Clara

Luisa Valenzuela, Author, Andrea G. Labinger, Translator Latin American Literary Review Press $15.95 (159p) ISBN 978-1-891270-09-3
This crisp translation of the first major novel of Argentine writer Valenzuela, published in 1966 in Spanish, and in an English edition (now out of print) by Harcourt in 1976, is raw, sensuous and stylish as a tango. After her father makes it clear she is no longer welcome at home, country girl Clara comes to Buenos Aires and drifts into a life of prostitution, though all she really wants is to find a husband. During her descent into the city's underworld, Clara encounters such denizens as Don Mario, a fat hotel manager who teaches her the tricks of the trade; Victor, a self-involved refrigerator salesman who is her boyfriend for a while; Tono Cruz, a bank employee with an engaging personality but a face so ugly it reminds her that ""the perfect whore shouldn't concern herself with her customers' physical appearance""; impotent tango singer Carlos; Maria Magdalena, a hard-edged old-timer in the profession who offers Clara advice but no affection. Finally, Clara falls in with Alejandro, a magician, who subjects her remorselessly to his will until she is resigned to an endlessly bleak future. A writer renowned for her lyrical, expressionistic exploration of male-dominated Argentine society, Valenzuela here chronicles the bizarre, brutal existence of characters on the fringes, building to a hair-raising climax. Taking the stage name ""Aztec Flower,"" Clara becomes part of Alejandro's magic show, enacting the ""decapitated woman... a secret, jealously guarded for millennia since the time of the Egyptian pharaohs."" Living literally on the razor's edge, Clara debates whether to finally take her life into her own hands in this harsh, provoking yet graceful tale of exploitation. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 160 pages - 978-0-935480-95-5
Hardcover - 233 pages - 978-0-15-118095-0
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