Redux: The Idea of Women’s Language



Every week, the editors of The Paris Review lift the paywall on a selection of interviews, stories, poems, and more from the magazine’s archive. You can have these unlocked pieces delivered straight to your inbox every Sunday by signing up for the Redux newsletter.

Last week, The Paris Review announced Women at Work Volume Two, a collection of twelve interviews with female artists from the Writers at Work series. Volume Two is available for preorder now.

This week, we bring you selections of work by some of the women featured in Volume Two: Luisa Valenzuela’s 2001 Art of Fiction interview, Louise Erdrich’s short story “The Beet Queen,” and May Sarton’s poem “Letters from Maine.”

If you enjoy these free interviews, stories, and poems, why not subscribe to read the entire archive? You’ll also get four new issues of the quarterly delivered straight to your door. 


Luisa Valenzuela, The Art of Fiction No. 170
Issue no. 160 (Winter 2001)


What do you think about the idea of women’s language?


I openly fight for it. I think there is a different charge in the words—women come from the badlands of language. Women know a lot about ambivalence and ambiguity—which is why, I think, good, subtle political writing by women novelists is dismissed in Argentina. Women are expected to console, not disturb the readers.



The Beet Queen
By Louise Erdrich
Issue no. 95 (Spring 1985)

Long before they planted beets in Argus and built the highways, there was a rail road. Along the track, which crossed the Dakota-Minnesota border and stretched on east to Minneapolis, everything that made the town arrived. All that diminished the town departed by that route too. On a cold spring morning in 1932 the train brought both an addition and a subtraction. They came by freight. By the time they reached Argus their lips were violet and their feet were so numb that, when they jumped out of the boxcar, they stumbled and scraped their palms and knees through the cinders.



Letters from Maine
By May Sarton
Issue no. 89 (Fall 1983)


Yes, I am home again, and alone.
Today wrote letters, then took my dog
Out through the sad November woods.
The leaves have fallen while I was away.
The ground is golden, while above
The maples are stripped of all color.
The ornamental cherries, red when I left.
Have paled now to translucent yellow.

Yes, I am home again but home has changed.
And I within this cultivated space
That I have made my own, feel at a loss.
Disoriented. All the safe doors
Have come unlocked and too much light
Has flooded every room. Where can I go?
Not toward you three thousand miles away
Lost in your own rich life, given me
For an hour.

Read between the lines.
Then meet me in the silence if you can.
The long silence of winter when I shall
Make poems out of nothing, out of loss.
And at times hear your healing laughter …


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