Written at the height of his powers, Kiss of the Spider Woman is arguably Puig’s best and most famous novel. It was his first novel written after Puig left Argentina to escape political repression, his previous novel, The Buenos Aires Affair, having been banned for sexual explicitness. In light of this, Kiss of the Spider Woman, whose two main characters are a homosexual and a Marxist communist, may be seen as Puig’s public refusal to accommodate himself and his art to the forces of fear and bigotry.
The novel hardly has a plot in the usual sense, that is, a series of events building upon one another to a clear climax and resolution. The novel is composed primarily of dialogue between the characters: Molina, a thirty-seven-year-old window dresser, imprisoned for being what he is, a homosexual, and Valentin, a twenty-six-year-old Marxist imprisoned for political activities.
At the beginning of the novel the two seem to be antagonists, not so much due to bigotry but because each sees the other’s philosophy and lifestyle as irrelevant. Valentin does not look down on Molina because he is homosexual so much as he finds a commitment to homosexuality a selfish waste in a world that cries out for political reform. To Molina, Valentin’s political philosophy is an airy abstraction that does not measure up to the individual need for love and passion.
Molina dominates the dialogue, at least in terms of who...
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