On this day in 1932, Manuel Puig is born in a small village in Argentina.
Puig grew up entranced by American movies and pop culture, spending many hours watching films or fantasizing about glamorous movie stars. In 1946, he went to boarding school in Buenos Aires, then attended the University of Buenos Aires. He left school planning to become a screenwriter but found more success as a novelist. One failed screenplay became his first novel, Betrayed by Rita Hayworth, in which a boy escapes his tedious small-town life through fantasies and movies. The book, which frankly explored erotic themes, shocked the establishment. Burned in Puig’s hometown, it nevertheless became a popular success. His next book, Heartbreak Tango (1969), parodied popular Argentine serial novels.
Puig’s life was made difficult by Argentina’s oppressive military regime. A gay man, he was sent to prison for soliciting an undercover police officer. After his release, he went into self-imposed exile and lived in France, England, New York, Brazil, and Mexico. He continued to write, exploring themes of fantasy and escapism in the face of cruelty in books like Kiss of the Spider Woman (1976) and Eternal Curse on the Reader of These Pages (1980). Kiss of the Spider Woman was made into a movie starring William Hurt and Raul Julia in 1985. Puig died near Mexico City in July 1990 after suffering a heart attack.