Silvina Ocampo and Our Other Selves

Another Great Argentinean Writer for Your Consideration

Another Great Argentinean Writer for Your Consideration

She is incredibly well connected insofar as Argentinian literature is concerned. Her husband was Adolfo Bioy Casares, who was a frequent collaborator with Jorge Luis Borges. Her sister, Victoria Ocampo, published the literary magazine Sur, for which both Bioy Casares and Borges wrote. In her own right, Silvina Ocampo is a superb writer of short stories. (Thus Were Their Faces is an excellent collection published by New York Review Books, which I have just finished reading.) Together with Borges and Bioy Casares, she edited a book of fantasy and horror stories called The Book of Fantasy which was published in 1990.

I like the following poem because it seems to have been influenced by Borges. Or was it she influenced Borges?

In Every Direction

We go leaving ourselves in every direction,
in beds, in rooms, in fields, in seas, in cities,
and each one of those fragments
that has ceased to be us, continues being
as always us, making us
jealous and hostile.
“What will it do that I would like to do?”
we think. “Who will it see that I would like to see?”
We often receive chance news
of that creature . . .
We enter its dreams
when it dreams of us,
loving it
like those whom we love most;
we knock at its doors
with burning hands,
we think it will return in the illusion of belonging to us
mistaken as before
but it will keep being treacherous and unreachable.
As with our rivals we would kill it. We will only be able
to glimpse it in photographs. It must survive us.

New York Review Books has also published a volume of her poetry translated into English that I will probably be ordering soon. The above poem is from that edition.


ISIS Exists for a Reason

ISIS Exists for a Reason

Bad Asses of the World, Unite! You now have your own country, so to speak. Even if you’re not a devout Muslim, or not a Muslim at all, you now have a place to go where mayhem is sanctioned. That’s why so many disaffected youths—male and female—are making their way to Syria and ISIS, where they can be as bad as they want, just so long as it is in tune with what the self-professed Caliph, Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, permits.

And that’s where many of the new recruits will go astray. In the end, organized international mayhem is not as much fun as the local criminal kind. Instead of the cops, you have the Caliph’s masked minions; and now you can be blown to bits by bombers or Kurdish Peshmerga or (unless they feel disinclined) Iraqi armed forces. It’ll take them a while to discover that, because, as we know, bad asses are not known for thinking things through. And you can’t be all that spontaneous in an organizational context.

Oh, things will be gravy for a while, as you get your own Yazidi or other heretic girl to play house with, but eventually the pall descends; and you will be interviewed by Western news media as to why you deserted the cause.