HEARTBREAK TANGO: A Serial by Manuel Puig


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A brilliant, forceful, melancholic arabesque of a novel, the tone reminiscent of Bertolucci's freer moments. This is surely the most detailed and least sentimental elegy ever written, about the ladies who knew (and occasionally loved) Juan Carlos Etchepare, a beautiful blond consumptive dying too slowly in his home town of Vallejos (300 miles from Buenos Aires), later in the sanatorium at Cosquin, later still in the home of a widow who follows him there when his family can no longer afford the high cost of treatment. He is a drinking, gambling, thieving, reckless, hypocritical son-of-a-bitch, courting the shopgirl Nene as he beds Mabel, the widow, and assorted others he runs into by chance or design -- redeemable only by his good spirits, appearance, and prowess in bed. But he is mourned, as wicked charmers are, more real in life than death, via a fantastic vaguely absurd melange of misspelled letters, condolences, mixed in with detailed reprises of what the various characters did on a certain day which brilliantly convey the gossip, petty jealousy, and intrigues of all small towns, hidden but not forgotten by time, as the mother of the illegitimate child eventually gets married, the rich nymphs become more brazen, those who loved a sick man move off into unhappy marriages that may or may not improve. This is comparable to if even better than Betrayed by Rita Hayworth (1971) by an author apparently obsessed with the movies and songs of the late '30's and early '40's -- whose mood of melodrama and tragedy is recaptured with grace, irony, and sadness.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1973
Publisher: Dutton