Printer Friendly

Writing in the margin: maternal and indigenous space in 'Entrada libre.' (novel by Argentine author Ines Malinow) (Third World Women's Inscriptions)

Entrada libre (Free Entry, 1978),(1) by the Argentine Ines Malinow, presents a series of "cultures" in conflict: Hispanic/indigenous; Christian word/Quechua magic; paternal/maternal; and conscious/unconscious. In each case, the dominant culture confronts the marginal in a show of power and force in which the first entity threatens to destroy the second. Nevertheless, the presence of the marginal subverts the unity of the dominant discourse, which seeks to narrow all perspectives into a single voice. Instead, the marginal culture ruptures potential univocality and posits alternate voices.

Like many Latin American women writers, Malinow explores the representation of motherhood. Before World War II, Gabriela Mistral, Victoria Ocampo, and Nelly Campobello often depicted "an endlessly tender, innocent, but nevertheless all-knowing mother" (Castro-Klaren 11). Nevertheless, as Sara Castro-Klaren shows, the mother figure later became more complex, at times portrayed as complicit with machista oppression, deconstructed as the idealized virginal image, or otherwise placed in a discordant light in regard to traditional images. More recently, in The House of the Spirits Isabel Allende establishes a political stake in motherhood, and portrays a feminine genealogy that stands against patriarchal repression. In Entrada libre, Malinow also reclaims the mother-daughter bond and establishes its political implications as a force that overwhelms patriarchy.

Entrada libre dramatizes the repressive situation of the maternal and the indigenous, and establishes a link of complicity between them. The first is amply described by Adrienne Rich, who, in Of Woman Born, displays the many ways the female body has been marginalized as evil and unclean, and how at the same time women's reproductive powers have been appropriated by men in an effort to demystify the womb. Similarly, the colonization of the indigenous peoples of Latin America has resulted in their simultaneous hispanization and marginalization. Nevertheless, Malinow's novel presents both the maternal and the indigenous body as powerful signs that precede and resist complete assimilation. The author retrieves the margins of the dominant patriarchal Hispanic discourse, where the maternal and the indigenous reside.

In Entrada libre maternal power and Inca magic are associated with the semiotic, a preoedipal modality that confronts the representational or symbolic space of the paternal and Hispanic orders. In Revolution in Poetic Language, Julia Kristeva describes the semiotic as a type of complex communication that remains outside the word itself, and, instead, is expressed through gestures, rhythms, and intonation. Semiotic pulsions are situated in what Kristeva calls the chora, a mobile and fluid receptacle of prelinguistic and precognitive impulses. Instead of establishing fixed and singular meaning, the semiotic ruptures precise, clear, unitary meaning and produces multiple meaning through ambiguity, in the form of word play, broken syntax, and nonsensical language. These elements, although marginal to the word itself, shape meaning and give voice to what is repressed by the symbolic. Kristeva calls these moments of rupture in the symbolic chain the "feminine effect," because of their association with the maternal, for the semiotic mode arises from the strong attachment to the mother that exists at a time when a child perceives the world in great part through the maternal body. Instead of initially communicating through linguistic markers, the relationship between mother and infant relies on touch and gesture, soothing, nonsensical sound, and playful, childlike communication.

Whereas the semiotic is linked to the maternal, the symbolic represents a coexisting paternal space derived from the infant's rupture from the maternal body and the subsequent introduction into the processes of signification. Access to this paternal space depends on the submission and repression of the feminine. Language, with its eternal chain of signifiers, illustrates this repressive and divisive aspect of the symbolic. In the dictionary, for example, a word stands as a substitute for its referent and never leads to the presence of the desired object. Instead, it defers the referent by inserting its substitute into a chain of signs that forever divide the symbol and the object, replacing every signifier with yet another. In this way the letter perpetuates and sustains absence and never yields presence.

The maternal and paternal not only characterize space but also time. In her essay "Women's Time," Kristeva suggests that there are two types of temporality, a cursive, linear time associated with history, and a cyclical, monumental time representing eternity. The first presents "time as departure, progression and arrival" ("Women's Time" 17) and plots temporal movement in a structured sequence that unfolds towards death. The second temporality, associated with motherhood and reproduction, presents time as universal, eternal, and cosmic: "cycles, gestation, the eternal recurrence of a biological rhythm which conforms to that of nature." Monumental time "has so little to do with linear time (which passes) that the very word 'temporality' hardly fits: All-encompassing and infinite like imaginary space" ("Women's Time" 16). Whereas the masculine world is associated with historical, linear time, and manifests an obsession to dominate, feminine subjectivity is characterized by the cyclical and repetitious mode of monumental time, which is linked to a type of mythic, archaic memory that places it outside of chronology.

Kristeva's two types of temporality, one associated with the masculine world of history and the other related to a feminine union with the cosmos, are interwoven into Entrada libre. Language, situated in linear time through its careful sequencing of syntax, belongs to the men in the novel, who use the linguistic medium to give form to and maintain control of the historical recall of events such as the conquest of the indigenous peoples. Further, language produces the means of dominating other characters, of placing them within a syntax of comprehension, designated, controlled, and mediated by the masculine sphere. On the other hand, the sense of eternity and union with the cosmos that springs from the shared cycles and rhythms of mother and nature also appears in the novel. Yet participation in this cosmic spectrum of time is not limited to the Hispanic women of the novel. The indigenous population also shares in the non-linear temporality, eternal presence, and "vertiginous visions" that Kristeva associates with "monumental time." The Inca ruins convey a sense of past within the present, as opposed to the patriarchal tendency to parcel time into a connecting chain of fragments.

Malinow's novel dramatizes the search for a semiotic time/space. In the novel a mother ("la madre") and her daughter (Ana) travel to Cuzco to recuperate from failed romantic relationships. The mother flees Roberto, her husband or lover, whose affair with Ana has distanced the two women from each other. Ana, distraught after being rejected by her female lover, continually writes letters to her Beloved, as if trying to regain her presence through the symbolic medium of language. When mother and daughter arrive at their rented house, full of odd packages and mysterious noises, they find it already occupied by a group of actors. As the two women visit various sites in Cuzco and its surroundings, they find themselves accompanied inexplicably by one of the actors and a doctor, who guide the two women both in their wanderings through the mythic, indigenous places of Cuzco, and in their journey towards self-discovery. The latter journey, invested with magical power from the indigenous sites, heals and reunites mother and daughter, and grants them autonomy and strength to venture back out into the public world from which they came.

From the beginning the author subverts the controlling mechanisms of language and patrilinear progression by metaphorically dismembering the paternal body, the corpus of structures based on deferral and substitution that organize the symbolic. If paternity represents the search for immortality through the substituting powers of the word and by reproduction of the father in his progeny, Entrada libre dis-inscribes the subject of patrilinear and logocentric genealogy. Typically, the father's last name establishes the human being in a patriarchal genealogy and traditionally erases the feminine subject. However, Entrada libre resists a social identity that is conferred by paternal naming procedures. None of the principal characters has a last name, and several of them appear without even a given name. In the case of the mother, known to the reader simply as "la madre" [the mother], her lack of name possibly refers to the interchangeable maternal role that she represents in the patriarchal order. If a proper name presupposes an individual identity, for the mother there isn't space for individuality, since her role has been defined for her and not by her.

During her stay in Cuzco, the mother questions the manner in which Roberto has defined her linguistically. His definitions, which have confined her to his limited, singular perspective, prohibit any continuous growth, change, and development. For Roberto, everything is filtered through language, including sexual intercourse, a most intimate bodily communication. He withholds the use of language from the mother, who is his lover, while at the same time reducing her corporal identity to a linguistic unity, as when he tells her "I want your body, which is like a word" (78). The mother questions this paralyzing identification: "Maybe she herself was under the name of 'sign' or 'disturbance' or 'dawn.' How would she ever know under what word Roberto had codified her? The only one that defined her?" (143). Feeling herself classified under a single, unchanging identity, the mother further reacts: "Her hunger, her thirst, did they fit into Roberto's definitions? And couldn't it be that the explanations had different dates?" (143). Roberto's neat encapsulation of his lover allows no change or multiplicity. Countering a reductive and static definition of woman, Kristeva suggests woman's development as a "subject-in-process," which fits well with Irigaray's image of identity in terms of a "birth never complete, body never created once and for all, face and form never definitively finished, always to be molded" ("Our Lips" 78).

Entrada libre weaves an alliance both of marginality and of power between the indigenous and the maternal. Like the stultifying image that Roberto projects onto the mother, the dominant Hispanic order also attempts to formulate a definition of the Indians based on narrow physical determinants that grant them only marginal social status within the dominant order. Although patriarchy oppresses the indigenous and maternal bodies and establishes them as signs of non-power within the symbolic, the corporal presence of both serves as a visual reminder of difference, that is, a possible subversion of the univocal nature of the dominant order.

Throughout the novel, the overt violence of Hispanic word, law, and authority are counterposed to the underlying magical and mythic quality of the Quechuas. Whereas the Spanish presence represents an overt force that clearly works to silence marginal views, the indigenous actively subverts the singular voice of the dominant culture. Although the ancient splendor of the Quechuas has been compressed into a marginal sector, nevertheless, Entrada libre reveals a palimpsestic structure in which ancient Quechua magic breaks through the gaps of the contemporary, dominant Hispanic culture. For under the buildings of the Hispanic Cuzco lie Quechua temples, either quite invisible or seen only in the cracks of the Hispanic buildings. In this hidden space beats an ancient magic rhythm associated with sacred rites and a mythic character.

The indigenous voice that cracks dominant historical discourse culminates in one important scene. A child, Coralita, shows a drawing to a mestizo. She asks him to read it to her, but he responds that he does not know how to read. Nevertheless, he relates the tale that the picture portrays - of Atahualpa, the last Inca, killed by the Spaniards in an act of betrayal that resulted in the destruction of the entire Inca empire. The mestizo's words indicate that the Spaniards were well within their fight and that the killing was "very very . . . very good" because history and the written word, property of the colonizing Spaniards, always represent truth: "You and I we don't know anything about history, little one, nothing. They are the ones who are correct, they know how to write" (222). The written word manifests the triumph of the symbolic, especially since, in this case, the Incas had no similar form of inscription. Thus, the Quechua civilization has no voice of its own in Hispanic history (the past events and experiences of a civilization), and is instead accorded both place and meaning within historical discourse (the chronicling and interpretation of past experiences). Nevertheless, the tears of the mestizo as he speaks inscribe another history, that of the "other" perspective, of tragedy and horror, that remains outside of the written word. This lachrymose ink appeals to Coralita, who, "whenever she could, set herself to crying. She liked to cry" (222).

The perspective of the other cannot be communicated with the symbolic word that reigns in the dominant sphere. Absent from the pages of history, the corporal presence of those who don't possess the word as a mark of power nevertheless defines their perspective. Latin American history and language traditionally place indigenous natives and women in the margins of history, on the edges, between the lines, in the silences of masculine dominant discourse. This palimpsestic margin is aligned with the chora, which gathers both the maternal and the indigenous in its domain in the novel. This "matrix space, nourishing, unnameable, anterior to the One, to God" (Kristeva, "Women's Time" 16), cannot be located within a sequence of progression or identity. The fact that it is a space that precedes the singular dominant ("anterior to the One, to God") makes allies of the mother-culture and the Quechua nation in their confrontation with patriarchal, Hispanic law. By resisting the naming procedure ("unnameable"), both are placed beyond/outside of social hierarchy and identification within the dominant structure. Both resist what Kristeva calls the "symbolic denominator" ("Women's Time" 13), or cultural-religious memory that is produced by historical tradition and linguistic unity.

In Malinow's novel, the conflict between authority and marginality, between the Hispanic and the Quechua, extends to the dialectic between the paternal and the maternal. The mother-space represents the prevalence of touch, fusion, and presence over substitution, univocality, and absence, evoked by the symbolic word and wielded by the masculine domain. Although the maternal and indigenous semiotic seem distanced from a civilization where the symbolic rules, like the Inca ruins that pop out of the cracks of the Hispanic buildings, so the maternal lies within patriarchy, and the indigenous perspective between the lines of Hispanic history.

The maternal and indigenous semiotic, a magical and nocturnal power ("they knew that Cuzco, that night, was beginning to give orders, to dictate" [180]), expressed in ritual gestures and mysterious rhythms, lives in the margins of the Hispanic and patriarchal face of Cuzco (represented by the soldiers, the politicians, and the clergy). The maternal and the indigenous overlap in the figure of the Indian women who sit along the street, breastfeeding their children. Like the paternal figure who in the oedipal complex produces a rupture between mother and child, the appearance of the soldiers causes the Indian women to "hide their breasts in their blouses when the authorities arrive, their nipples enlarged by hunger are withdrawn from the mouths" (188). By its mere presence, patriarchal authority here breaks contact between mother and child, and represents a force that threatens a union that can only be achieved outside of paternal view.

The indigenous presence ushers Ana and her mother into a temporal order that resists the "watchful weight of the calendar" (48). Instead, quite reminiscent of Kristeva's description of monumental time, this temporal order is mythic, cyclical, and backward, displacing distinctions between past and present. The very name of the Inca center gives further evidence of the strong connection between the maternal and the indigenous, since "Cuzco" comes from the Quechua, Ccossco, signifying axis or umbilical navel. In fact, because of the seemingly ever-present rain, the novel textualizes aquatic Cuzco as a great womb, without walls. When it rains, the entire city becomes a watery space in which the drops seem to pour from both sky and earth. Theorists often associate this fluid, aquatic aspect with the feminine, as is exemplified by the permeable ego boundaries that allow women to fuse with others more easily than do men.(2) The cosmic rains of Cuzco later become allied with the corporal team of the mother, who in a dream engulfs the entire house in her team. Just as the mother's team acquire cosmic proportions ("a waterfall, a heavy sea, an avalanche of tears" [124]) and evoke a feminine world ("uncataloguable tears of every type of suffering, tears of hurt fingers, of Sundays, and abortions" [124]), the rains of Cuzco overpower the entire city, providing a new inscription that overwhelms and washes into silence the historical, single-voiced writing associated in the novel with the masculine, Hispanic domain.

Thus, in her novel, Malinow counterposes a feminine aqueous mode, a type of corporal ink, against a Hispanic masculine world composed of words, that, ironically, instead of delivering a presence of person or object, always postpone true contact. The word becomes an instrument that establishes distance between human beings. It is a tool manipulated by men and withheld from women, and is used to seduce the women of the novel into accepting the deferral of meaningful contact and intimacy. Both mother and daughter attempt to establish a relation with the word, which only fails in the quest to regain the presence of the lover. Having fallen prey to the seduction of language, the mother continually awaits word from Roberto, in the form of letters that might magically bring his return. However, not even a message arrives that might serve as a substitute for his actual presence.

Similarly, Ana writes letters to her female lover in an attempt to have her reappear. In fact, the young woman manifests an overt preference for the separation and absence of the linguistic medium. Her writing consists of fragments written in a notebook, motivated by the amorous rejection of a woman called simply Beloved ("Amada"). Nevertheless, Ana's letters don't always take a graphic form in the pages of the notebook. She also draws her words in the air, in her imagination, in her dreams, on a window clouded with vapor, or she inscribes her messages orally, where the words disappear as soon as they are spoken. Rather than providing relief from her emotional suffering, Ana's letters grant her a way to sustain her pain, and thus preserve the illusion of her lover's interest. These letters also serve to convert her own body into a symbolic presence, setting up a linguistic mirror in which to experience her corporal being: "She writes her last tear of the night, unless she decides to wake at dawn and jot down a sob" (49).

The seductive sway of the word also illustrates the predicament of the third woman who appears in the novel. Aurora, the estranged wife of Jose, a politician, weaves in and out of the narrative as she eludes her husband and his spy, who is attempting to locate her and their son. As Aurora ponders the letters that the absent Jose has sent her in an attempt to seduce her back to him, she perceives their relationship as devoid of meaning and true contact. Indeed, the last letter that Aurora receives is full of incomplete sentences, suggesting that it repeats the same message as always or that communication has deteriorated into absolute absence of meaning. If this letter represents a void of meaning, the last letter that Jose actually writes to his wife becomes total absence of meaning, since it never arrives, and is, instead, accidentally eaten by a goat. The communicative failure presented by the letters becomes strikingly evident when Aurora pesses Jose on the street and he does not recognize her, for he reserves his true passion not for his wife but for the symbolic medium in which he moves so easily. In fact, during a public speech, Jose reveals himself to be enamored of the word and of the power it grants him, for he caresses the microphone and holds it close "as if it were a woman burning and perverse" (207). Although he promises his wife intimacy and togetherness, Aurora realizes that the masculine word as represented by Jose is a writing of absence and only foments separation: it never brings the desired presence of the speaker.

The fraud of language as a failed means of intimacy and communication extends to Latin American politics and religion, both of which are realms that rely on the promised incarnation of the word. Malinow criticizes the rhetoric of politics and religion, forces in the novel that attempt to seduce the public to accept the word as the truth that will bring the concretization of the promised presence. This culminates in a scene during a parade when Jose's voice is mixed with the Bishop's, in a vigorous attempt by each to make his own words heard over the other. The Bishop, who literally preaches the Word, competes with Jose until the two voices are confused and thoroughly indistinguishable from each other, suggesting that there exists little difference between what they say. Finally, like a great cosmic force, the dark clouds above burst into torrential rains that silence the words of both men.

Another male character who represents the failure of language to convey meaning is El Rubio (the Blond Man), Jose's subordinate, who has been entreat-ed to find Aurora. El Rubio attempts to communicate surreptitiously with Jose through secret reports that inform the politician of the events that take place in the rented house. However, El Rubio's reports never arrive. Even if they were to arrive, they contain erroneous, misinterpreted information about the inhabitants of the house, showing that Logos doesn't always represent the truth to which it aspires. His reports reveal the division between the logic of the house and that of the political domain. Whereas his words manifest singleness of thought - the idea that among the novel's politicians there is thought to be one truth - in the rented house multiplicity of meaning reigns (136). Rather than dividing the inhabitants, the plurality unites them, and magically attracts El Rubio. As a result, his reports become increasingly more illogical and absurd (from the reader's perspective) as the logic of laughter penetrates his letters and the house bewitches him. Although he never comes to form a part of the intimate community of the house, he is swept away by the erotic, tactile relations he discovers there.

Aurora goes to the rented house, once her home, to retrieve Jose's remaining letters. Now that she has been able to "read between the lines," she wants no one else to fall into the same linguistic trap of impossible contact. Nevertheless, the mother finds the letters, and in them vividly recognizes her own circumstances. With Aurora's letters, the mother also finds a book of "sad and predestined short stories" (85) that present powerless females. In the first story that she reads, a misogynous father locks up his daughter, suggesting the confinement that the mother senses in her own situation circumscribed by Roberto's narrow prescriptive definitions of her. In another, a young widow is locked in a house and into a sterile life by the oppressive forces of society. Her only escape, weaving prayer shawls in the dark basement, represents a subterranean freedom that exists only outside of the vision of social law.

As the mother reads both the letters and the stories she builds a text populated with her feminine images and symbols. This confusion between reader, writer, and critic leads her to a discourse based on her own experiences. Her critical eye sees that in the patriarchal realm her "reading" of the world is not important nor even a "natural" feminine activity. Although traditionally women become part of the text they read - through identification with the female victim, marginal character, or passive figure - Malinow's female protagonist resists passive integration into the masculine texts that she reads, and instead participates in a critical, active reading that breaks apart patriarchal discourse. She is a "resisting reader" who proposes a new reading of feminine experience, one that allows her to name her own reality.(3) Out of the silences and textual ruptures comes another text, much like the mestizo's, that blurs Hispanic wording and creates a new interpretation.

To help create this new text, both the mother and Ana are aided by the indigenous presence in Cuzco. Malinow suggests that the mythic and ritual powers of the Quechuas may corrode patriarchal limits. Disruptive of the Hispanic and allied with the maternal, the indigenous culture weaves itself into the margins of the novel and Hispanic Cuzco, and infuses the narrative with a powerful, magical presence that operates outside of the visual and symbolic logic, and instead forms part of a larger, cosmic system. The journeys that Ana and her mother make to the Inca sites surrounding Cuzco parallel the metaphoric journey that each woman takes towards her psyche. The first transforming trip is to Machu Picchu, "towards the interior . . . towards the dark populations of the zone" (59), suggesting Ana's entry into the dark recesses of the unconscious. In these ruins, hidden until the early 20th century, Aria begins her journey towards self-discovery and transformation, for these great Inca ruins are powerful, transforming, "[a]nd magic. When Machu Picchu decides, people change" (62). There Ana relinquishes her notebook and pen and instead explores the doctor's body. The oppositional boundaries between the two disappear, and the sensual exploration of the doctor's body becomes Ana's own erotic discovery, characterized by contact - touching the other - instead of the displacing powers of the word. For as she touches her companion she in effect comes to discover her own body, its rhythms and its needs. At Machu Picchu the mother also carries out a self-exploration as she photographs the "angles that no one looks at" (66). Like Ana, even as the mother explores, she becomes the explored terrain. Later, after the outing, as she lies in bed, "a figure approaches [her]. It becomes bound to her, reaches her unsuspected corners, dominates her in order to discover her, uses her warmth and her anguish, discovers her moods, accelerates them" (191). Thus, the scene reinscribes what has been repressed within the maternal body, namely, the erotic.

On the second trip, to Sacsahuaman, an Inca fortress that protected indigenous Cuzco, Ana and the doctor enter a cavern, a dark space that suggests the womb. The visual properties linked to Logos surrender there to the tactile powers of the maternal. Where the letter can't be seen, Ana touches the cavern walls, tracing its curves and textures, as she simultaneously outlines the shape of her own being. In other words, the exploration of the cavern walls metonymically represents Ana's self-discovery, as she examines her own previously unknown, interior space.

In addition to these two trips, Ana and her mother find further aid from the indigenous presence through a series of ritualistic scenes that they and others enact in the house. The ceremonial gestures used in these episodes underscore the indigenous reliance on magic rites to ensure the proper functioning of nature. These scenes are reminiscent of the religious acts of the Quechuas, and serve to liberate the two women from paternal logic. According to Nor Hall, ritualistic processes represent "instruments of becoming" connected to the secrets of life. Ceremonial rituals, frequently associated with indigenous populations, invoke a reconstitution of "complex emotional reactions to the world" and recreate a relation between a human being and the cosmos (164-66). Although the doctor and the actor introduce the two women into these rites of life, in the house the indigenous ceremonies soon take over, infusing the transforming rites with mythic importance and cosmic scale.

The house traditionally represents a female domain, removed from the center of masculine culture. Now, having served as a protective and nutritive womb as well as a dark locus of the unconscious, it becomes a sacred space that gives magic to the rites performed there. The frenetic dances, orgiastic scenes, drugs, and dramatizations of religious scenes infuse the house with a type of "free entry," indicated by the title, that leads the two women further towards the discovery of their own libidinal energies. Here, in this transforming space, the word and the separation that constitute the patriarchal sphere yield to the contact and fluidity of identities that correspond to the feminine. The notion of a non-fixed identity in part relies on the sense of fusion experienced between the pregnant woman and the child within, but, as Nancy Chodorow notes, also extends to adulthood where women often exhibit permeable ego boundaries, characterized by a greater capacity to identify with others. Physical touch extends into a broad and more profound contact between human beings. The house itself is cold, but the human contact and presence of the other communicates the touch and physical contiguity associated with the maternal.

As they move from a patriarchal center the novel's characters, both feminine and masculine, are initiated into the logic of laughter, associated by Helene Cixous and Kristeva with feminine disorder and subversion. This logic that disrupts patriarchy arises from jouissance, an ecstasy found outside of the norm, which works against established limits and meanings. The logic of laughter mixes reality and fantasy, origin and destination, the I and the other, subverting all divisive borders. Indeed, invisible and unexplained laughter literally permeates the house that the two women have rented. Infused by the potency of this subversive laughter that is associated with the uncontrollable maternal jouissance, the characters of Entrada libre find themselves overwhelmed in a fusion of oppositional limits: in trying to touch they are touched, by searching they are found.

The magical powers suggested by the indigenous rituals find a connection with Christian rites. In fact, during the narrative frame, Cuzco busily prepares both for the Semana Santa (Holy Week), the culmination of the Christian mythology in which Christ is reborn, and for the Fiesta del Sol (Feast of the Sun), an indigenous celebration of the daily rebirth of the sun. Whereas the Christian rituals convey control, order, and singleness of purpose, the orgiastic rites that take place within the house are frenzied, free-spirited, and erotic, all that is absent from the rituals brought to the Americas by the religious clergy sent to Christianize the Indians. Therefore, when the inhabitants of the house drink wine during one ritualistic scene, the imbibing of the liquid as part of a sacred act suggests the Christian communion, but the frenetic, mystical effect signals the indigenous chicha, an intoxicating ritual drink used by the Incas. In addition, instead of the traditional Christian communion wafer that symbolizes the body of Christ, the inhabitants of the house ingest a "white, pleasant powder" (104) that leads them towards a frenzied ecstasy - a probable reference to cocaine, which comes from tle coca plant ingested by the Incas in some rites. The Quechua presence, which weaves magic throughout the novel's scenes, once again becomes apparent when one of the participants, an indigenous woman, invokes in Quechua the great indigenous center: "Cuzco Great City, I greet you" (147). The scenes confer autonomy, comprehension, and a newly-developed personal dimension on both women. The mother no longer depends on Roberto, who, she realizes, is "not necessarily the one she waits for" (192), and Ana comes to see that the lover to whom she has been writing exists only in the symbolic medium of language: "[Beloved,] words create you and give birth to you" (140).

A final orgiastic scene in the rented house, involving mother and daughter, the actors who seem to dwell there, the doctor, and even Jose's spy, El Rubio, celebrates the transformation of the mother and daughter. The inhabitants of the house remove their clothing, thus divesting themselves of a set identity, and offer themselves to a frenzy of dance and song. The fertile darkness of the house changes and interchanges couples, producing new pairs. As if moving in an aquatic space, the unidentified bodies undulate in undistinguished erotic fluidity and union.

The inscriptive tears of the mestizo have become the tears of the mother, who at one point miraculously converts the entire house into an aquatic arena with her lachrymose ink, which inscribes presence into empty space. The force of this alternate perspective reaches cosmic proportions as Cuzco itself drowns out the words of those like Jose and the Bishop, who attempt to seduce others into the absence of the symbolic. As it concludes, Entrada libre metaphorically deals a death blow to the symbolic. Roberto - Father, Husband, Logos - arrives unexpectedly at the house, after the women have departed. Before he can name who he has come for (Ana or the mother?), a hard rain begins, washing his words into silence, and transforming Cuzco once more into an aquatic arena. Roberto, a divisive figure in the relationship between mother and daughter, no longer has the corrosive power of separation. Instead, the reunification of mother and daughter carries a subversive potential that threatens the destruction of the symbol. The mother-daughter bond fills a silence within the symbolic by giving voice to what has been repressed and by breaking the limiting boundaries of the paternal symbol.

Characters in the novel who are associated with the symbolic system - Jose, the Bishop, El Rubio, Roberto - try to force entry to the feminine and indigenous recesses in order to dominate and control them. But something always remains out of their reach, something that the word cannot capture, something that remains beyond the letter. Maternal laughter and indigenous magic rupture paternal structures of social identity, historical progression, and linear time. Instead, the logic of laughter assumes a poetic function of language by subverting common cliches and by establishing new images of women and the feminine or by reinvesting old images with new meanings. Finally, the mythic Quechua presence resists subsumption by Hispanic culture. Rather, Malinow's novel highlights the writing in the margin, giving voice and presence to a perspective that has remained excluded from the main text of Hispanic discourse.


1 All translations from Entrada libre are my own.

2 In her essay "The 'Mechanics' of Fluids," in This Sex Which is Not One, Luce Irigaray treats specifically the "economy of fluids" as it relates to the feminine and details the way precedence is granted to the masculine domain of solids. In The Reproduction of Mothering, Nancy Chodorow provides an insightful and convincing discussion of the fluid ego boundaries developed and maintained by women, which allow them a greater capacity both for empathy and for merging personalities.

3 This now-famous term comes from Judith Fetterley's The Resisting Reader. She suggests that the reading process should be an active dialogue, in which the feminist reader revisions the closed, masculine definitions that structure the world: "Clearly, then, the first act of the feminist critic must be to become a resisting rather than an assenting reader, and by this refusal to assent, to begin the process of exorcizing the male mind that has been implanted in us" (xxii).


Chodorow, Nancy. The Reproduction of Mothering. Berkeley: U of California P, 1978.

Cixous, Helene. "Castration or Decapitation?" Signs 7.1 (Autumn 1981): 41-55.

Fetterley, Judith. The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Fiction. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1978.

Hall, Nor. The Moon and the Virgin. New York: Harper and Row, 1980.

Irigaray, Luce. This Sex Which Is Not One. Trans. Catherine Porter. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985.

-----. "When Our Lips Speak Together." Signs 6.1 (1980): 69-78.

Kristeva, Julia. Revolution in Poetic Language. Trans. Leon Roudiez. New York: Columbia UP, 1984.

-----. "Women's Time." Signs 7.1 (1981): 13-35.

Malinow, Ines. Entrada libre. Buenos Aires: Emece, 1978.

Rich, Adrienne. Of Woman Born. 10th ed. New York: Norton, 1986.

Dobrian is assistant professor of Spanish at Coe College. Her recent articles include work on Rosa Montero, Isabel Allende, Manuel Puig, and Ines Malinow in Cincinnati Romance Review, Hispanic Journal, Journal of Interdisciplinary Literary Studies, Revista de Estudios Hispanicos, and Iowa International Papers.
COPYRIGHT 1995 West Chester University
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Dobrian, Susan Lucas
Publication:College Literature
Date:Feb 1, 1995
Previous Article:Third World women's texts and the politics of feminist criticisms.
Next Article:A politics of location in Simone Schwarz-Bart's 'Bridge of Beyond.' (Third World Women's Inscriptions)

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters