Cementerio de La Plata, Calle 131, Altos de San Lorenzo, B1901 La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Juan Manuel Puig Delledonne (December 28, 1932 – July 22, 1990) was an Argentine author. Among his best-known novels are La traición de Rita Hayworth (Betrayed by Rita Hayworth, 1968), Boquitas pintadas (Heartbreak Tango, 1969), and El beso de la mujer araña (Kiss of the Spider Woman, 1976) which was adapted into the film released in 1985, directed by the Argentine-Brazilian director Héctor Babenco; and a Broadway musical in 1993.
Puig was born in General Villegas, Buenos Aires Province. Since there was no high school in General Villegas, his parents sent him to Buenos Aires in 1946. Puig then attended Colegio Ward in Villa Sarmiento (Morón County). This is when he began to read systematically, beginning with a collection of texts by Nobel Prize winners. A classmate named Horacio, with whom Puig lived and paid rent to during his first stay in Buenos Aires introduced him to readings from the school of Psychoanalysis. The first novel that he read was The Pastoral Symphony by André Gide; he also read Hesse, Huxley, Sartre, and Mann.
Horacio also introduced Puig to European cinema. After seeing Quai des Orfèvres (1947), he decided that he wanted to be a film director. In order to do so he learned Italian, French, and German, which were considered "the new languages of cinema". He was advised to study engineering in order to specialize in Sound-on-film but did not consider this to be the right choice. In 1950, he enrolled in the University of Buenos Aires Faculty of Architecture but only took classes for six months. In 1951, Puig switched to the School of Philosophy. Despite hard work, he struggled with subjects such as Latin. When he graduated, he was already working in film as a film archivist and editor in the city of Buenos Aires and later, in Italy after winning a scholarship from the Italian Institute of Buenos Aires. However, the world of Hollywood and the stars that had captivated him during his childhood now disappointed him, except for Marilyn Monroe and Gloria Swanson.
A note in the magazine Radiolandia about the upcoming premiere of the film Deshonra prompted Puig to try and meet its director Daniel Tinayre, whose comedy La vendedora de fantasías he admired. Since the director denied him access to the set, he spoke to the actress Fanny Navarro, who played the main role, without Tinayre's permission. He felt no sympathy for her since she supported Juan Domingo Perón, who had prohibited the importation of American films into Argentina. Navarro sent him to another actress of the cast, Herminia Franco, who got him in. Shortly after, he began to work in Alex laboratories.
In 1953, Puig did his obligatory military service in the area of Aeronautics, working as a translator.
In the 1960s, Manuel Puig moved back to Buenos Aires, where he penned his first major novel, La traición de Rita Hayworth. Because he had leftist political tendencies and also foresaw a rightist wave in Argentina, Puig moved to Mexico in 1973, where he wrote his later works (including El beso de la mujer araña).
Much of Puig's work can be seen as pop art. Perhaps due to his work in film and television, Puig managed to create a writing style that incorporated elements of these mediums, such as montage and the use of multiple points of view. He also made much use of popular culture (for example, soap opera) in his works. In Latin American literary histories, he is presented as a writer who belongs to the Postboom and Post-modernist schools.
Puig lived in exile throughout most of his life. In 1989, Puig moved from Mexico City to Cuernavaca, Mexico, where he died in 1990. In the previous months, he had stopped smoking by his doctor’s orders and took daily walks, however he did not feel well in the altitude of Mexico. He also made sure to receive his care in a clinic near his house so he would not be far away from his mother, but for economic reasons and availability of contacts, he had access to higher quality medical attention. In the official biography, Manuel Puig and the Spider Woman: His Life and Fiction, his close friend Suzanne Jill Levine writes that Puig had been in pain for a few days prior to being admitted to a hospital, where he was told that what needed to be done.
On Saturday July 21, 1990, he was checked into Las Palmas Surgical Center for risk of peritonitis. An emergency procedure was performed on his inflamed gallbladder, which was removed. After the surgery, while Puig was recovering, he began to have respiratory problems, his lungs had filled with fluid, and was becoming delirious. The medical team was unable to help Puig and they had to secure him to the bed. He died from acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) at 4:55 a.m. on July 22, 1990.
His death leaked quickly through the media. Although he had a background of cardiac issues, the first public assumption was that he had died from AIDS. It was soon discovered that Manuel Puig was not a carrier of HIV. Nevertheless, the certainty of this fact had already been judged by the public eye several times.
Only six people attended his funeral service, including his mother, his friends Javier Labrada and Agustín Garcia Gil, his colleague Tununa Mercado who found himself there for the casual reason of having to present himself in Xalapa city in Veracruz.
When Jorge Abelardo Ramos, the Argentine ambassador of Mexico was asked to speak to the media about the death of Manuel Puig, he responded by saying that he was not aware of the death of an Argentine with that name. Regardless, they had his body sent to the Federal District of Mexico for his funeral rites with the Writer’s Society, and the ambassador arrived and gave a speech.
The remains of Manuel Puig were sent to Argentina in the following days, where they were buried in the Puig family tomb, in the cemetery of La Plata. The 2004 film Vereda Tropical, directed by Javier Torres, depicts the period when Puig lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The writer's role is played by the actor Fabio Aste.
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