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Betrayed by Rita Hayworth (1974)

by Manuel Puig

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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352563,733 (3.62)13
Finally back in print, Manuel Puig's celebrated first novel is a startling anatomy of a small town in thrall to its own petty lusts, betrayals, scandals, thefts, and gossip--but most of all, to the movies. Centering around a boy named Toto, privy to the town's secrets and always eager to fill in the ugly or upsetting moments of his childhood with Hollywood-inspired fantasy, Betrayed by Rita Hayworth is a symphony of disappointed, comic, bitter, and bawdy voices, all hemmed in by life's refusal to behave like the silver screen, and is perhaps the funniest and most honest coming-of-age story of its time.… (more)
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English (3)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (5)
Showing 3 of 3
Just excellent. I must read more Manuel Puig now! ( )
  Vivl | Apr 5, 2013 |
Novel told in multiple voices in order to create portrayal of ordinary Argentinian lives in the 1930s/1940s.

It is almost impossible to provide a plot summary for this novel since there is very little coherent plot - what Puig attempts is to portray the tedium of ordinary live in a small Argentinian town using a number of different voices and techniques. If there is a hook to the novel it is the character of Toto, who appears in most of the sections in one form or another. Toto could be seen as an avatar for the author as he shares a number of characteristics with him - homosexuality, love of films, storytelling, etc - but if this is autobiographical it is a few steps removed and seen from an acute angle.

Puig is more influenced by European modernism than the magical realist or fabulist writers that have come to represent Latin American fiction to many readers. At various times in the novel Puig uses untagged conversation, stream-of-consciousness, diary entries, a school essay and a letter. For example, the untagged conversations are used as a method of getting across general information at the start of novel, a more fractured and oblique version of "In the town of...". Most of the other techniques allow us to see into character's heads, giving us a sense of the narrowness of the town concerns, the restrictiveness of the society, the hopelessness of it all - it is only through the medium of film (and to a lesser extent, literature) that the characters can dream of an existence outside this confines - and fragment time - the narrative jumps with each new voice.

This is a novel more to admire for it's aspirations than the delivery as Puig is unable to fully utilise his chosen structure successfully. The main problem hinges with the voices of the characters - while it is acceptable that they share similar issues it is less acceptable that they sound like they are also sharing the same voice. Puig struggles to individualise the characters even when he changes the technique - the diary entry could just have easily been introduced as another stream-of-consciousness narrative - which undermines the pattern he is attempting to create. Puig never changes the voice, only the point of view.

The cultural concerns never really feel completely worked into the text as well; although the book is titled Betrayed by Ria Hayworth and films as a form of escape are central to the themes of the novel, often this strand just goes missing or tacked on. It is interesting to compare this novel with the later Kiss of the Spider Woman in this regard - in the later work the characters love of the cinema is central to the story, and is used to comment on the political and personal situations they find themselves in. In this novel we never quite feel the true escape of the cinema, the hope it offers in face of the hopelessness of Argentinian society in the 1903/1940s.

Puig once said that "As a rule, one should never place form over content", but in this case he failed to follow his own rule.Betrayed by Rita Hayworth is an interesting enough read but never fully satisfying as the writer is unable to successfully bring together structure, theme and voice. ( )
1 vote Jargoneer | Feb 17, 2011 |
Betrayed by Rita Hayworth isn't a book I can praise wholeheartedly. It is a good read, and contains many of the motifs and devices that Puig put expertly into practice in Kiss of the Spider Woman, but it isn't, in my opinion, nearly as good a book. It follows the lives of a cohort of friends born in a small Argentine town in 1933, finishing as they head towards the ends of their childhoods in 1948. Puig uses only voices to develop the narrative. initially there is reported conversations between the children's parents, when the children themselves are too young to talk. Later there are internal monologues, diary entries and school essays by the kids. There is roughly one chapter for each year between 1933 and 1948, each told by a different child. The themes are largely to do with sexual awakenings, and the role that popular media (especially movies) have in shaping ideas about sex and relationships in our heads. The reality of growing up is contrasted with the idealised relationships on the screen, and the hypocrisies of sexual exploration in a conservative catholic country are also explored.

My slightly lukewarm reaction is largely due to the profusion of voices and perspectives Puig uses. It felt like he was trying to build up a mosaic image from all the different children's thoughts and, in doing so, lost sight a little bit of some of his more interesting strands. One boy in particular, Toto, is presented as being a pivotal figure. He is a strange child, effeminate, possibly homosexual,who colours in pictures of movie stars rather than join the other children. I was fascinated by him, but he just disappeared for long periods under the avalanche of perspectives. I tend to struggle with books that have too many narrators, and this was no exception. However, the writing is fluid and crisp, and have reall grown to appreciate Puig's style. Read as a series of themed prose pieces or short stories, Betrayed by Rita Hayworth is a lovely piece of work with some really outstanding passages. As a single narrative entity, it fell a little bit short of the mark, but I think it will still be enjoyed by readers who have enjoyed his other books.
1 vote GlebtheDancer | Mar 24, 2009 |
Showing 3 of 3
added by totocampobello | editInternazionale, Goffredo Fofi (Jun 11, 2020)
 

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Manuel Puigprimary authorall editionscalculated
Sabarte Belacortu, MarioleinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Finally back in print, Manuel Puig's celebrated first novel is a startling anatomy of a small town in thrall to its own petty lusts, betrayals, scandals, thefts, and gossip--but most of all, to the movies. Centering around a boy named Toto, privy to the town's secrets and always eager to fill in the ugly or upsetting moments of his childhood with Hollywood-inspired fantasy, Betrayed by Rita Hayworth is a symphony of disappointed, comic, bitter, and bawdy voices, all hemmed in by life's refusal to behave like the silver screen, and is perhaps the funniest and most honest coming-of-age story of its time.

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