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Silvina Ocampo

Silvina Ocampo Silvina Ocampo[1†]

Silvina Ocampo (28 July 1903 – 14 December 1993) was an Argentine short story writer, poet, and artist[1†][2†]. Born in Buenos Aires, she was the youngest of the six children of Manuel Ocampo and Ramona Aguirre[1†][3†]. She was educated at home by tutors[1†][3†] and in Paris[1†]. Her family belonged to the upper bourgeoisie, which allowed her to have a very complete training[1†]. She had three governesses (one French and two English), a Spanish teacher, and an Italian teacher[1†]. Because of this, the six sisters learned to read in English and French before Spanish[1†]. This trilingual training would later influence Ocampo’s writing, according to Ocampo herself[1†].

Early Years and Education

Silvina Ocampo was born on July 28, 1903, in Buenos Aires, Argentina[1†]. She was the youngest of six daughters (Victoria, Angélica, Francisca, Rosa, Clara María, and Silvina) of Manuel Silvio Cecilio Ocampo and Ramona Aguirre Herrera[1†]. Her family resided on the Canary Islands before moving to Argentina in the mid-19th century[1†]. Her ancestors belonged to the Argentine aristocracy and owned extensive lands[1†]. Her great-great-great-great-grandfather, José de Ocampo, was governor of Cuzco before moving to Virreinato del Río de la Plata[1†]. Her great-great-great-grandfather, Manuel José de Ocampo, was one of the first governors when independence was declared[1†]. Her great-grandfather, Manuel José de Ocampo y González, was a politician and candidate for president of the country[1†].

Ocampo was educated at home by tutors and in Paris[1†]. Her family belonged to the upper bourgeoisie, which allowed her to have a very complete training[1†]. She had three governesses (one French and two English), a Spanish teacher, and an Italian teacher[1†]. Because of this, the six sisters learned to read in English and French before Spanish[1†]. This trilingual training would later influence Ocampo’s writing, according to Ocampo herself[1†].

Before establishing herself as a writer, Ocampo was a visual artist[1†]. She studied painting and drawing in Paris where she met, in 1920, Fernand Léger and Giorgio de Chirico, forerunners of surrealism[1†].

Career Development and Achievements

Silvina Ocampo began her career as a short story writer in 1936[1†]. She published her first book of short stories, Viaje olvidado, in 1937[1†]. This was followed by three books of poetry: Enumeración de la patria, Espacios métricos, and Los sonetos del jardín[1†]. She was a prolific writer, producing more than 175 pieces of fiction during her career[1†].

Ocampo’s work was recognized and celebrated by her peers. Her friend and collaborator Jorge Luis Borges called Ocampo "one of the greatest poets in the Spanish language, whether on this side of the ocean or on the other"[1†]. She received, among other awards, the Municipal Prize for Literature in 1954 and the National Poetry Prize in 1962[1†].

In addition to her writing, Ocampo was also a visual artist. She studied painting and drawing in Paris where she met, in 1920, Fernand Léger and Giorgio de Chirico, forerunners of surrealism[1†]. Her artistic background influenced her writing, adding a unique dimension to her work[1†][4†].

Ocampo’s stories describe a line that begins in 19th-century-style horror and moves through a phase of formal inventiveness, before entering the unique, disturbing fantastical atmosphere of her mature period[4†]. This world, where strange events overwhelm mundane bourgeois reality, where motives are obscure, and where a great cruelty presides over life, is a hallmark of Ocampo’s fiction[1†][4†].

First Publication of Her Main Works

Silvina Ocampo was a prolific writer, with her works spanning various genres including poetry, short stories, and novels[1†]. Here are some of her main works, along with the year of their first publication:

These works not only highlight Ocampo’s versatility as a writer but also her ability to weave intricate narratives that captivate readers[1†][6†]. Her works have left an indelible mark on Argentine literature[1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Silvina Ocampo’s work is characterized by its unique blend of the mundane and the fantastical[4†]. Unlike her contemporaries, Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares, who often set their stories in fantastical realms or alternate realities, Ocampo’s stories are grounded in recognizable domestic settings that she infuses with elements of strangeness[4†].

Her early work is marked by a more conventional approach, but it is still often remarkable[4†]. For instance, her long story “The Impostor” is a brilliant mystery that combines elements of suspense and horror[4†]. As a painter, Ocampo understood the power of distortion, which she used to great effect in her stories[4†].

Ocampo’s mature period is characterized by a disturbing fantastical atmosphere where strange events overwhelm mundane bourgeois reality[4†]. In these stories, motives are often obscure, and a great cruelty presides over life[4†]. Despite being a pleasant and playful person in real life, Ocampo enjoyed her work’s reputation for cruelty[4†].

Her stories, numbering 154 across seven collections published between 1937 and 1988, describe a line that begins in 19th-century-style horror and moves through a phase of formal inventiveness, before entering the unique, disturbing fantastical atmosphere of her mature period[4†]. This evolution in her writing style demonstrates her ability to adapt and innovate within the genre of the fantastic[4†].

Ocampo’s work has had a significant impact on Argentine literature[4†]. Her unique blend of the mundane and the fantastical, her ability to infuse everyday settings with elements of strangeness, and her evolution as a writer have all contributed to her lasting legacy[4†].

Personal Life

Silvina Ocampo was born into a wealthy family in Buenos Aires, the youngest of six daughters[1†]. Her family resided on the Canary Islands before moving to Argentina in the mid-19th century[1†]. Her ancestors belonged to the Argentine aristocracy and owned extensive lands[1†]. Her mother, Ramona Máxima Aguirre, enjoyed gardening and playing the violin[1†].

In 1933, when Adolfo Bioy Casares was 19, he became Silvina’s lover[1†][7†][8†]. They got married in 1940[1†][7†][8†]. Jorge Luis Borges, a close friend of Ocampo, served as the best man at their wedding[1†][9†].

Silvina was known for her striking personality and her ability to write everything she wanted, the way she wanted, despite being surrounded by two dominating male writers[1†][10†]. She was mysterious, imaginative, irreverent, and modern, and so was her writing[1†][10†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Silvina Ocampo’s work has left an indelible mark on Argentine literature[1†]. Her friend and collaborator Jorge Luis Borges called her "one of the greatest poets in the Spanish language, whether on this side of the ocean or on the other"[1†][4†]. Her stories, collected in seven volumes published between 1937 and 1988, describe a journey from 19th-century-style horror through a phase of formal inventiveness, before entering the unique, disturbing fantastical atmosphere of her mature period[1†][4†].

Ocampo’s work is characterized by its cruelty, a trait she herself acknowledged and even seemed to enjoy[1†][4†]. Her stories often depict strange events overwhelming mundane bourgeois reality, where motives are obscure, and a great cruelty presides over life[1†][4†]. Despite this, Ocampo was known to be a pleasant and playful person[1†][4†].

Her refusal to discuss her adult life, her deliberate cultivation of confusion around her, and her insistence on the autonomy of her work have contributed to her legacy[1†][11†]. She remains a figure of intrigue and her work continues to be studied and admired[1†][11†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Silvina Ocampo [website] - link
  2. Pantheon - Silvina Ocampo Biography - Argentine writer (1903–1993) [website] - link
  3. Poem Hunter - Silvina Ocampo - Poet Silvina Ocampo Poems [website] - link
  4. The Guardian - A brief survey of the short story: Silvina Ocampo [website] - link
  5. Goodreads - Author: Books by Silvina Ocampo (Author of Los que aman, odian) [website] - link
  6. The Short Story Project - Silvina Ocampo [website] - link
  7. Goodreads - Book: Silvina Ocampo [website] - link
  8. Goodreads - Book: Forgotten Journey [website] - link
  9. Alina Ştefănescu - Silvina Ocampo's promise. [website] - link
  10. Words Without Borders - Silvina Ocampo in English [website] - link
  11. Cambridge University Press - New Readings of Silvina Ocampo - Chapter: Introduction: Reading Silvina Ocampo [website] - link
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