In numerous interviews, Valenzuela has expressed the idea that the separation between what is called “reality” and what is called “fiction” is less certain than people like to imagine. With this in mind, she began writing The Lizard’s Tail in an attempt to understand the whole period of Perónism, the man who was Jose Lopez Rega, and the means by which a “supposedly intelligent and sophisticated people like the Argentines” had fallen prey to “superstition” and under the influence of such a “malevolent” figure. In part 2 (“TOo”) of the novel, Luisa, who is writing “the Sorcerer’s biography,” says, “Some time ago I made a serious discovery, which I adhere to: if you can’t be the protagonist of the story, then it’s best to be the author/ess of the story. Except that now this firm separation weakens as I find myself getting mixed up in the story that I’m putting together.” Such intrusive rhetoric and self-reflexive commentary draws one’s attention to the self-consciously subversive intention of Valenzuela’s narrative art: an artistic vision in which the social realities of political cruelty are being presented in all their subjective, psychological complexity.

The novel’s title has several identifiable meanings: It refers to a lizard’s tail whip made of knotted leather and used widely in certain provinces of Argentina in the nineteenth century to inflict corporal punishment; it refers to a species of reptile in that country (the whip-tail lizard); and, by extension, it refers to the metaphorical connections between lizards and dragons (and therefore the human unconscious) and the mythological traditions of the cosmic egg, androgyny, and the symbolic renewal of...

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