Pubis Angelical by Manuel Puig

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Themes / Characters

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In Pubis Angelical, Puig recreates one of his favorite themes, that of the interplay between reality and fiction, between fact and illusion, and the propensity of individuals to take refuge in a world created exclusively by the imagination. Ana, the main character, is also the master fictionalizer. She is first introduced in a hospital room, sick and in pain, suffering the postoperative effects of a seemingly unsuccessful surgery to remove a tumor. She is in pain and in need of frequent sedation throughout the novel. Her counterpart, the Viennese beauty, is also introduced as helpless and devoid of autonomy, sedated, and a prisoner not of her own body or of the hospital but of her powerful husband.

As Ana slowly reveals the details of her life through several interlocutors, we learn of the mysterious Viennese actress through descriptions by a third-person narrator. All details concerning her are narrated with a distinct sense of unreality; her life is distilled into a hazy and narcotized rendition of a series of highly unrealistic events such as a seduction, a daring escape, a trans-Atlantic crossing, an accidental but necessary murder, a Hollywood movie contract, and so on. The logic of the parallel display of Ana's "realistic" dialogues and thoughts and the more chimeric passages—like Puig's use of film descriptions in The Kiss of the Spider Woman —becomes clearer as we learn the details of Ana's life and the connection between the two women. We learn of Ana's early disenchantment with her husband; for her sake, he urges her to pretend to be someone else during lovemaking. We learn how Ana, unhappy as a housewife and mother, leaves home to work for Buenos Aires's principal opera house, to a life that is glamorous and exciting. Likewise, the Viennese beauty leaves her husband, kills her lover rather than be trapped by him, gives up their child in return for a movie contract, and proceeds to enjoy unprecedented critical success in Hollywood. Yet...

(The entire section is 659 words.)