Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book 57, Argentina: "Autobiografía de Irene" by Silvina Ocampo

I'm actually feeling kinda sick, so I'll try to do this quickly. But but but HOORAY, we're done with South America!

And what a pleasant way to go out (I'm honestly feeling guilty about crossing borders and doing Uruguay before Argentina, but it would've sucked to leave the continent with Ariel). This is a collection I actually picked up in Buenos Aires, by one of Borges's lesser-known and barely translated contemporaries.

I've blogged all about this funky lady here.

And hurrah: the funky lady does indeed write well. The pieces in this book have the same realm of paradoxical, paranoiac phantasy as the works of Borges or her husband Adolfo Bioy Casares. But they're tenderer, less strictly logic-based - and as much as women continue to appear as objects, they're also subjects.

There's the beautiful Flavia, whose three alternative reactions to the ministrations of her psycho husband Claudio Emilio is the key to Epitafio Romano. There's Kêng-Su, who goes utterly mad when pursued by a vengeful, literate butterfly in La Red. Even El Impostor, which is mostly focussed on its dual male protagonists Heredia and Maidana, involves the agency of the love interest María in its film summary version (why that's in there, I have no clue). And of course, there's the titular story, about a precognitive woman, serenely relieved on her deathbed of the mind-bending contradictions of her gift.

And come to think of it, even Fragmentos del Libro Invisible begins and returns to the womb of the prophet's mother. Yeah, you're getting an idea of how beautifully mad this book is, aren't you? Don't think it's translated yet, but the Spanish is pretty lucid (especially if you have a smartphone translation dictionary at your side).

View Around the World in 80 Books in a larger map

Enough of South America then! You realise that this is only the second continent, after Oceania, that I've actually completed? Lots more to come.

Representative quote:
Pasé por muchas puertas transparentes, como de hielo, en cuyas transparencias se veían ciertos colores que los mortales no alcanzan a ver; por muchas puertas altísimas, silenciosas, cubiertas de follajes, de frutos y de pájaros cuyas alas trémulas irradiaban luz en las maderas labradas. Pasé por muchas puertas horribles - algunas eran diminutas, algunas tenían una mano de jierro o de bronce, a un lado, o la cabeza de un león mordiendo un aro en el centro - antes de hallar el otro mundo en un paisaje complicado, entre edificios y objetos heterogéneos, entre camas, cuadros, armarios, arcos, estatuas, columnas, glorietas, miniaturas, látigos, sistros, tabernáculos, aureolas, espadas, baldaquines, linternas mágicas, barajas, astrolabios, cariátides, mapamundis.

Next book: H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, from Antarctica.

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