cover image Sacred Cow

Sacred Cow

Diamela Eltit, Diamela Elitt. Serpent's Tail, $12.99 (160pp) ISBN 978-1-85242-287-5

The Chilean Eltit (The Fourth World) has a fierce dark side that becomes oppressive in this novel set in Santiago about a woman's obsession with a lover. The narrator is in love with Manuel, a man who has migrated from ``the South'' with his wife. The worse he treats her the more she loves him, and most of this brief novel consists of her eloquent ranting about him. The truth is ephemeral here; the narrator is constantly contradicting herself and others: first she says that Manuel misses the South terribly and talks about it all the time in reverent tones (``City-dweller that I was, his obsession felt foreign to me''); but she then explains that he had really hated the South and had run away from it. When the two are separated, the narrator imagines quite calmly that she is communicating with Manuel by telepathy, making her blind to the oppressive changes taking place in Chile in the '70s because ``With my head thus jammed, it refused to take in the countless changes that were taking place in the city.'' Eventually, she finds herself poverty-stricken and miserable, roaming around ``in pursuit of non-existent jobs.'' The writing here is startling, and often startlingly bloody, and the translation does it justice. As the allegory it clearly is of the position of women in this troubled country, it works well, although on the narrative level it occasionally become repetitive. (Dec.)