(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

He Who Searches opens with a brief scene in which a man is interrogated and raped with the butt of a gun. This scene ends abruptly, and the novel’s first part, entitled “Discovery,” begins. The psychoanalyst describes his patient, and the narrative introduces his unusual method of treatment, which includes appearing at her house in various disguises, from postman to transvestite, and having a sexual relationship with her. Their relationship embraces a variety of fantasies, including one in which he is an insurance man. Valenzuela ironically includes in this section questions such as “Against what can she be trying to protect herself?” The reader knows that there is no insurance for a revolutionary in exile. Eventually, the psychoanalyst’s wife discovers the affair that her husband is having with his patient.

In the second part, “The Loss,” the psychoanalyst spends time with his wife but longs for his patient, who has disappeared. While reading a story in the newspaper about a banderillero in a barroom brawl, he recognizes his patient in an accompanying photograph. He believes that “a trickle of blood” will lead him to her.

In the third part, “The Journey,” the psychoanalyst arrives in Mexico, where he participates in a purification ritual and is guided by Nahuatl-speaking Indian women through the mountains. He meets a woman named Maria Sabina, who gives him sacred mushrooms. This passage recalls the Cave of...

(The entire section is 470 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Bach, Caleb. “Metaphors and Magic Unmask the Soul.” Americas 47 (January/February, 1995): 22-27. Offers a fascinating look at Valenzuela’s life and writing career. Briefly explores some of her themes and examines some of the writers who have influenced her, such as Jorge Luis Borges.

Garfield, Evelyn P. “Luisa Valenzuela.” In Latin American Writers, edited by Carlos A. Solé and Maria I. Abreau. Vol. 3. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1989. Offers an entry on Valenzuela that covers her life and career. Presents in-depth readings of many of her works, and includes a selected bibliography.

Hoeppner, Edward H. “The Hand That Mirrors Us: Luisa Valenzuela’s Re-Writing of Lacan’s Theory of Identity.” Latin American Literary Review 20 (January/June, 1992): 9-17. Hoeppner focuses on the narrator, a professor who is violently tortured and whose violent quest for love parallels his physical suffering. Hoeppner argues that Valenzuela’s use of the symbol of the phallus as symbolic of desire is linked to the theories of Jacques Lacan.

Kadir, Djelal. “Focus on Luisa Valenzuela.” World Literature Today 69 (Autumn, 1995): 668-670. A revealing profile of Valenzuela that covers her tenure as a Puterbaugh Fellow at the University of Oklahoma, the quality and style of her writing, and her focus on human potential and failures. Although this essay does not address any particular work, it offers interesting background information.

Pinto, Magdalena. Women Writers of Latin America: Intimate Histories. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991. A collection of interviews with Latin American women writers, including one with Luisa Valenzuela. Features helpful bibliographic references for further reading and an index.