I confess that I have been reading your letters, Blímele. More than that: I’ve been carrying this Nueva Correspondencia Pizarnik (ed. Ivonne Bordelois and Cristina Piña, 2014, not translated to English yet) with me, as one who carries his own identity papers.
Compiled in 40 sections, according to their recipients, the letters cover the period from 1955 to the months just before your suicide in 1972. Each section has a brief introduction about the respective recipient. Here and there, we have facsimiles of some of the letters, adorned with your drawings and collages.
This collection is an expanded version of Correspondencia Pizarnik (Seix Barral, 1998), Dos letras (March Editor, 2003) and Nueva correspondencia Pizarnik (Posdata, 2012), and includes previously unpublished letters to Antonio Beneyto; Raúl Gustavo Aguirre; Manuel Mujica Lainez; Esmeralda Almonacid; Rubén Vela; Silvina Ocampo; Adolfo Bioy Casares; Julio Cortázar; Antonio Fernández Molina; and Sylvia Molloy, among others.
Here we have not only letters, but also postcards and dedications written to friends, colleagues, family, as well as to some of the exponents of the Argentine literary scene in the second half of the twentieth century. The book also includes the letters sent to Beneyto by Anna Becciu and Martha Moia, on the occasion of your death.
In addition to the meticulous work of research and compilation, the collection has the merit of presenting facets of you which remained relatively unexplored until very recently. Because your work was somewhat trapped in the image of a tormented and accursed poet – not without resentment, as your journals can well attest -, many of the obscene writings of your later phase (such as “La bucanera de Pernambuco o Hilda la polígrafa” and “Los poseídos entre las lilas”, marked by the use of parody and by a grotesque, somewhat disenchanted, black humour), were left out of what was then thought of by the literary critics of your day as the “canon Pizarnik“.
Very different, however, from the lyrical and tragic figurine to which you had been reduced by the critics, the Alejandra that is drawn from the letters collected here proves to be as hybrid as your writing: the new, more complex Alejandra presents a critical eye, an acute editorial instinct, and, especially, a sharp, irreverent sense of humour. The ludic and transgressive element, with which you sometimes deformed texts and images, is present in most letters. This deformed / deforming sense of humour, which runs through the entire period covered by the letters collected here, assumes, in some of them, a slightly corrosive character.
La niña doliente (the suffering girl) is endowed here with a strong jocular tone, almost buffoon. The poet behind those letters unfolds in multiple signatures: Alejandra (as you were known), Flora (your birth name, Flora Alejandra Pizarnik), Buma (the nickname given to you by your relatives, and which means flower in Yiddish), or only Blímele (little flower). None of these multiple facets can be reduced to the asexual entity (la niña abandonada, the abandoned girl) created to portray you: your correspondence with Silvina Ocampo (one of your great loves) and with Martha Moia (with whom you maintained a loving relationship) deny any moralistic attempt at reductionism. The Alejandra in these letters is also a generous lover and friend – playful, silly, sarcastic, at times even lurid.
The collection illuminates not only unexplored aspects of your personality, but also some important features of your poetic work. In the exchange of letters between you and your contemporaries, we can glimpse the ways in which you analysed what you read, the way in which you compared these books, and especially the way in which you appropriated them in your writing. The letters not only shed light on the authors who were most influential to you, but also contextualize the process of creating some of the your best known poems.
The diversity of recipients to whom you wrote mirrors the multiplicity of topics that you approached and the formats in which you did it. We have postcards, coloured papers, drafts of poems, small drawings and collages; confessional and professional letters. The versatility of your references precludes any predetermined itinerary: to the many references to Artaud, Orozco, Michaux, Mallarmé, Djuna Barnes, Blanchot and Rimbaud, you add, in your correspondence, snippets of lyrics from tangos arrabaleros and popular songs – at random, as if you were building a kind of reliquary of objets trouvés.
The tones adopted in the correspondence vary – they seem to adapt to the respective interlocutor. Humour and delirium, joke and despair, obscenity and delicacy seem to be spiralling through the letters, and flowing into each other.
“Obscenity does not exist; only the wound exists” (“La obscenidad no existe; existe la herida”), you wrote in the play Los poseídos entre lilas. In a letter to Eugenia Valentié, about La condesa sangrienta, you added: “Only you, in this inadjectable country, prove with remarkable ease and prodigious speed, that the character – that incredibly sinister Érzebet – is not a sadist anymore but someone who belongs to the sacred: to that to which we try to allude in the language of dreams, of childhood, of death, of the night of the bodies. Only you understood (answered) my last sentence: “absolute freedom? it is terrible” that so scandalized the leftists of the salon who, fortunately for them, know nothing of the absolute lack of limits, synonymous with madness, death (and poetry, mysticism?)” (“Solamente vos, en este país inadjetivable, comprobás con notable facilidad y prodigiosa rapidez, que el personaje – esa Érzebet increíblemente siniestra – no es una sádica más sino alguien que pertenece a lo sacro: eso a lo que intentamos aludir en las palabras del sueño, las de la infancia, las de la muerte, las de la noche de los cuerpos. Solamente vos comprendiste (atendiste a) mi última frase: “la libertad absoluta? es terrible” que tanto escandalizó a los izquierdistas de salón que, para fortuna de ellos, nada saben de la falta absoluta de límites, sinónimo de locura, de muerte (y de la poesía, de la mística?)”
Underneath the tortured voice of the poems, we can hear many other voices in your prolific correspondence. In the midst of confidences, wordplay, and (not always discreet) requests for help (and love), we find ourselves – suddenly, in the fragmented biography that one can read in the letters – trapped in this almost impalpable place of encounter between life and work, creator and creature, writing and reading, sender and recipient.
“Pero vos, mi amor, no me desmemories. Vos sabés cuánto y sobre todo sufro (en cursiva en el original). Acaso las dos sepamos que te estoy buscando. Sea como fuere, aquí hay un bosque musical para dos niñas fieles: S. y A….” – Alejandra Pizarnik, Carta a Silvina Ocampo // “But you, my love, don’t forget me. You know how much I suffer (in italics in the original). Maybe we both know I’m looking for you. Be that as it may, here is a musical forest for two faithful girls: S. and A … “- Alejandra Pizarnik, Letter to Silvina Ocampo, my translation
“No te envío poemas porque están en laboratorio. Estoy en un gran proceso de síntesis. Muy pronto te enviaré algo, unos pocos pájaros de fuego, una breve palmada en el hombro tieso de la señora muerte.” – Alejandra Pizarnik, Carta a Rubén Vela. // “I do not send you poems because they are in the laboratory. I am in a great process of synthesis. Very soon I will send you something, a few birds of fire, a brief pat on the stiff shoulder of Mrs. Death. “- Alejandra Pizarnik, Letter to Rubén Vela, my translation
Ahora esas dos hojas con su escritura están usadas y desgastadas (por mis ojos) porque las llevo conmigo como quien lleva los obligatorios documentos de identidad. Y en verdad son eso.”– Alejandra Pizarnik, Carta a Antonio Porchia // Now those two pages with your writing are used and worn out (by my eyes) because I carry them with me as one who carries the mandatory identity papers. And in truth they are that. ” – Alejandra Pizarnik, Letter to Antonio Porchia, my translation
About the book
- Alfaguara, ed. Ivonne Bordelois and Cristina Pina, 2014, 464 p. Goodreads
- My rating: 5 stars
- This review was first published in Portuguese here
- I wrote this post as a contribution to the Spanish and Portuguese Reading Months, hosted by Stuart and Richard.