Abelardo Castillo

(1935-2017)

Argentina

© Alejandro Guyot

 

Abelardo Castillo was born in Buenos Aires in 1935 and grew up in San Pedro, close to the capital. He worked as a journalist and co-founded and directed the renowned magazines El escarabajo de Oro and El ornitorrinco. Castillo is a brilliant author of novels, short stories, theatrical plays and essays. Among many other prizes, he was awarded the Casa de las Américas Prize in 1961, the International Prize of Contemporary Authors from UNESCO in 1964, the Esteban Echeverría National Prize in 1993, the Platinum Konex Award in 1994, the Diamond Konex Award in 2014 in recognition of his body of work, and the Carlos Fuentes Prize in 2016. He is considered one of the most important authors of Argentina and Latin America.

 

 

El que tiene sed (“He Who Is Thirsty”) is a beautiful and painful novel that tells of a world bordering on madness: alcoholism, its hell and a breathtaking metaphysical adventure. How to satisfy the impossible, how to fight against the inexhaustible thirst that does not recognize origin, how to realize that life itself is the realization that happiness does not exist. These are the questions that torture Esteban Espósito, an alcoholic writer, in his lucid and drunken perception of reality. With lyricism and crudeness, the author manages to investigate the extremes of human degradation, the daily guilt, the humiliation and the outbursts of fate that push to the very limits of authenticity. The masterly prose of Abelardo Castillo transforms the experience into a true work of art where language acquires all the splendour of the shudder.

 

 

Esteban Espósito, a young writer with an alcohol problem and a penchant for theological inquiry, arrives in the city of Córdoba for a literary symposium he could not care less about. The city is as mythical as it is real, a place where time seems to behave in an inexplicable way, and where Esteban will spend thirty-six decisive hours of his life. October 1962. The imminence of war due to the missile crisis. This is the backdrop to Crónica de un iniciado (“Chronicle of an Initiate”). The love of Esteban and Graciela, the unforgettable figure of Santiago, the Rabelesian apparitions of Father Cherubini and the demonic professor Urba, the traps of benzedrine and sex, the mystery of a city founded cabalistically, make up an exciting surface plot under which lies the real one: Esposito's journey of initiation that will connect him with other existential searches, with delirium, with the problem of time, with the meaning of life and death, recreating Faust’s pact with the devil for the sake of our arts.

Castillo manages the threads of uncertainty and gives us a monumental novel whose centre is an encrypted knowledge: “there is a secret order, the devil told me”, the protagonist of this chronicle confesses. Is Esteban going to sign the Pact? Does he even have a choice? In the tradition of Goethe and Thomas Mann, of Arlt and Marechal, the metaphysical depth and perfect architecture of “Crónica de un iniciado” simply dazzle.

 

A shocking novel. Also in the sense in which T. S. Eliot characterized the rearrangement of a certain type of aesthetic creation, when a new seminal work is inserted into it. “Crónica de un iniciado” possesses everything needed to hold a prominent place among the best of Latin American novels.

Raúl H. Castagnino

 

 

El Evangelio según Van Hutten (“The Gospel According to Van Hutten”) is a bold and captivating revisionist reconstruction of the origins of the Christian era: conspiracies, detective intrigue and fantastical erudition.

How far are the gospels riddled with false claims, and how much important information about the Dead Sea scrolls has been censored? Were the Essenes a secret community split off from Orthodox Judaism, as well as the forerunners of Christianity and educators of Jesus Christ? Was Christ a mere saboteur of doctrines, rather than the son of God? During a vacation in La Cumbrecita, a middle-aged history professor discovers that the controversial archaeologist Estanislao Van Hutten, presumed dead, lives hidden from his detractors with a secret that could shake the most deeply rooted religious beliefs. The revelations made to the historian about the Holy Scriptures are based on the discovery of the ancient Dead Sea scrolls that call into question the official version of the figure of the Messiah.

Abelardo Castillo offers the reader the adventure of decoding a large palimpsest, while enjoying the escalating intrigue. An intelligent novel, original and solidly constructed upon the revelation of a truth: that to be does not need proof.

 

 

 

Courageously oblivious to simple fashions, Abelardo Castillo is for me one of the deepest and brightest talents of the new Latin American generation.

Ernesto Sabato

 

Castillo writes stories, that is to say, closed systems, and not mere tales that do not usually go beyond the arbitrary cutting of a situation without the kind of tension that gives the story its psychic trampoline value.

Julio Cortázar

 

You know with how much enthusiasm and true interest I follow your task: the fable of David and Goliath is that, pure 'macana', in the face of which you, in this medium [referring to the magazine El Escarabajo de Oro], are achieving. I hope my new books have already emerged from the mountain of backwardness and soon reach your hands.

Carlos Fuentes

 

Abelardo Castillo, a vibrant name to add to the literary tradition represented by Borges, Arlt and Cortázar. A writer of class; controversial, uncomfortable and disturbing. One of the greats.

El País

 

 

 

Rights

 

Novels:

El Evangelio según Van Hutten

Buenos Aires: Seix Barral 1999, 2004, 222 p.

Greece: Kastaniotis 2005 · Italy: Crocetti 2002

 

Cronica de un iniciado

Buenos Aires: Emecé 1991, Seix Barral 2000, 352 p.

 

El que tiene sed

Buenos Aires: Emecé 1985, 225 p.

Greece: Exandas 2002 · Macedonia

 

 

Short stories:

Las otras Puertas

Buenos Aires: Goyanarte 1961, Emecé 1993, Planeta 1999, 174 p.

Cuba: Casa de las Américas 1961

 

Cuentos crueles

Buenos Aires: Editorial Jorge Alvarez 1966, Emecé 1994, Seix Barral 2000, 125 p.

 

La Casa de Ceniza

Buenos Aires: Estuario 1967, 1977, 76 p.

 

Los mundos reales

Santiago de Chile: Editorial Universitaria de Chile 1972, 223 p.

 

Las Panteras y el Templo

Buenos Aires: Ed. Sudamericana 1976, Planeta 2003, 160 p.

 

Las Maquinarias de la Noche

Buenos Aires: Emecé 1992, Planeta 2004, 176 p.

 

El Espejo que Tiembla

Buenos Aires: Seix Barral 2005, 128 p.

 

Cuentos completos

Buenos Aires: Alfaguara 1997, 461 p.

 

Antología pessoal

Buenos Aires: Instituto Movilizador de Fondos Cooperativos 1999, 124 p.

 

 

Selection of short stories:

I mondi reali

Italy: Del Vecchio 1997, 2015, 261 p.

(selection of short stories)

 

 

Plays:

El otro Judas

Buenos Aires: Editorial El escarabajo de oro 1961, Seix Barral 2011, 136 p.

 

Israfel

Ed. Losada 1964

 

Tres Dramas

Ed. Stilcograf 1968

 

Teatro completo

Buenos Aires: Emecé 1995, 298 p.

 

 

Essays:

Las Palabras y los Dias

Buenos Aires: Emece 1988, 1999, 207 p.

 

Ser Escritor

Buenos Aires: Ed. Perfil 1997, 233 p.

 

Desconsideraciones

Buenos Aires: Seix Barral 2010, 256 p.

 

Diaries:

Diarios – Tomo I (1959-1991)

Buenos Aires: Alfaguara, 2014

 

Interviews:

El Oficio de metir

(12 interviews,by María Fasce)

Buenos Aires: Emece 1998