Silvina Ocampo

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There was La Furia , which was in some ways the most satisfying of the collections I found, as it presented her work in a sequence she chose herself at the peak of her career. Among its stories, 'Azabache,' a stunning three-page tale of a man who watches his wife sink into a swamp in pursuit of a black stallion, prefigures later works. In 'The Objects,' Camila Ersky's love of things—statues, brooches, dolls—leads her to perdition: 'she lost track of day and night. She saw that the objects had faces, the horrible faces they acquire when we have stared at them too long. And in one of her cruellest tales, 'The Fury,' the narrator commits a murder merely to avoid a scandal.

Over the years, I became aware, too, of Ocampo's legend. She was born in to a privileged family in Buenos Aires, the younger sister of the famed Victoria. After a stint in Paris as a student of De Chirico, she returned to Argentina where she lived until her death in She published her first book in and married three years later: her husband was another writer, Adolfo Bioy Casares, a crony of Borges's who was a lifelong champion of Ocampo's work.

It was Borges who commented, in a piece that prefaces Those Were Their Faces , a panoramic new volume of her work in translation, on 'her strange taste for a certain kind of an innocent and oblique cruelty. I attribute this to the interest, the astonished interest, that evil inspires in a noble soul. His 'reticence' in the preface is no surprise: Borges was, after all, internationally acknowledged as the genius of the Latin American short story.

Silvina Ocampo | The Hudson Review

Why, then, has Ocampo remained a hidden treasure to English readers? She was not, on the evidence of her published work, a natural novelist. Oddly, however, only two of her novellas have been made available to Anglophone readers since her death. Finally, this year, we have in English a comprehensive selection of about forty stories, long and short, written over fifty years of Ocampo's career; Thus Were Their Faces includes all the fictions cited above and many others, making it possible for us to assess her place in the international pantheon of short story writers.

The title story is taken from The Guests , the collection that immediately followed The Fury. It's an unusual performance: forty children from an institution of the deaf who, when the plane they're on suffers a terrible accident, throw themselves into the void and actually take wing in 'some kind of celestial vision' observed by the survivors of the disaster.

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Because of her family's social position, Ocampo received an education in both European and Argentine culture and early on lived in Paris, where she studied painting. In , she met fellow Argentine writer Adolfo Bioy Casares, an association that helped her establish a reputation among Argentine literary circles. An artist as well as a writer, Ocampo published drawings based on the early poems of Jorge Luis Borges , the renowned poet and short-story writer who remained Ocampo's lifelong friend, before publishing Forgotten Travel , her first collection of short stories, in Unlike some artists, Ocampo worked relatively free from the pressures of government hostility.

Although Ocampo's second collection of short stories did not appear until eleven years after her first, those years were not idle ones for the writer.

A brief survey of the short story: Silvina Ocampo

Ocampo collaborated with Bioy Casares and Borges on two anthologies, The Book of Fantasy , a collection of fantastical stories published in , and Anthology of Argentine Poetry , published in At the same time, Ocampo worked with her two partners, and she published her own stories, paintings, and poetry, producing a substantial body of work throughout her lifetime. Among several other national literary awards, Ocampo received the National Prize for Poetry in In December , Ocampo died in Buenos Aires.

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As an illustrator of Borges's poetry and his collaborator on The Book of Fantasy as well, Ocampo was inspired by Borges throughout her writing and artistic career. Borges himself referred to Ocampo as one of the greatest Spanish poets of all time. Indeed, much of Ocampo's fiction draws its energy and power from this paradox, along with her refusal to solve it.

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Ocampo's style, the very way she uses words and sentences, conveys something both innocent and cruel. She writes in a voice that is purposely sporadic and free of literary devices, almost as if the narrators were not accustomed to expressing themselves. As a result of gaps between sentences, the reader senses that something is missing, that something is not being told, perhaps the very something that would help give sense and order to events or help explain why the characters do what they do.

That order or explanation, however, is never to come, as Ocampo's stories typically end ambiguously, requiring readers to draw their own conclusions about the fate of the characters. Flannery O'Connor — : O'Connor's short stories combine realism with monstrous situations, and violence strikes seemingly without reason. Mother Teresa — : Mother Teresa founded the Order of the Missionaries of Charity in to help sick people in India who would otherwise have died on the streets. George Orwell — : Orwell's and Animal Farm address social conditions and totalitarian political systems. Frida Kahlo — : With their combination of personal symbolism and surrealism, Kahlo's paintings are classified by many as magic realism. Stephen Spender — : Believing poets need to be politically engaged, Spender joined the Communist Party in the s, though he later renounced that affiliation in The God That Failed. Cruel Children In Ocampo's short stories, the cruelest characters are often children who narrate or participate in brutal acts, though whether they are aware of what they are doing is unclear.

Metadata Show full item record. Abstract This dissertation studies the treatment of fantastic or magical objects in the short stories of Silvina Ocampo , member of the Sur literary group in Argentina which included some of the most influential writers of the twentieth century such as her friend and contemporary Jorge Luis Borges.

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I study how Ocampo's narrative technique uses objects to interrupt the protagonists' sometimes mundane lives as they reveal a hidden desire. These everyday, seemingly trivial, objects are also often the source of the fantastic element present in Ocampo's exemplary short stories. The first chapter places Ocampo in a literary context, highlighting her role in the Sur group. I study texts in which objects are directly related to the creative process of writing and link them to specific works by Borges, one of her salient influences.