by Mariana Enriquez
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.