Silvina Ocampo

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Silvina Ocampo
Silvina Ocampo, in a photo taken by her husband, Adolfo Bioy Casares
Born28 July 1903
Died14 December 1993(1993-12-14) (aged 90)
Resting placeLa Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires
OccupationWriter, poet

Silvina Ocampo Aguirre (July 28, 1903 – December 14, 1993) was an Argentine short story writer, poet, and artist.[1] Ocampo's 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."[2]

Personal life[edit]

Ocampo was born to a wealthy family in Buenos Aires, the youngest of six daughters of Manuel Ocampo and Ramona Aguirre.[3] She was educated at home by tutors and in Paris. Ocampo was the sister of Victoria Ocampo, the founder and editor of the prestigious Argentine journal Sur.[4]

In 1934, Ocampo met her future husband, the Argentine author Adolfo Bioy Casares.[3] They married in 1940.[3]

In 1954 Ocampo adopted Marta, born that year to Bioy Casares and one of his mistresses; Marta Bioy Ocampo died in an automobile accident shortly after Ocampo's own death. Bioy Casares's son by another mistress, Fabián Bioy, later won a lawsuit for the right to the estates of Ocampo and Bioy Casares; Fabián Bioy died in 2006.


Before turning to writing, Ocampo studied painting in Paris under the cubist Fernand Léger and proto-surrealist Giorgio de Chirico.[2]

Ocampo began her career as a short story writer in 1936.[4] She was prolific, producing more than 175 pieces of fiction during one forty-year period.[4]

Ocampo sisters, circa 1908
Silvina Ocampo, date unknown

Ocampo did not abandon her artistic training; she produced illustrations for Borges' poetry and painted throughout her life.[3] Borges perceived a connection between Ocampo's painting and poetry, writing that "like Rosetti and Blake, Silvina has come to poetry by the luminous paths of drawing and painting, and the immediacy and certainty of the visual image persist in her written pages."[2]

Ocampo was awarded Argentina's National Prize for Poetry in 1962, among other literary awards.[3]

Literary works[edit]

Ocampo published her first book of short stories Viaje olvidado in 1937, followed by three books of poetry, Enumeración de la patria, Espacios métricos and Los sonetos del jardín.

Ocampo frequently collaborated with other writers. She wrote Los que aman, odian ("Those Who Love, Hate") with Bioy Casares in 1946, and with J. R. Wilcock she published the theatrical work Los Traidores in 1956. With Borges and Bioy Casares, Ocampo co-authored the celebrated Antología de la literatura fantástica in 1940, and also the Antología poética Argentina in 1941.

Unpublished works by Ocampo are part of the Silvina Ocampo Collection at the University of Notre Dame.


Ocampo's work has fantastical qualities, like her contemporary Borges.[4] Critics note that Ocampo's writing particularly focused on transformations, such as metamorphosis, doubling, splitting, and fragmenting of the self.[4]

Critic Cynthia Duncan, from the University of Tennessee, contends that the fantastical elements concealed latent feminist themes:

[Ocampo's] female characters, like Cristina, are not radical, outspoken feminists. They do not overtly criticize their husbands, nor do they rebel in predictable ways. They go about their lives quietly and submissively, until the fantastic intervenes to upset the traditional order that has been imposed on them. It is, perhaps, this aspect of Silvina Ocampo's work which makes it most disquieting to readers, male and female alike.[4]

Another critic, Patricia N. Klingenberg, has argued that the "raging, destructive female characters of Ocampo's stories should be viewed as part of her preoccupation with the victimization and revenge of women, children and 'deviants' in her works."[5]

Ocampo reportedly said that the judges for Argentina's National Prize for fiction in 1979 adjudged her work "demasiado crueles"—too cruel—for the award.[4]


Ocampo's own merit as a writer has been overshadowed by her associations with her sister Victoria, her husband Casares, and her friend Borges.[4] In recent years, however, Ocampo's work has been newly translated into English, bringing greater awareness to Ocampo's accomplishments as a writer.

Ocampo is buried at La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.


  • Viaje olvidado (stories), Buenos Aires, Sur, 1937. Translated as Forgotten Journey, City Lights, 2019.
  • Antología de la literatura fantástica, Buenos Aires, Sudamericana,1940; second edition 1965, third edition 1970, fourth edition 1990.
  • Antología poética Argentina, Buenos Aires, Sudamericana, 1941.
  • Espacios métricos (poetry), Buenos Aires, Sur, 1942. Premio Municipal.
  • Enumeración de la patria (poetry), Buenos Aires, Sur, 1942.
  • Los sonetos del jardín (poetry), Buenos Aires, Sur, 1946.
  • Los que aman, odian, Buenos Aires, Emecé, 1946.
  • Autobiografía de Irene (stories), Buenos Aires, Sur, 1948. Re-issued by Orión, 1976.
  • Poemas de amor desesperado (poetry), Buenos Aires, Sudamericana,1949.
  • Los nombres (poetry), Buenos Aires, Emecé, 1953. Premio Nacional de Poesía.
  • Pequeña antología, Buenos Aires, Editorial Ene, 1954.
  • Los traidores (theatrical piece in verse), Buenos Aires, Losange, 1956. Re-issued by Ada Korn, 1988.
  • El pecado mortal (anthology of relatos), Buenos Aires, Eudeba, 1966.
  • Informe del cielo y del infierno (anthology of relatos), prologue by Edgardo Cozarinsky, Caracas, Monte Ávila, 1970.
  • La furia (stories), Buenos Aires, Sur, 1959. Re-issued by Orión, 1976.
  • Las invitadas (stories), Buenos Aires, Losada, 1961. Re-issued by Orión, 1979.
  • Lo amargo por dulce (poetry), Buenos Aires, Emecé, 1962. Premio Nacional de Poesía.
  • Los días de la noche (stories), Buenos Aires, Sudamericana,1970.
  • Amarillo celeste (poetry), Buenos Aires, Losada, 1972.
  • El cofre volante (children's stories), Buenos Aires, Estrada, 1974.
  • El tobogán (children's stories), Buenos Aires, Estrada, 1975.
  • El caballo alado (children's stories), Buenos Aires, De la flor, 1976.
  • La casa de azúcar
  • La naranja maravillosa (children's stories), Buenos Aires, Sudamericana, 1977.
  • Canto Escolar (children's stories), Buenos Aires, Fraterna, 1979.
  • Árboles de Buenos Aires (poetry), Buenos Aires, Crea, 1979.
  • La continuación y otras páginas, Buenos Aires, Centro Editor de América Latina, 1981.
  • Encuentros con Silvina Ocampo, dialogues with Noemí Ulla, Buenos Aires, Editorial de Belgrano, 1982.
  • Páginas de Silvina Ocampo, selections by the author, prologue by Enrique Pezzoni, Buenos Aires, Editorial Celtia, 1984.
  • Breve Santoral (poetry), Buenos Aires, Ediciones de arte Gaglianone, 1985.
  • Y así sucesivamente (stories), Barcelona, Tusquets, 1987.
  • Cornelia frente al espejo, Barcelona, Tusquets, 1988. Premio del Club de los 13.
  • Las reglas del secreto (anthology), Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1991.
  • La promesa (novella), Buenos Aires, Lumen, 2011. Translated as The Promise, City Lights, 2019.


  1. ^ Power, Chris (2 November 2015). "A brief survey of the short story: n beso combinando ambos líquidos. Silvina Ocampo". The Guardian.
  2. ^ a b c Ocampo, Silvina (2015). Thus Were Their Faces. Introduction by Helen Oyeyemi; preface by Jorge Luis Borges. NYRB Classics. ISBN 9781590177679.
  3. ^ a b c d e Hacht, Anne Marie, ed. (2009). "Silvina Ocampo". Gale Contextual Encyclopedia of World Literature. 3. p. 1164. ISBN 978-1414431383.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Duncan, Cynthia (November 1991). "Double or Nothing? The fantastic Element in Silvina Ocampo's "La casa de azúcar"". Chasqui. 20 (2): 64–72. doi:10.2307/29740378. JSTOR 29740378.
  5. ^ Klingenberg, Patricia N. (1988). "The Mad Double in the Stories of Silvina Ocampo". Latin American Literary Review. 16 (32): 29–40. JSTOR 20119493.

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