Luisa Valenzuela 1938–
Argentine novelist, short story writer, journalist, and scriptwriter.
Valenzuela is recognized as one of the significant authors to have emerged in Argentina since the "boom" in Latin American literature during the 1960s. Like many of her literary contemporaries, Valenzuela introduces fantastic events into socially realistic settings—a technique known as magic realism which allows fiction to reflect the extraordinary qualities of life in Latin America.
Valenzuela's use of magic realism emphasizes the surreal and bizarre more so than does the fiction of such pioneers of the technique as Gabriel García Márquez and Julio Cortázar. Accordingly, some critics find her stories less reflective of social or psychological reality than those of her contemporaries and claim that she is more interested in experimenting with literary form than in telling stories. Valenzuela experiments with narrative structure through a constantly shifting point of view and through self-conscious language that examines the creative process of art while relating stories. She has been praised for her inventive use of image, metaphor, and symbol in examining themes of violence, political oppression, and cultural repression, especially as the latter relates to women. These aspects of Valenzuela's writings reflect her statement that "magic realism was a beautiful resting place, but the thing to do is go forward."
Valenzuela first gained attention with Hay que sonreir (1966), a novel that depicts that submissive state of women in Argentina. This novel, which appeared in English in Clara: Thirteen Short Stories and a Novel (1976), interrelates themes dealing with violence, women, and politics through the encounters of Clara, a beautiful young woman whose innocent dreams conflict with the values of her culture. Critics admired Valenzuela's infusion of magic realism into the novel's conventional structure. However, her short stories have met with a mixed critical response. Critics generally concluded that her stories appeal to ambitious readers who are willing to search through surreal presentations for meaning. Valenzuela's recent novel The Lizard's Tail (1983) is a fictional biography of a despotic government official who is also a sorcerer. This novel has been especially praised for Valenzuela's use of sorcery as a metaphor for the means by which political power is used to control people and is considered by some critics to be her most important work. Valenzuela presently lives in New York City.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vol. 101.)