Manuel Puig

Kiss of the Spider Woman

Books by Manuel Puig:

The Betrayal of Rita Hayworth, 1968
Heartbreak Tango, 1969
The Buenos Aires Affair , 1973
Kiss of the Spider Woman , 1976
Eternal Curse on the Reader of these Pages, 1982

Born in 1932 in General Villegas, Argentina, Manuel Puig studied philosophy in his native country until he received a scholarship to study film at Rome's Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in 1956. In 1962, after beginning a film version of The Betrayal of Rita Hayworth, he decided that film was too limiting for the themes he wished to portray. He moved to New York and secured a job at Kennedy Airport and devoted his spare time to writing.

After completing Rita Hayworth, Puig showed a copy to a friend who, trying to help, showed it to a Spanish publisher who happened to be communist. Though he was a socialist, he did not agree with the publisher's politics and inadvertently offended him. According to Puig, Franco's censorship bureau had little reason to disapprove of his works. The language was more disturbing to most people than the politics. The vexed publisher, however, used the censorship bureau as an excuse not to promote Puig's first work. Eventually, his first novel was published in Argentina.

In 1963 Puig returned to Argentina. Despite General Ongania's established dictatorship, Puig was able to work in relative peace. By 1973, however, Isabel Peron, Juan Peron's widow, was in power and pulling the legislative reins as tight as possible to create an extremely right-wing air in the country. After publication of The Buenos Aires Affair, a book which metaphorically criticized Peronist policies, Puig was added to Isabel's hit-list. In 1974, a phone call urged him to leave the country in order to avoid persecution and/or death. Though Isabel's government did not last long, Argentinean resistance to Puig's work remained and he was forced to seek foreign publication of his subsequent works.

Due to hostile forces in Argentina, Puig had to look abroad for an audience for Kiss of the Spider Woman. With Franco's rule in the past, Spain served Puig's publishing needs, and his masterpiece was published in 1976. By 1984 Argentinean politics had begun to cool off, and Puig found a willing publisher in his native country to take on Kiss of the Spider Woman. By 1985, a fellow Argentinean, Hector Babenco, had made a film version of the story. This film version, though disliked by Puig, was nominated for Best Picture in the 1985 Academy Awards. It was later adapted to a Broadway musical which won Best Musical in the 1993 Tony Awards.

Reading Guide     source 7.2     source 7.3     source 7.4