(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Lizard’s Tail is divided into three parts. The first hundred pages of the novel are narrated by an enigmatic figure known as the Sorcerer, with interruptions by unidentified characters in the capital and an omniscient narrator. The Sorcerer claims to be indispensable to the government; it is clear from the beginning, however, that this is not a realistic political novel but rather a symbolic, mythic, and at times deliberately cryptic allegory of modern Argentina.

The novel opens with a prophecy about a river of blood which will bring twenty years of peace. The first part relates the Sorcerer’s childhood in the land of the ants. (He amused himself by sitting on anthills.) Expelled from the anthills at age two, the Sorcerer is taken by Don Ciriaco to Doña Rosa, who rears the orphaned boy. Later, Dona Rosa is raped by the police, who are searching for the Sorcerer. In the capital, two observers decide that the Marshland, both a swamp and a “representation of the human unconscious,” must be conceived of as a metaphor: The surface represents the repressive superego/government while the swamp represents the inverted-image underground of the Sorcerer. The Sorcerer says that he is writing a novel in which the present day will take place at all times. The Intruder, Isabel Perón, organizes a group to determine with certainty that the corpse thought to be that of Eva Perón is in fact Eva’s. A reference is made to the burial of Eva by Perón and the disappearance of her body: The Sorcerer says that he and others hid the body after a coup and after the “cult” was forbidden. The Sorcerer says that he is bringing Eva back to life. The Generalissimo, Perón, dies. The Sorcerer decides to make Isabel, Perón’s wife, his ally. He makes plans to create a new kingdom which he will rule, the Kingdom of the Black Lagoon. The government begins to persecute him. Rather than fight them, he decides to build a pyramid. In his pyramid, he will have his wedding with his sister, and together they will have a son. In the capital, a plan for National Reconstruction is formulated to counter the negative images in the foreign press, which include accusations of torture and disappearances condoned by the government. The Sorcerer suggests a masked ball as a preparation for the government’s campaign of disinformation. He prepares for...

(The entire section is 958 words.)