Luisa Valenzuela on Writing, Power and Gender
Interview by Gwendolyn Diaz

GD Let's begin discussing your writing career by looking into your past. How would you describe your childhood from the perspective of the accomplished writer that you are today? What were you like as a child and what aspects of your childhood speak to your talent as a writer?

LV I was a child who loved to explore. I explored everything and put together my own museum-like collections of fossils, rock and insects. I was particularly curious about the natural sciences as a child and I also loved to pretend that I was an explorer. Even when I was too young to cross the street on my own, I would go around the square block imagining I was discovering all sorts of worlds. I was particularly fond of searching for treasures. I think one always searches for treasures, though as we grow the treasures become less concrete. As a child the treasures I looked for were figuritas (glittered pictures collected by young girls), stamps, coins from other countries and such. As a grown woman, the treasure I seek is knowledge.

GD Did you travel much as a child?

LV Not much. We made small trips to Uruguay and the province of Corrientes. Once when in Corrientes, I sat on a huge ant bed, an incident that appears later in my novel Cola de lagartija (Lizard's Tail). I was two years old and fascinated by the insects. Apparently I wondered off during siesta time and they found me sitting on a tacurú or ant mound of very ferocious red ants. I was looking at these red ants crawling all over my arms and body, glistening in the hot sun and not a one had bitten me. When they found me they submerged me in a cow trough full of water to get the ants off me. I think they did not bite because I was not afraid of them. Had they done so, I would have surely died from an overdose of formic acid.

GD What was it like growing up with a mother that was so famous in the literary circles of Argentina? Were you close or did you resent her for having a life of her own other than as a mother?

LV Mother did have a life of her own, but it was a life I found fascinating. I had no notion of what a normal mother was; to me what was normal was my experience. My story Cuchillo y madre (Knife and Mother) alludes indirectly to the power struggles between my mother and I and between mothers and daughters in general. 

I did, however, admire my mother and I loved what she wrote. When I was old enough, I would help her correct her manuscripts and I kept scrapbooks of the articles about her in newspapers and magazines. 

GD Did you initially reject a writing career as an act of rebellion against your mother?

LV I don't know whether or not I would consider it an act of rebellion, but the truth is that when I was young I never considered a writing career. I liked the sciences and I thought literature was too static. Mother spent a lot of time in bed surrounded by her papers; that seemed too passive an occupation for me. At night though, mother would go out to parties and at times she would host soirees at home. To me the literary life seemed too sedate. I wanted to travel and have adventures and see the world. It wasn't until I discovered journalism that I realized that writing could open doors for me. Later I began to write fiction, in spite of myself, and began with some of the stories from Los heréticos (The Heretics) and later with Hay que sonre'r (Clara).

GD Who were some of the writers who visited your home and you grew to know as a child?

 LV Jorge Luis Borges came to our home frequently. The story La hermana de Elo'sa 

(Eloisa's Sister) was co-written by my mother and him. I remember when they were writing that I used to hear them laugh a lot as they worked together. We also were visited by Ernesto Sábato, Nalé Roxlo, Juan Goyanarte (the man who founded the magazine Ficción and who helped me a lot), Gloria Alcorta, Beatriz Guido and Syria Poletti. Mauel Peyroú and Augusto Mario Delfino are less remembered today, but they also were extraordinary men that I got to know. Many of the Spanish ex-patriates came to our home as well, people like Arturo Cuadrado, Clemente Cimorra, Jose Luis Lanuza and others.

GD When did you meet Julio Cortázar and Carlos Fuentes? 

LV That was later, when I went to Mexico. My mother knew Cortázar, but I did not meet him until after I published El gato eficaz (The Efficient Cat). He liked that book very much and wrote me a wonderful letter about it.

GD One might say that your work seems to be somewhat influenced by Cortázar's, particularly your word games and your penchant for games and playfulness.

LV Though I think there are some affinities in our work and I admire Cortázar very much, I did not read Rayuela (Hopscotch) until later, after I had begun writing. What is interesting is that we both were affected by Alfred Jarry's Pataf'sica (Pataphysics) concept that proposes a supplementary world to the one we know, a world of subversive logic that is engaged in a humorous questioning of the establishment and where the exception to the rule applies, rather than the rule. This is the movement that gave origin to Dadaism and later Surrealism in France and Cortázar and I were both influenced by it. I was very involved in the development of the Pataf'sica movement in Argentina together with Alvano Rodriguez and Juan Esteban Facio, who made a machine with which to read Rayuela.

GD Why did you go to France and what did you do while you lived there?

LV I fell in love with a French naval officer and we married and went to live in Brittany, France. I was fascinated by the folklore of the area; it seemed magical to me, and as mysterious as the landscape. Some of the stories of Los heréticos were written and inspired by the religious tenor of this region. Later, after I moved to Paris, I got the idea for Hay que sonre'r from the prostitutes I saw picking-up men and wandering off to the Bois de Boulogne with them. Like the prostitutes I had observed in the Retiro district of Buenos Aires, the Parisian ones were just as brave. I was amazed by the courage they had to have to get in a car with any stranger who passed by. In this novel my concern was with male domination of women and the plight of women who attempt to make a place for themselves in a world tainted with sexism.

GD And what happened with your husband?

LV We had a daughter, Anna Lisa, and eventually returned to Buenos Aires where we decided to end the marriage. In Buenos Aires, I resumed my career as a journalist and wrote for La Nación newspaper, the journal Crisis and several other publications, until 1969, when I received a Fulbright Award to go the Iowa International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.

GD It was in Iowa that your career as a writer took a new turn; perhaps one might say you found a new voice. Tell us about your experience in the Iowa Writing Program and the genesis of El gato eficaz. 

LV It is true, as you say, that my writing took a new turn there. Until then my narration was linear, but with El gato I felt a new voice arise from within me. At this time of experimentation in Latin American literature my prose took on a new rhythm and a new tone. What is interesting is that this novel which signals a rupture with my previous style, flowed out of me as naturally as water from a fountain, and I refrained from censoring the process. 

GD Metamorphosis and transformation are two intriguing aspects of El gato eficaz. Would you comment on this?

LV Change is always present in life, and change that has deep effects within us. El gato was born in Iowa, where I felt secluded and was under the stress to produce; it continued its course in New York City in the sixties, a time of social protest and revolt. I woke up one night in Iowa, half asleep and began to write what I thought was a story, something very strange, about death and fear. Then later, when I was in New York, it began to take on more shape. This exploration into the dark side of life, into the subconscious, became evident one evening in the Village, when I went to hear Herbie Mann play jazz. The musicians were jamming and all of the sudden I began to howl along with the musicians and we were all acting very strangely, almost instinctually. It was a bizarre experience, certainly something that would épater les bourgeois (shock the bourgeois). Experiences such as these led me to focus on the other side of what we call reality and to value subconscious knowledge. With El gato I realized that exploring our fears can be beneficial because; it can help us become aware of things that could otherwise destroy us.

GD Como en la Guerra is also a novel of rupture, or I might even say disintegration. This book is centered on the dissolution of the concept of self and identity. How did you come to write this novel?


LV Several things came into play for me at this time. I was reading Jacques Lacan's theories on language and the unconscious and also traveling a lot. I lived in Barcelona and Mexico and took sporadic trips to New York, Paris and back to Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires the political scene was becoming more and more repressive and unstable. In Como en la Guerra I continued my exploration of the dark side of life,

while at the same time experimenting with language and its relationship to unconscious desire.

GD In this novel there are two searches, the search for authenticity by the main character and the search for a new form of expression by the author. To what extent do you believe that the exploration of our inner self and the exploration of language are connected?

LV I believe they are profoundly connected. One of the most powerful weapons for understanding our selves is language. It is through language that we acquire knowledge; this is the case for occidental people. Were we Orientals, we might find self- knowledge through meditation.

GD Was the torture scene on page cero of Como en la Guerra ever published in Argentina?

LV No, it has not been published in Spanish. That page was omitted in the Argentine edition because it so blatantly referred to the atrocities already taking place there. It does appear in the English translation, however. I would like to publish it again in Spanish as part of a trilogy of urban novels to include as well Hay que sonre'r and Novela negra con argentinos. All three explore the low-life back-allies of cities as well as the dark side of the human soul.

GD Was your move to New York in fact an escape from Argentina during the time of repression? Did you fear for your safety living in Argentina?

LV I left Argentina because I felt that I could no longer express myself freely. I felt as if I were suffering from a type of claustrophobia. As I was writing Cambio de armas, I was afraid to show it to anyone because it dealt with the violence of the Dirty Wars. I realized I did not have interlocutors; the next step would be silence or denial. I did not want to loose my memory of what was happening nor censor my writing either. So when I was invited to Columbia University in New York for a writer's residency, I decided I would leave for a long time.

GD However, you did live in Argentina between 1976 and 1979, three of the worse years of the repression. Were there any incidents that threatened your life?

LA Yes. In 1976 the police went to look for me at my home. It so happened that I was out of the country. My friends advised me not to return for a while. When I came back I found that everything had become more secret, more hidden, and people had slipped into a denial, in the Freudian sense; that made me feel even more uneasy. Therefore I knew it was best for me to leave and I moved to New York where I lived until 1989. There I was active in organizations like Amnesty International and the Freedom to Write Committee of PEN. I did return to Argentina occasionally and when I did I was afraid of being apprehended, not only because of what I had published but also because both in Argentina and in the United States I was active in finding asylum for people that were persecuted by the dictatorship.

GD There seems to be a sort of resentment among the writers who stayed in Argentina during the repression toward those who left the country. There is a strange mechanism of suspicion and accusation at work by these authors toward those who left or felt the need to go into exile. What do you think about this?

LV Unfortunately, what you are saying did take place. One of the accusations that I have denounced is the notion that there were two Argentine literatures. Some misguided critics theorized that the writers that had remained in Argentina would produce the authentic Argentine literature, while those who had left would slowly loose their roots and become separated from the country's mother trunk. I criticized this view as narrow-minded, for I felt I had taken my roots with me and had remained very much in touch with what was happening in my country. Besides, when one moves one develops a broader perspective of any given situation. Some of the writers who stayed were silenced and produced very little. Others, who did write, were persecuted and murdered, as was the case of Rodolfo Walsh and Haroldo Conti, both of whom I knew well.

GD Do you believe that the Argentine writer had and perhaps still has the responsibility to write about the political problems that plagued the country?

LV I do not believe that one can ask the artist to be responsible for any particular issue. What one can ask is that she show the truth or the truth as she experiences it. An artist only has the responsibility of creating a view of the world as it is experienced, whether it deals with the political or not. I believe, like Borges, in art for art's sake, not in directed art. In my case, I had to write about the political because I was totally immersed in it. What I consider to be dishonest is when writers feel that they should write about something but do not because it will not make money or prestige for them. Also the reverse is regrettable, when the artists writes about a topic simply because it is politically correct. I believe the responsibility of the writer is to be faithful to her self.

GD What are your aesthetic concerns? What are the formal and technical aspects of writing that you wish to pursue in your texts?

LV I do not think in terms of an aesthetic; I think in terms of a style and a voice. I think that what most interests me for each narrative, each novel, each story, is to find the voice that is going to narrate. This voice determines a view, a narrative position from which a language evolves. What is important to me is that rhythm, that breath that is going to narrate the story. I am less interested in anecdote and focus more on the gaze from which it is narrated. I might describe this gaze as oblique, a gaze that cuts deeply and goes beyond the superficial to touch the core. I want to find what is underneath the word, hidden by it, what is not said yet is present there within the word. I try to excavate and bring to the surface the hidden meanings of language, not to explain things but rather to bring them to light.

GD Your writing has a highly erotic charge. In Cambio de armas, for example, you suggest an association between language, power and woman's desire that could be seen, through a Lacanian reading, to point toward woman's search for a place in the power structure. Nevertheless, I perceive in your writing something that cannot be reduced to the search for social power; there is a desire that is very much physical and at the same time spiritual in the erotic relationship between a man and a woman. How do you see this?  

LV That is an interesting comment. It speaks to two issues I am concerned with in my work and that I believe are closely intertwined. I talk often about writing with the body, and that is an idea that I have tried to verbalize and conceptualize. I believe that language, the physical body and sexuality are very much tied together. Like Freud suggests (a more contemporary Freud rather than the Victorian one), language has an absolutely sexual charge. Every word, each utterance is charged by desire. You cannot separate the logos from the body. It is in this space in which word and body become one that the power struggle dies; the word will not be used to dominate the other but rather to express one's desire. However, it is very difficult to express desire because it does not want to be spoken, so there is a struggle to dominate the other, to have him speak his desire. As women, those of us who write are engaged in recovering the word, recovering a language that has often been denied to us. We are struggling to recover the word of the subject of desire.

GD Women have also been denied the power of sexuality in the sense that when women are sexualized they are objectified or they are valued as erotic objects rather than women of worth. Similarly, women who are sensual and express their eroticism are viewed as easy and scorned by society.

LV Yes, this is often the case. Margo Glantz has written well about this issue when she speaks of the two mouths of women and how both the upper one and the lower one have been forced shut in an effort to diminish both her intellectual and her sexual power.

GD Getting back to your discussion about narrative voice, in your work there is a group of voices that surface time and again from novel to novel. You have developed something like a small family of characters whose voices you seem to ecco in various different plots. I am thinking of characters like Ava Taurel, Hector Bravo and Navoni. Is there a specific purpose for this intertextual development of characters?  

LV I supposed you could say that I have developed a small family of characters. They appear with a specific voice and within a specific type casting. Navoni is the man of action, if he has to put his body in harms way he will do so. Hector Bravo is the man of reflection and thought, Ava Taurel is the woman who pushes the limits, in a perverse sense. Ava Taurel is patterned after a real person, or stylized in her fashion, rather. Navoni has some fictional characteristics, though he shares some qualities with a person I know. Hector Bravo, on the other hand, is purely fictional. As I reflect on my body of work, I do find a series of core topics that run through most of them. 

GD What are then, the thematic concerns that you feel compelled to explore?

Are there issues that obsess you, that repeatedly pull your pin in their direction?

LV Early in my career I was drawn to the idea of excess, religious excesses to be precise, that pushes the limits and falls beyond reason into the other side of sanity. In Los heréticos  I portray extreme religious fervor or fanaticism that becomes degenerated into mistaken attitudes and messianic insanity. I think this idea remained with me and evolved into my preoccupation with power, which is present in most of my novels. Another topic that I am drawn to into is the exploration of our hidden self, the phantoms that lie beneath the surface of day to day existence yet motivate our actions. When I am writing and am deeply involved with it, my hidden phantoms begin to appear and I must face them. This takes courage; literature is an act of courage. In the time of Borges and Sábato writers used to talk about their fear of becoming insane when they were writing. Now, I believe that we have explained that sense of uneasiness that writing can provoke as the fear of confronting the dark side of ourselves, the Freudian Id. In that sense literature is a positive force that brings us closer to understanding ourselves. 

GD It is positive for the writer and for the reader as well, because literature permits us

open those places within that we are afraid to recognize, as in Freud's idea of bringing to our consciousness what we have repressed in our subconscious. This is the theme of Novela negra con argentinos, where Agustin's inner turmoil pushes him towards murder. This novel touches on the powerful effects that the military dictatorship had on people and refers to the physical and psychological traumas suffered by the victims of the repression. Here you bring us face to face again with the topic power and domination. 

LV I believe that power and the excess or abuse of power is at the heart of my literary exploration. When I wrote about torture and abuse in Cambio de armas I was writing fiction. But when the stories of the actual tortures were brought to light in the trials that took place in Argentina afterwards, I realized that such abuses of power were not imaginary, but very real, and that reality was often even more perverse than fiction. Simetr'as was based on bits and pieces of real stories and testimonies of victims of the repression. 

GD I believe it takes a lot of courage to write torture. I am not saying to write about torture, but to write torture in the sense of describing it (and keeping in mind your idea about writing with the body). You have done this and so has Elvira Orphée. What has led you to confront torture and have you asked yourself how one can explain torture?

LV I have written about torture because it happened, because it must not be forgotten, because I hope that the memory of it will expose it and help us avoid it in the future. It is something that goes beyond the rational and falls into to the hidden, dark side of the self, the side I try to bring to light. I think that the torturer may be motivated by the thought that through torture he can control death. He knows just how far he can go, and he can delay death or bring it about. In so doing the torturer feels he can control death and by extension, that he has power over death. As you note, Elvira Orphée has dealved into the psychology of torture quite well, particularly in her book La última conquista de El Angel. 

GD I think the best example of courage during the Dirty Wars was the call to action of the 

Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. They risked torture and their very life to expose the atrocities of missing children and torture victims.

LV There is no doubt that the Madres the Plaza the Mayo were the ones who were able to get to the truth of the matter and had the courage to do so. They were able to give voice and words to that which was totally unspeakable, the horror of torture, the horror of the people forced to disappear. They showed great bravery in confronting the dictatorship with the truth of what was going on. This process of speaking the unspeakable is something that I aim for in the act of writing.

GD Do you think the human being can escape the vicious cycle of power or that we are condemned to live in relationships of domination?

LV My literary quest is precisely to try to figure out how one can escape the cycle of power and domination. I think the only way to escape it is through a true reading of the situation, through understanding how one is dominated and how one may feel compelled to dominate. Through understanding it is more likely that we can dialogue with each other as equals rather than in terms of the powerful and the subjected.

GD How was your work affected by the repression?

LV I think that since the repression my writing was no longer the same. The repression was a mark, a brand that stays with you, and I am interested in it staying with me. It was a wound that all of us received and that we must work on healing. But it must be a deep healing, not a superficial one. In my work I want to dig deep into the wound to find its origins and to understand how to cure it.

GD How do you see women positioned within the power structure of Argentina?

LV Something very contradictory takes place regarding women here. In Argentina women have been deeply involved in politics and activism, such was the case of the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, for example, as well as the militants and many others. However we still live in a society that devalues women and views them as secondary, particularly in matters of power. I am specifically concerned with the fact that political literature written by women is given less worth than that of men. There have been many important political books written by women and they have not received the attention that others of less significance have received. Men tend to see the political in a linear fashion, where the good guys are on one side and the bad guys on the other. Women write about these issues in a more ambiguous manner, dealing with the unconscious and with subtle nuances within the characters.

GD Your work is very much a critique of the political. Has your political writing also been disregarded in Argentina?

LV Yes, to a certain extent. Only recently has my work been acknowledged for its political content, yet I have been writing about these problems since my earliest stories. When the book Simetr'as came out in Argentina, critics discussed all the stories except Simetr'as itself, the axial story of the collection and the most overly critical of the repression. It was as if there was a collective denial of or refusal to acknowledge that story. Outside of the country, critics have long been writing about the political content of my writing. It is just now beginning to be discussed in Argentina.

GD Of course politics and power, as Foucault and many others have noted, are very closely intertwined. How is the subject of power treated in your work?

LV In some strange fashion, the topic of power seems to run through most all of my work. In Hay que sonre'r I was interested in investigating male domination of women. Having encountered machismo myself, I wrote this novel about a young woman who tries to make a life for herself in a sexist, exploitative society. In Los heréticos, my idea was that religion was like a border that, once crossed through excessive piety or fanaticism, became destructive. So there, the power of religious fanaticism is viewed as an evil. El gato eficaz is more playful, yet it revolves around the subject of death, which is tied to power itself. 

GD Your notions of power seem to evolve from book to book. In my view, Cola de lagartija, about the megalomaniacal Lopez Rega, is where you most scathingly develop the dark side of power.

LV In Cola de lagartija power is a force that rules, controls and subjugates. I conceptualize power as a masculine force. The ambition to dominate others is a desire to be the lord and master of people and it is usually a negative impulse.

GD So you define power as something negative?

LV More precisely, in my writing I develop the negative consequences of power.

Power is a two-headed monster, on the one side it can be positive, as in the case of self-realization, self worth, the power to help others and better oneself. But more often than not power is something that one person wields over another; someone powerful controls someone that is placed in a position of weakness. What interests me about power is how it can grow from something harmless to something overwhelmingly dangerous. In Cola de lagartija, the character wants to become lord of the world, or even a god, hence his reign of terror. Another type of power that concerns me is the power that language has over us, something I develop in the story Transparencias (Transparencies). I believe that language gives us the power to understand ourselves and be understood, but language can also control and subjugate and we need to be alerted to its power to manipulate us. As with words, the problem with power is not power itself but how it is employed and the abuse to which it lends itself.

GD In Cambio de armas there are relationships based on power and domination.

It appears in the sexual relationships between men and women and in the social and political world that they move in. In Cola de lagartija and Novela negra con argentinos power and sexuality also seem to come together in a bizarre way. Could you comment on this?

LV I think power and sexuality are closely related. Power is a sexual high, it fascinates and attracts at the same time. The existence of sadism and masochism speaks to the relationship between sexuality and domination. 

GD In Novela negra con argentinos your interest in these issues is incarnated in the character of the sadomasochistic dominatrix Ava Taurel. It is interesting that the character of Agust'n has been rendered impotent precisely because his lack of power to control his circumstances.

LV In Novela negra I work with the idea of the power of denial and repression. The character of Agust'n has repressed his past in Argentina and this refusal to deal with his past creates problems for him years later. Roberta is able to move more freely, to create more freely because she has not allowed herself to be trapped by her past. She is able to escape the trap and look at things from the outside. Agust'n is trapped in his denial and inability to acknowledge the phantoms of his past. This dilemma is also developed in my latest novel, La traves'a (The Journey), where the problem lies in what is not said, or, what one has said and done but refuses to accept.

GD How about Realidad nacional desde la cama? How does the notion of power appear there?

LV In that novel, which was initially intended to be a play, I wanted to work with the idea that passivity can be active and generate power. That woman who does not want to get out of bed, who only views the world from her bedroom window and her television, ends up generating a substantial force field.  She cannot isolate herself, the real world invades her space and she in turn affects the real world.

GD Let's discuss the two stories from Simetr'as included here, Tango and La llave (The Key). My reading of Tango is that the female character chooses to follow the sexist rules of the tango etiquette because that is what is expected of her if she wants to dance. But I also see the story as a critique of machismo in the tango and by extension in Argentine society.

LV I wrote this story as a tongue-in-cheek perspective of tango and male female relationships. To me this character is going along with the game because she wants to amuse herself by dancing. She does not feel victimized because she is in control, she chooses to play the game. But when she does not hesitate to accept his invitation to meet afterward and readily accepts his advances, he feels that he has lost control, he has lost his role as the leader, hence his abrupt exit. 

GD In the story La llave the female character has become powerful by rebelling against the notion of obedience to men and taking ownership of her own story or rhetoric by becoming a writer. 

LV Yes, to the extent to which a woman chooses to tell her own story, rather than accept the story that men have created for her, she will be free. It is no coincidence that the story is dedicated to the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, who spoke the unspeakable terror of murdered and missing children and risked their lives doing so. These women, who rejected their traditional role of passivity and spoke out heroically against repression, were instrumental in the shift of power that eventually led to the defeat of the repressive regime.

GD Perhaps the central issue in your work is the power of discourse. Would you agree?

LV That is certainly an important issue. I am more concerned with dismantling power than with possessing it. I want to find what is behind what is said, I want to investigate the intent to deceive with words, and also to seduce with words. The word may be saying one thing, but if you deconstruct it carefully you may find it is saying something quite different. Political discourse is a good example, if it is listened to critically it betrays its own statements. The words that are used to submit you can also set you free if you analyze them wisely.

GD A different form of power is found in the complex relationship between mothers and daughters. Your story Cuchillo y madre touches on this dynamic.

LV In that story, which is somewhat autobiographical, power shifts back and forth between the mother and the daughter, and between the two is the dagger, which like the word, functions as a symbol of control and power.

GD The words of our parents have the immense power to mold who we are and how we see ourselves.

LV Yes, but Lacan points out that it is the mother who gives the name of the father, it is the mother who has the primary word and there lies her power. The mother daughter relationship is possibly the most complex and that may be because of the mandate that the mother transmits to the daughter, the mandate to be submissive, and obey and tend to home and children. That is not an attractive mandate, and the young woman is likely to rebel. Things are better now because this mandate is not as pervasively transmitted to the younger generation of women. It must be difficult for our mothers, who lived in submission, to accept the fact that their daughters did not, that they were free to choose a more independent life.

GD Men have also received a mandate in regards to their gender role. They too are affected by their mothers, particularly by the need to separate and differentiate from the mother; thus, man's search for power. 

LV Men are educated in the search for power, but they are also insecure. Not just because of gender differentiation and separation from the mother, but also because they depends on an organ that is unreliable. Man's mandate is to perform, but sometimes he cannot. This too is a difficult charge to bear, he must always be ready to perform, he must not cry, he must be strong, he must be in control. If he is not, then he is viewed as less of a man.

GD Is there a power that is valid in your view?

LV The clue to power lies in its use. As long as power is something that is used to submit the other it is invalid power. Valid power is that which allows us to feel good with ourselves without imposing our selves on others, without using them as mirrors or subordinates. Hegel's master-slave dialectic should be reconsidered. Men who still view women as inferior or subordinate are operating under an archaic Hegelian structure, which is now being challenged by new social advances for women. Today's men are having difficulty learning to adjust to the new gender roles. When women make more money than their spouses or have better jobs, the master-slave dialectic becomes inoperative. Once the victim escapes the role of victim there no longer is a master and a slave and the social structure is forced to reorganize itself. 

GD Do you believe that literature has the power to change the human being?

LV Literature has to power to make us reflect and understand. It allows us to acquire integrity as thinking individuals. But the power of literature is only as effective as the reader's ability to make an insightful reading of the text. The power lies in the reader's relationship with the texts that it processes. That is why it is so important that people continue to read. Otherwise, our society will loose the ability to read critically and think critically, as in Orwell's 1984. People who do not read can be easily controlled and manipulated. We must defend our capacity to reflect and discern and literature provides the opportunity to do so.