Tuesday, February 14, 2017
from January -- Kiss of the Spider Woman, by Manuel Puig
originally published as El beso de la mujer araña, 1976
translated by Thomas Colchie
Still behind both readingwise and postingwise, so this will be a short post as I continue to go through my January reads. I think it's a shame that I just don't have time to give this beautifully-written novel the attention it deserves, but I have a LOT to catching up to do both in the book world and in the real one. In my opinion, Kiss of the Spider Woman is an exquisite novel, one I could not put down until the very last word.
To give away too much about this book is to spoil, so it will be just barebones here. Set in Argentina in the mid-1970s, Luis Molina and Valentín Arregui are cellmates in a prison -- Molina, a gay window dresser, for corruption of a minor, and Valentín for being a Marxist guerilla who will not give over any information to the authorities. Molina spends much of their time together recounting films he's seen, which at first seems like an escape mechanism, but as the novel progresses, it becomes very clear that there's much more than passing time going on. As Molina works his way through several movies, the reader begins to notice that they cover a wide range of themes, including political awareness, power, questions of identity and the true nature of the characters, sacrifice, betrayal, and the nature of relationships, but even more importantly, they are all about different forms of repression and imprisonment. The movies offer both prisoners a chance to begin serious and meaningful dialogue about their own inner anxieties, and their relationship becomes closer as they begin to open up to each other. But of course there's more than meets the eye here, leading to terrible, tragic consequences.
The films provide great insight into various means of repression forced on others by outside forces; it is also, in part, a story which examines the ways in which different people seek to transcend their own forms of imprisonment. Obviously, there's much, much more but this post just has to do for the time being.
Like so many great novels, Kiss of the Spider Woman has been studied, scrutinized, analyzed and it has become the topic of a number of scholarly works, so there are numerous places to turn to for serious analysis if anyone's interested. As I said earlier, I just don't have the time right now to give it the recognition it deserves. It is not very often I use the term "beautiful" to describe a novel, but it certainly fits in this case. Kiss of the Spider Woman appears in Boxall's original 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, and while it doesn't seem to have been a lot of readers' cup of tea, in my opinion, it's one that should not be missed. After reading the book, see the film -- absolutely amazing.