Now here’s a Latin American novel that I would heartily recommend. Despite the fact that it deals with their endless fascination with what they term as ‘love’ (cf. Love in the Time of Cholera), it is written in the most individual style that I’ve yet come across from this area of the world.
Typically, works off the 1001 Books list from the continent of South America are either saccharine sop-fests of the likes of Allende (see here and here), metaphysical romps beyond the bounds of mortal comprehension (see Borges here and Paz here) or a combination of the two (see Garcia Marquez here).
It’s therefore extremely refreshing to see an author use some experimentation and actually play with the novel. Whatever else Puig must have experienced while writing this, he surely must have had moments of great delight. The vast array of viewpoints, styles, genres and approaches to chronology must have been great fun to put together.
The result is a novel about unrequited love (“What else?” I hear the Latino crowd say!) which intrigues the reader from the get go. Until the very end, you’re never actually sure how events have really unfolded, and it’s tantalising enough to tempt you to immediately start reading again.
I read the novel aloud to Mrs Arukiyomi (we always have one book like this on the go). However, because of the wide array of literary styles, this is not the ideal way to access the novel. Don’t do audio, read this off the page and be ready for a tale of young love and shattered ideals.