Betrayed by Rita Hayworth – Manual Puig (1968)

“Leaving out Borges, Argentine literature of the 20th century is not exactly required reading for the global village. For reasons I do not quite understand, it seems on the whole to be choked with metaphysics and cosmic skycraping — the tragedy of modern man without a God, bleak encounters with the void, the Pascalian silence of the spheres — the whole bit. Nada. Wheezy angst this, and even in Borges, who has made a comic and burlesque cosmos out of just these fatal symptoms. Imagine what it must be like to write in Argentina with Borges still around. It’s true that there are now two recognizable generations of writers after Borges (some nobly engage and even openly revolutionary); but he seems to lurk everywhere, if only the victim of a patricide by younger valiants who want something more ‘real.’ Now Manual Puig is a gifted young Argentinian novelist who happens not to really care for Borges’s work, or even for the gods Sartre, Camus and the whole existentialist crew that has plagued the River Plate for so long. What’s more, he has written a masterpiece. How is this done in a country known for its insufferable snobbishness in matters of culture and literature? Recent Argentinian novels indicate that it isn’t easy, but ‘Betrayed by Rita Hayworth’ is a triumph. The idea of the novel is simple: the drama and pathos of moviegoing as a way of life in the provinces, where often people get to respond to life itself with gestures and mock programs taken over from film. Although the book is crowded with diaries and monologues of a whole generation of children, adolescents and adults in Argentina during the thirties and forties — all moviegoers — the book is essentially the story told by Toto, a boy born in 1932 in the bleakest flatland pampas of the Argentine, the pampa being the perfect projectional screen for any fantasy whatsoever — reality is scarce. Toto’s screen (the ‘silver’ screen) is the local movie house, attended religiously with his mother. He and his friends talk of their lives through film, and thus the melange of cheap hopes and soap opera ethos that so brilliantly infests this novel. …”
NY Times
W – Manual Puig
Manuel Puig and La traición de Rita Hayworth

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