Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Like other stories in Valenzuela’s Cambio de armas (1982; Other Weapons, 1985), “I’m Your Horse in the Night” may be read as a political allegory, an erotic tale, or a detective story. It is a literary construction of a violent and abusive power that must be denounced. The author’s revision of the historical reality of her country places her within the context of the Latin American literary boom. The subconscious aspect of the narration symbolizes the power of female language and storytelling to reach into social and historical issues while reflecting the female experience in contemporary society.

Valenzuela dramatizes a world of binary opposites such as history and fiction. The relationship between history and fiction is explored through Chiquita’s recollection of events. The female-male dichotomy, which is centered on the meaning of the horse as a magical or sexual element, provides a structural and thematic framework for the narrative. The first section of the story deals with the lover’s visit, and the second reveals Chiquita’s arrest and torture as a result of his visit. Beto’s actions prefigure the actions of the police when they force themselves on her. The voices of Beto and the police inhabit Chiquita’s story. The story shifts from interior monologues to dialogues, which weave in and around each other, and offer opposing perspectives. The female narrator seeks to appropriate the text by using her language to confront the dominant male language and include it within the framework of her own story.

Valenzuela uncovers oppressive systems and, at the same time, re-creates a woman’s literary thinking process. As Chiquita creates a dream-world version of Beto’s visit, it is difficult to tell whether she is telling all that really did happen. She offers a version of reality that may be true and may be a fabrication. Her inclusion in the story is accepted as a fact, but the confusion of what is real and what is not creates a surrealistic atmosphere and a sense of ambiguity. In her mind, Chiquita speaks to the torturers and dares them to take away her dreams. She also addresses Beto and offers to be his mount and carry his spirit—like the horse in the song, according to her interpretation. Chiquita has the last word because her version of the truth ends the story.