Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The Lizard’s Tail is a complex satiric novel in which political allegory, fictional biography, and authorial ruminations on the relationship between life and narrative art are combined in what the author, Luisa Valenzuela, has called a “mythicized and damning version of recent Argentine history.” It is a female perception of and variation on the traditional dictatorship novel of Spanish American literature. It is, however, a novel in which very little action takes place externally. It is, instead, a narrative that one could conceivably begin reading at any one of the three major sections into which it is divided without any appreciable loss of comprehension.

The novel operates on multiple levels and reflects several important concerns of the author. Outwardly, The Lizard’s Tail is the story of Jose Lopez Rega, who—although not mentioned directly by name in the narrative—was the minister of social welfare under Eva Perón, a “witch doctor,” and the author of published books on sorcery. Referring to himself as “the Sorcerer,” he is writing his autobiography (a novel in which he is “the protagonist”), which he intends—as a combination of his life and diary—to be a sacred text. Valenzuela is concerned with showing the perennial presence of the caudillo (“strong man”) figure in Argentina specifically and Latin American society generally. For although Jose Lopez Rega, the historical brujo (“sorcerer”), was part of the Juan and Eva Perón regime of the 1940’s, Valenzuela has anachronistically situated him among events associated with the Argentine military dictatorship of the 1970’s and early 1980’s.

As a master of the “invaluable art of pretense and mimicry,” knowledgeable in the occult sciences and able to transform himself and assume “the most complex personae,” he is “The Red Ant Sorcerer, Master of Tacurú (‘ant hill’ in Guarani), Owner of the Drums, Patron Saint of the Forsaken, the Great Sawer, the High Priest of the Finger and His Sister Estrella.” He...

(The entire section is 845 words.)