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by Luisa Valenzuela
Translated from the Spanish by Susan E. Clark
Reviewed by Andy Barnes

This will be an attempt at integration; the internal and external enemies and the inter-game that connects them.

Dark Desires and the Others is both an erotic memoir and a meditation on writing. Taken from Valenzuela's diaries written in New York between 1979 and 1982, it is a series of essays chronicling her sex life, her attempts to write, and the often complex and confusing interplay between these two parts of her life.

Valenzuela's diaries reveal a writer revelling in her sexual freedom. Her lovers, referred to only by codenames, are many and varied. She toys with sex in all of its forms: as a search for love, as a route to pleasure, as a source of companionship. However, her diaries also reveal an uncomfortable truth: that her sex life and her writer's life are inextricably linked. Initially she sees writing as a way of reporting her real world experiences. Eventually she realises that she is choosing real world experiences that lend themselves to good writing, and she can no longer tell if Valenzuela the person is compelled to write about the men she meets, or if Valenzuela the writer is compelling her to meet men to write about.

Perhaps best viewed as a companion to her fiction, Dark Desires and the Others is a challenging but rewarding insight into the mind of a writer. It is a departure for Valenzuela, being more intimate and less structured than her fiction. The diary entries are episodic and disjointed, and many are short asides from her main thrust. Consequently coherent narrative is occasional and sporadic. There are many graphic descriptions of sexual acts, and recurrent discussions about the merits of penises, so this won't be to everyone's tastes. The intimacy, though uncomfortable on occasions, is both the price and the reward for being given access to the darkest recesses of Valenzuela's head. It is an honest and a brave piece of prose, and one in which, as Valenzuela herself puts it: "All material is valid and welcome."