Luis Rafael Sánchez Essay - Critical Essays


The major work of Luis Rafael Sánchez represents a shift from the euphemistic writing of René Marqués, Puerto Rico’s most celebrated writer of the 1950’s, although his early writing was somewhat in the Marqués tradition. As he moved toward developing the style that was to distinguish most of his work and set him apart from earlier Puerto Rican writers, rather than writing with the sort of restraint that characterized much of Marqués’s work, Sánchez employed overstatement, developing a grotesque, hyperbolic style that he used to satirize the political system of the island. In considering his writing, one must remember that a great deal of his writing is parody. He convincingly re-creates the language that is part of the carnival tradition. He fashions his language around what he has called la poética de lo soez (the poetics of the low).

Sánchez creates a carnival milieu that allows him through farce to deal directly with the ills generated by political colonialism. This technique is apparent particularly in Quintuplets, although it exists also in Farsa del amor compradito (the farce of love’s bargain), The Passion According to Antígona Pérez, and The Angels Are Exhausted, as well as in Sánchez’s two novels, Macho Camacho’s Beat and La importancia de llamarse Daniel Santos, and in many of his short stories.

Even though his writing is fraught with political commentary and criticism, both of the Spanish colonialism that early beset Puerto Rico and of the island’s postcolonialism during the period of its political rule by the United States, this serious commentary is always leavened with Sánchez’s unrelenting humor and with a genuine love for the lighthearted atmosphere that is present in the island and its people. In all of his writing, Sánchez’s warm attachment to Puerto Rico and to Puerto Ricans is apparent.

Sánchez is fundamentally concerned with those on the fringes of mainstream society. This is clear in his collection of fifteen short stories, En cuerpo de camisa, which are peopled with prostitutes, the unemployed homeless, drug addicts, and gays. In these stories, as in much of Sánchez’s other work, language is displaced in depicting the socially bizarre and the grotesque. The physical activities of his characters—eating, having sex, mingling socially—demonstrate their lowness, but the depiction is nonjudgmental and tempered with humor that evolves from language rather than from situation, as is the case in the best comic writing.

A Miracle for Maggie

This ironic and cynical play focuses on two sleazy people who, quite lacking in faith, became the founders of a religion called Dios Sociedad Anónima (God, Inc.). A Miracle for Maggie deals with the...

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