Manuel Puig (pweeg), one of Latin America’s major writers and one of the most widely read, has been called the chronicler of middle-class Argentina. Born in the provincial town of General Villegas, where he spent his childhood and received his elementary education, Puig was the son of Baldomero Puig, who worked in commerce, and Elena Delledonne. He began learning English at the age of ten to enhance his enjoyment of the American films that he and his mother saw every afternoon. Within a year, Puig was at the top of his class and had added to his interest in American films new interests in literature, philosophy, psychology, and Italian films. His ambition as a teenager was to become a film director.
In 1957, after having studied philosophy, languages, and literature in Argentina, he traveled to Rome with a scholarship to study at the Experimental Film Center; however, he was dissatisfied with the school and moved on to Paris, and then to London, where he earned a living by giving Spanish and Italian lessons as well as by washing dishes at the theater restaurant. During this time, Puig began writing film scripts; he continued to do so in 1959, when he moved to Stockholm. A year later, upon his return to Argentina, he obtained a position as assistant director in the Argentine film industry. After a short stay in his native country, he moved to New York City to expose himself to Broadway musicals, and he worked as a ticket agent for Air France. In 1965 he completed his first novel, which he had begun in 1962 but which was not to be published in Buenos Aires until 1968, partly because of problems with censorship.
With the publication of Betrayed by Rita Hayworth, Puig was immediately heralded as one of Latin America’s most gifted writers. Most critics still consider this first novel to be his masterpiece. In addition to its penetrating examination of the narrow world of alienated human beings (particularly the petit bourgeois and blue-collar Argentine people) who find refuge in the large-scale consumption of films and soap operas, the work was considered to be an attack on conventional or naïve realism as well as on the cultural foundations of the experimental novel. His second novel, Heartbreak...
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