After a brief hiatus over the month of September, Writer of the Week is back! To mark the return of the column, there’s no better way than to begin with one of my favorite Spanish writers, Silvina Ocampo.
Silvina Ocampo was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1903, becoming the youngest of six children. She began as a student of the plastic arts, having traveled to Paris to study with artists such as Giorgio de Chirico and Fernand Léger. The influence of her older sister, Victoria Ocampo, founding editor of the journal ‘Sur,’ and the acquaintance of writers Bioy Casares and Jorge Luis Borge inspired her to begin writing.
One of her earliest publications is Viaje Olvidado, published in 1937. Later publications include Autobiografía de Irene, La furia y otro cuentos, Las invitadas, Los días de la noche, and La naranja maravillosa.
Ocampo’s style mixes the fantastical with the everyday, creating worlds where everything is possible and yet things remain normal (to an extent). Although she borrows elements from the tradition of the fantastic tale, the way she executes them is what has brought her appraisal within the literary community. Her ingenuity allows her stories to stand from other fantastical tales.
It is not only the ingenious manipulation of this elements but also the blending of said elements with the everyday what makes her stories stand out. Putting fantastical happenings on rather familiar and, to an extent, uninteresting scenarios creates a more vivid and appealing experience for the reader.
Most of her prose is narrated from the perspective of children, creating an innocent perspective of reality and adding to this quasi-oneiric atmosphere. Her narrative also tends to distort the barrier between the child world and the real world, sometimes creating stories that place in fantastical yet scary universes.