Eternal Curse on the Reader of These Pages

Best known for the novel Kiss of the Spider Woman, and about whom the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa once said : “Of all the writers I have known, the one who seemed least interested in literature was Manuel Puig (1932-90).”

The plot of Manuel’s novel (the first one that he wrote in English) Eternal Curse on the Reader of These Pages is seemingly staightforward.

An Argentenian revolutionary, a trade union- organizer actually, is tortured after the military coup in 1976. He manages to find his way to a sanatorium in the United States via a human rights organization. Here he is allotted an attendant who takes him around in his wheelchair. The novel is little more than a series of conversations, a continuous dialogue between the two as the attendant Larry takes Ramirez around New York.

But as the novel progressed, I found the plot somewhat convoluted and the novel crashing to an uncertain end- the reader is urged on not so much by the plot but by the layers of reality and unreality that are unsheathed between the dialogues.

The novel has no other text except 223 pages of dialogue, five letters, one will and one job application.

The plot is rendered meaningless in the web of psychological trajectories that Puig weaves for the reader.

There is nothing sinister about the novel itself despite the title. But it has dark undertones throughout, peppered and enlivened with deep insights that make one aware of the sensitivities of this writer “least interested in literature.”

I found the novel stylistically very innovative and confirmed the view that Latin American Literature is not all about magical realism. It is enriched by a galaxy of writers with very distinctive styles.

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