sábado, 18 de agosto de 2018

La hermana menor. Un retrato de Silvina Ocampo

La hermana menor.  Un retrato de Silvina Ocampo (Anagrama ebook, 2018)
by Mariana Enriquez
Argentina, 2014

An absolutely stupendous profile of Silvina Ocampo--during her lifetime (1903-1993), a critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful cipher famous for being the little sister of Victoria Ocampo, the wife of Adolfo Bioy Casares, the close friend of Jorge Luis Borges, and a person whom Mariana Enriquez refers to as  "una de las mujeres más ricas y extravagantes de la Argentina" ["one of the richest and most eccentric women in Argentina"] and "una de las escritoras más talentosas y extrañas de la literatura en español" ["one of the strangest and most talented writers in Spanish-language literature"].  Enriquez, who in an interview just out a few days ago admits that she's more an admirer of Ocampo's than a true fan ["es una escritora a la que admiraba más que ser fan"], still went out and did the fan-like dirty work of interviewing a number of Ocampo's surviving acquaintances--many of whom have since passed away.  She then paired those first-person testimonies with archival selections from the voluminous diaries, memoirs and other biographical material having to do with Ocampo and Bioy Casares that are already out there, resulting in a splendid read.  You want mostly good-natured literary gossip?  Multiple people attest to how the loud joking and outbursts of laughter from Bioy and his pal Borges audible from the next room would prompt Ocampo to ask dinner guests at her Buenos Aires home: "¿De qué se reirán esos dos idiotas?" ["What are those two idiots laughing about?"].  Prefer scandal?  Ocampo's rumored lesbianism or bisexuality and in particular the alleged love affairs between her and Alejandra Pizarnik and even her and Bioy Casares' mother receive some serious attention.  Some well-placed literary criticism more your cup of tea?  Enriquez, discussing the impact of the spoken word on many of the tales from 1959's La furia, notes the artistic advance in which "Silvina Ocampo, a diferencia de Borges y Bioy, y cerca de Cortázar y Manuel Puig, incorporaba a sus cuentos el habla coloquial rioplatense" ["Silvina Ocampo, unlike Borges and Bioy and more like Cortázar and Manuel Puig, incorporated colloquial Río de la Plata speech patterns into her short stories"].  On that note, I'll close by mentioning that La hermana menor also asks whether Ocampo, now a canonical writer, was undeservedly overshadowed by her two more famous male peers in her lifetime.  Her writer friend J.R. Wilcock, a fan of both Ocampo's and a really rabid fan of Borges', gave this answer at one point in time: "Silvina es un Borges, piensa y escribe como un hombre, es uno de los mejores escritores de la Argentina" ["Silvina is a Borges, she thinks and writes like a man, she's one of the best writers in Argentina"].  And Ernesto Schoo, a novelist and newspaper critic acquaintance of Ocampo's and one of the many people interviewed by Enriquez for this work, more politically correctly adds this: "Era un ser rarísimo y con una literatura que no se parece a nadie.  Muchos dicen: 'Es Borges con falda.'  Para mí es más interesante que Borges porque tiene pasión, tiene amor.  Borges es muy cerebral" ["She was a super odd person with a literature that didn't resemble anyone else's.  Many people say 'it’s Borges in a skirt.'  For me, it’s more interesting than Borges because it has passion, it has love.  Borges is very cerebral"].  In that recent interview, Enriquez says that she’d love to do a similar piece on Nick Cave someday.  I’d gladly read that book too.

Mariana Enriquez

6 comentarios:

  1. This does sound fascinating. As you probably know, I've read and enjoyed some of Ocampo's work in the past, so this profile really appeals to me for a number of reasons. I don't suppose it's available to read in English?

    PS Is there much coverage of Ocampo's time in Paris? I think I'm right in saying that she studied painting under Giorgio de Chirico?

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    1. Jacqui, I do indeed remember a couple of things you wrote about Ocampo and Bioy and thus believe you would really enjoy this profile. The book isn't out in English yet to my knowledge, but maybe now that some of Enriquez's fiction has come out in translation, her nonfiction will soon follow. Yes, there's some coverage of Ocampo's time in Paris in the late '20s. She studied with de Chirico for six months and Fernand Léger after that. Ocampo says that de Chirico didn't talk to her much at first except to ask her if she wanted him to psychoanalyze her! Fun stuff.

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  2. This sounds worth the read. However I always agonize with as to whether to read literary biographies or to read the writers themselves. Time is so short.

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    1. I understand the dilemma, Brian, but I think books like this prove the value of making time for both sorts of choices because of the pleasure and insight they bring on their own. Of course, it helps when you have people like Mariana Enriquez at the helm--people who can write and who know what they're doing.

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  3. Borré el comentario anterior porque no sé cómo se alteró. No se entendía nada.
    Ja, suele pasarme.
    saludos

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    1. Mario, no sé qué pasó porque yo podía leer tu primer comentario antes de la supresión. De todos modos, gracias por visitar. El libro de Enriquez me pareció muy valioso en particular en cuanto a sus entrevistas con conocidos de Ocampo, y ahora tengo muchas ganas de leer los libros de cuentos de Ocampo que ya me quedan. Una escritora fascinante, por cierto. ¡Saludos!

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