Renowned in Puerto Rico as a dramatist, Luis Rafael Sánchez is better known on the American mainland as a novelist. His first novel, La guaracha del Macho Camacho (1976; Macho Camacho’s Beat, 1980), brought him immediate recognition on the mainland. Through the novel’s characters—Senator Vicente Reinosa, a sleazy politician in league with mainland business interests; his wife, Graciela, who is frigid and grossly materialistic; his mulatto mistress, China Hereje, and her retarded son, the Nene; and his son Benny, who cares about little but the Ferrari sports car that he uses as a sexual object in which to masturbate—Sánchez projects a jaundiced gaze at the Puerto Rico of the 1970’s. His depiction is unvarnished and realistic, but his manner of telling his story, rather than its content, is what distinguishes it. Sánchez eschews conventional notions of narration and plot development, preferring instead to present fragmented glimpses of each character, darting from character to character and back again. This novel has been compared stylistically to James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (1925). His second novel, La importancia de llamarse Daniel Santos (1988; the importance of being Daniel Santos), again stresses the political tensions rife in Puerto Rico.
Sánchez has produced a volume of short stories, En cuerpo de camisa: Cuentos (1966, rev. 1971; shirt sleeves unbuttoned), which has gone into several expanded editions. His nonfictional Fabulación e ideología en la cuentística de Emilio S. Belavel (1979) deals with problems unique to Puerto Rico and its relationship both to its Spanish heritage and to U.S. domination.