Ideas for Group Discussions
Puig's novels usually make for lively discussions because he forthrightly presents controversial subjects and because it is often hard to know what he the author intends. In Pubis Angelical, he has distanced himself so far from his subjects that it is hard to tell whether he sympathizes with or despises his female protagonists for their troubles with men. A chaotic but stimulating discussion can arise out of trying to discern authorial intent; a similarly chaotic but stimulating discussion can arise out of sorting out what is illusion and what is reality within the context of the novel. When do seemingly real problems turn out to be products of the imagination? When do seeming illusions turn out to be real problems? What is more important, physical fact or psychological perceptions? Discussion group members might do best if they agree that by discussion's end they will still disagree about the issues raised in the novel. Perhaps the success of the novel depends on the thought it inspires rather than in providing concrete answers.
1. Ana is disappointed by all the men in her life. Is the problem with them or with her?
2. Does Argentina's move toward fascism seem inevitable?
3. Examine the society of W218. What are its strengths? What are its weaknesses? Would it be a good society in which to live? What is Puig's view of W218's Utopia?
4. Neither Ana nor Pozzi is of the social class he or she seems to be. Their outward appearances are misleading. How does each respond to discovering the other is of a different social class than expected? Why should these distinctions matters? What does this suggest about Ana's disappointments with men?
5. Why do Alejandro's politics matter more than they do to Ana? Is her attitude toward him hypocritical?
6. What is the significance of the parallel between Ana's hospitalization and the Viennese beauty's relationship with her husband? How far does the analogy go? What is the point?
7. How important is pretending in Pubis Angelical? How often does Ana pretend? What are the circumstances? When does the Viennese beauty pretend? Is her pretending similar to that of Ana?
8. Ana, the Viennese beauty, and W218 are each betrayed by men. Is Puig implying that this is a universal problem for women, or are there particular circumstances in each character's life that invite betrayal?
9. How important is Ana's imagination to her survival?
10. Are the Viennese beauty and W218 fabrications of Ana's mind?
11. How important are political issues to the feminist issues in Pubis Angelical? Are they linked?
12. How much of the Viennese beauty's experiences is real? Has illusion come to life, or has life become illusion?
13. Does Ana make herself unhappy?
In Pubis Angelical, as in his other novels, Puig makes use of a variety of narrative techniques. The text alternates between the two main characters without regard for traditional boundaries of chapters and parts. And while the essential plot lines evolve in a mostly progressive manner (especially the actress and the science fiction story lines) the novel lacks a clear chronological focus because Ana's recollections are fragmented.
There is, however, a distinctive style and tone for each narrative segment. When Ana is the main character, for example, we learn about her through her friend Beatriz, who visits her often; through her lover Pozzi who is in Mexico for political reasons; and, finally, through her own diary entries. With both Beatriz and Pozzi, Ana holds curt discussions on the main social concerns of the novel: sex rules, the meaning of feminism, and politics. In her diary, on the other hand, Ana rearranges her past in a series of directed, expansive recollections that add texture and shape to the cerebral talks with her visitors.
When the Viennese actress is the focus, a third-person narrator relates the highly improbable action sequences, selecting, as in a movie of the 1940s, rich, descriptive details of pose, texture, color, sight, and sound. These are all glazed by a sort of...
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