Posted by: Diana Ferraro | 1 April 2010

Lovely Ladies in Argentine Literature

Victoria Ocampo

Once upon a time, Argentina had an aristocratic society made out of the cattle barons of the pampa, the very rich estancieros, who were brought up by English nannies and Mademoiselles and who lived in wonderful houses in the Barrio Norte in Buenos Aires which tried very hard in a few blocks to becoming a Paris replica. In one of those families, two sisters were born, both inclined to the belles-lettres, Victoria Ocampo and Silvina Ocampo.

Victoria was the founder of Sur, a literary magazine that acquired a world prestige, because of Victoria’s taste to spot the best of European, American, and Latin American contemporary literature. She was a great friend of Waldo Frank, among others, and she was one the first to discover Borges talent. Victoria was born in 1890 and died in 1979. An essayist, she never dared to write fiction. Her Autobiography, a wonderful piece of fine writing in five volumes, describes not only her own life and her literary friends, famous lovers, and endeavours, but will remain as the witness of women’s struggles to overcome their fate. Victoria should have been one of those rich baron cattle wives –what she was for a brief time– but decided instead to spend her time and fortune in literature. Argentina owes a great part of its literary prestige in the world to her work.

Silvina Ocampo

 While Victoria was imposing and commanding, unbearable most of the time, Silvina was shy and rather quiet. She married Adolfo Bioy Casares, and she was both a witness and a participant in Borges-Bioy literary friendship. An excellent short story writer, full of wicked wit, poetical irony, and a refined style, Silvina Ocampo is probably the best woman writer in Argentina. For a long time minimized, always in the shadow of her famous sister, husband and friend, she had no children of her own and dedicated her life to literature, in a time when literary vocations were considered, according to the French tradition, in great respect. Born in 1903, she died in 1994. Her best works are: Autobiografía de Irene, La furia and  Los días de la noche.

Silvina Bullrich

Born in a different family but equally belonging to the same high society milieu and with a local famous last name, Silvina Bullrich was a novelist, a prolific one, who cared more about her characters and plots  than about her style. She didn’t have any money of her own and struggled all her life to make a  living as a journalist and writer. She tried to complete a new novel every year that would be ready for Christmas and the great holidays that in Argentina happen in January. Focused on women and love, she was probably the most professional novelist in the 60’s. During summer holidays, every woman at the beaches in Argentina and Uruguay  seemed to be reading her last novel. The best of them is considered Los Burgueses. Personally, I love her Mis Memorias, an autobiography. Silvina was born in Buenos Aires in 1915 and, like Borges, she died in Switzerland in 1990.

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