Saturday, March 20, 2010

Silvina Ocampo

I'm reading a bunch of Latin American writing now in preparation for my visit. Really enjoyed "With Borges", a memoir by Alberto Manguel, available from the National Library. Check out this description of Silvina Ocampo, a real life Argentinean modernist who almost sounds like a creation by Borges himself:

"During the conversation, in which she did most of the talking in a sort of incantatory rhythm that haunted one for many hours afterwards she would keep her face in the shade and her eyes behind dark glasses, because she felt that she had ugly features, and would try to draw one's attention to her beautiful legs, which she crossed and uncrossed incessantly."

"Her stories describe an everyday supernatural: a dying woman is suddenly confronted with all the objects she has possessed in the past made to realise that they constitute her private hell; a boy invites to his birthday party the seven deadly sins in the guise of seven little girls; a child is abandoned at a lovers' motel and becomes the unwitting instrument of a woman's revenge; two schoolboys exchange their destinies and nevertheless can't escape them. In most of her fiction, her heroes are children and animals, in both of whom she recognised an intelligence beyond reason. She loved dogs. When her favourite dog died, Borges found her in tears and tried to console her by telling her that there was a Platonic dog beyond all dogs, and that every dog was The Dog. Silvina was furious, and told him in no uncertain terms to go stuff it."

"In the last years of her life (she died in 1993, aged eight-eight), she suffered from Alzheimer's and wandered though her large apartment unable to remember where or who she was. One day, a friend found her reading a book of stories. Full of enthusiasm, she told the friend (who of course, she didn't recognise, but by then she had grown accustomed to the presence of strangers) that she would read him something wonderful which she had just discovered. It was a story from one of her first and most famous books, Autobiography of Irene. The friend listened and told her she was right. It was a masterpiece."

Ooh, the Wikipedia article says she was married to Adolfo Bioy Casares. I loved his "La invencion de Morel", which has only recently been translated into English. Will try and pick up Ocampo's books in Buenos Aires.

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