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Blood of requited love by Manuel Puig

Blood of requited love (original 1982; edition 1984)

by Manuel Puig

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1091174,015 (3.75)5
This inventive novel is a series of questions and confessional answers, an internal dialogue between Josemar, a construction worker, and Maria, a privileged young woman. Looking back at the teenage passion they shared from the remove of ten years, they try to reconstruct their story despite the obstacles of time's passage, societal disapproval, and family pressure. See in a provincial Brazilian town, Blood of Requited Love explores memory and its failing, self-deception and its costs, and the hidden manacles of machismo. Back in print after being unavailable for several years, this novel is a moving work that combines the high drama of pulp fiction with Puig's acclaimed, incisive writing style.… (more)
Title:Blood of requited love
Authors:Manuel Puig
Info:New York: Vintage Books, 1984. 202 p. ; 21 cm. 1st American ed
Collections:Your library

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Blood of Requited Love by Manuel Puig (1982)



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"So then the crowd, everyone in the world then looked at the fliers and yelled his name which was written on it, "Josemar! Josemar! Hurray for our new glory!" . . . He got to know other rich bitches, several rich bitches, he changed completely, was completely different. There they accepted him in their homes like a son. And his three years there were three years of triumph, and he earned a little money from soccer, isn't that true?" -Manuel Puig, Blood of Requited Love

Could that handsome stud in the above photo be none other than Josemar Ferreira from Manuel Puig’s Blood of Requited Love? Certainly a possibility, at least in Josemar's mind. However, since like many other narrators in Mr. Puig’s novels, there is such a yawning chasm between one’s romanticized self-image and one’s grueling, grinding day-to-day reality, the odds tend to be slim.

Welcome to the fiction of Manuel Puig. Not your typical Latin American boom novelist. At the opposite end of the literary spectrum from the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez or the metaphysical labyrinths of Jorge Luis Borges, Mr. Puig draws his inspiration primarily from Hollywood movies and kitschy pop culture.

Anybody familiar with the author’s Kiss of the Spider Woman will know nearly the entire book is written as a movie script-like dialogue between two men in a prison cell. Blood of Requited Love offers a variation on this form: there’s a dialogue between two people all right, but only one person does the speaking (usually María da Gloria, a young girl infatuated with Josemar), while, on the other side, Josemar refers to himself in the third person and offers his own stream-of-consciousness version of past events and happenings. Quite the unique novelistic experimentation on display. And please be aware Blood of Requited Love makes for a gritty, gritty read.

Back on the gulf between romanticized ideal and grungy reality. For Jean Franco’s New York Times book review in 1984 when the novel was originally published in English, there was the title Trapped in Machismo. Actually, by my reading, our sexually charged Brazilian lady’s man is snared and bound, stuck, blocked and trapped at every turn. Let me count the ways:

Dirt poor: Josemar was raised out on a farm, the third of eleven brothers and sisters, where the mother and father had barely enough money to feed and clothe their brood. Life was harsh; life was raw – no sooner did Josemar reach an age when he could contribute to the farm then he was put to work for long hours. Sensitivity to the finer things of life? Completely nonexistent.

Cultural poverty: The setting for the novel is 1960s Cocota, a distant suburb of Rio de Jenairo. Cocota is the typical ugly housing tract or small town - Hicksville, Deadsville, Dragsville, where the only culture is the growth on the neck of the local gas station attendant. Josemar is a world away from an opportunity to do things like visit a museum or attending live theater - string quartet music as alien as little green men from Mars. To compound the dreariness, Josemar works a drudge job repairing bathroom fixtures.

Macho clichés: Josemar comes across as nothing short of repugnant, coarse and crude when he talks about women, always in the most degrading ways. “He wanted to mount her, without mercy. And even if the female repents afterward, it’s too late, she’s got to enjoy it and she’s lost, she waits for the male to come back and mount her again.” Referring to sex as “doing their business” and how María de Gloria “owes it to him.” A prime example of the way Manuel Puig allows his characters to speak for themselves in their own voice.

Limited vocabulary, limited world: Josemar continually asks: “Is that clear?” as if he has a clearheaded awareness of his own life and those around him. Unfortunately, this muddled lady killer counts among his victims language itself beyond the level of grammar school. His head is filled with little more than fantasies about soccer, women, booze, cars and sex. What does become clear is Josemar is an unreliable narrator, living in his daydreams where he is forever the star on the soccer field and God’s gift to women in bed. It's as if Josemar’s imagination is locked in a cheap cardboard box; he’s barely one notch above illiterate and probably has never read a book in his life.

Saccharine pop culture: In 60s Cocota, the sappy pop music of Roberto Carlos is king. And the ultimate symbol of freedom for Josemar as for everyone else: owning a car. Feel the power of acceleration – just like having sex!

Revenge, resentment, hatred: Almost predictably, being the only white in the family (probably the child of another man), Josemar is on the receiving end of severe emotional and physical abuse and cruelty at the hands of his father, a violent, sometimes depressed alcoholic. One way Josemar responds to his father: shooting the family milk cow. Manuel Puig studied psychoanalytic theory and understood the power of transference. Such transference undoubtedly accounts for Josemar’s sadism toward animals, especially small animals and much of his treatment of women – he has a couple of illegitimate children with dark Azucena but shirks any responsibility, thinking men don’t have children, women do.

Perpetual adolescent -“What the fuck, the main thing is that he’s had fun, he’d put it good to her.” Josemar, stuck as the permanent, solipsistic fifteen year old. He’s addicted to cigarettes but curiously there is little mention in his stream of consciousness chatter of his intake of alcohol. Is this denial? Perhaps yet again another aspect of unreliable narrator - what he doesn't reveal.

The past: Is Josemar perpetually replaying tapes of the past? Well, not exactly the historical past but most likely a reworking of the past to suit his own ego, a past where he's always right and forever comes out on top. The novel’s Epilogue provides the clue: this last section repeats chunks of the first chapter word-for-word. There's the distinct possibility all of what we have read, all 200 pages of the book, is a series of tapes Josemar continually replays in his head. Thus, like being held captive in the coils of a giant boa constrictor, the past is forever tightening its deadly grip. If he was twenty in 1958, that would make him an eighty-year-old man today. I can imagine Josemar sitting on a rocking chair on his front porch in Cocota replaying these same tapes of his youth over and over and over again. What a trap! ( )
  Glenn_Russell | Mar 31, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Manuel Puigprimary authorall editionscalculated
Grayson, Jan L.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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