proletarian" the essential and significant inner complexity the surface, of pin Boquitas the true artistic tadas, like that of La traici?n de Rita Hayworth, bespeaks of Puig's novel. dimensions Arizona State University

ceno p?jaro de la noche [The Obscene Bird of Night]

(1970). On the other



6 The Orpheus story has indeed recently been worked up into a novelette within the tango-like context of early twentieth-century northern Buenos Aires. See the title de Funes Sudamericana, Costantini, Hahlenme (Buenos Aires: story of Humberto 1970).