Valenzuela’s characters both are split and merge into one another: The semiotician refers to himself as “we”; the patient he studies has a twin sister and dreams her lover Alfredo Navoni’s dreams as if they were her own. When Pepe travels in the mountains through Mexico, he has access to the knowledge of his patient. His consciousness is no longer distinguishable from hers, even though she is absent.
Pepe, the main character, calls himself a “humble professor of semiotics.” He justifies his bizarre behavior to himself and to his jealous wife by claiming that he is merely engaging in a psychoanalytic investigation of his patient. Although he is blind to her political identity, he exploits what he believes to be true regarding her knowledge of his identity: She does not know that he is giving her therapy; she does not know who he is; she does not know that he is the same person every time he sees her, thanks to his disguises. His search ends when he finds her in a vision, dead, and thereby finds himself. This self-knowledge is followed by the experience of torture.
Valenzuela shows the reader what the characters cannot see; she guides the reader to the outermost edges of her characters and forces the reader to see them in their sociohistoric environments. Although the characters do not know one another’s identities, the reader of the novel does have access to this information.
The revolutionary in exile never identifies...
(The entire section is 552 words.)