The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The characters double one another and historical figures. There are two writers, Luisa and the Sorcerer, as well as two witches, Machi and Caboclo de Mar. After Juan Perón’s death, in 1974, Isabel Perón ruled the country with José López Rega, leader of a conservative Peronist faction and Minister of Social Welfare. He was forced into hiding, and Isabel was overthrown a year later. A minor police official during the first Peronist regime, he later offered his services to the exiled president and became Perón’s personal secretary during his last years in Spain. Though he occupied the post of secretary of welfare, he was a close personal adviser to Perón and his wife during and after their return to Argentina and was relied upon heavily by the latter after her husband’s death. He received much attention in the foreign press for his devotion to astrology and the occult, but it was his ruthless power struggle within the Peronist movement that concerned Argentines. He attacked both moderate and left-wing movements.

The Dead Woman is based on Eva Perón, who was born to an unwed mother with the help of an Indian midwife in the pampas near Los Toldos. Eva met Perón and married him in 1945. Perón ruled Argentina from 1946 to 1955 and from 1973 to 1974. Isabel, Juan Perón’s wife after Eva’s death, was selected as his running mate in 1973. Valenzuela parodies Isabel’s conscious imitation of Eva’s style as she attempted to evoke the myth of Eva after Perón’s return to power. Navoni is a composite of various revolutionaries Valenzuela has known. Although the generals and other political figures are depicted in detail to make them recognizable to an Argentine audience, what is more essential are the metaphors.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The Sorcerer

The Sorcerer, the protagonist and main narrator, known also as the witchdoc and by several other names. A cabinet minister in the presidency of the Generalissimo, he held even more power when Madam President, the Generalissimo’s widow, succeeded to the presidency. He supervised state terror under these regimes. The Sorcerer is a paranoid megalomaniac, living in a continuing delusion of his own divinity and feeling completely self-sufficient. He has a third testicle, which he regards as his twin sister, Estrella. Under the government of the military presidents who succeed Madam President, the Sorcerer creates a kingdom of his own and decides to extend his absolute selfhood by having a son with Estrella, a child to be called I. His final legacy, after the explosion that interrupts the gestation, is a thin line of blood running from his remains to the capital. The Sorcerer’s life story is a representation of the life of José López Rega, who was a minister in General Juan Perón’s return to the Argentine presidency (1973-1974) and who virtually ran Argentina for a time during the succeeding presidency (1974-1976) of Isabelita Perón, the general’s widow. López Rega was a practitioner of the occult and the leader of a death squad known as the Argentine Anti-communist Association.

Luisa Valenzuela

Luisa Valenzuela (lew-EE-sah vahl-ehn-SWEH-lah), a novelist with dark, curly hair, like the author of The Lizard’s Tail. Valenzuela is also a narrator and a minor participant in the events of the novel. She is writing a fictionalized biography of the Sorcerer and competes with him, because he is also writing a novel. She is associated with the resistance to authoritarian rule and is concerned about the novelist’s role in politics. Unable to kill off the Sorcerer through writing, she formally removes herself from the text toward the end but returns in the final episode...

(The entire section is 818 words.)