Sylvia Iparraguirre

Argentina

© Edgardo Gómez

 

Sylvia Iparraguirre, born in 1947, has already gained considerable fame in Argentina where she was involved in several magazine projects against the military dictatorship, for example, as co-founder of the cultural magazines El escarabajo de oro and El ornitorrinco. Today she teaches at the University of Buenos Aires and is a literary critic for the daily newspapers Clarín and Página 12. Her novel LA ORFANDAD was among the twelve finalists for the prestigious Premio internacional de novela Rómulo Gallegos 2011.

 

 

After two volumes of short stories La Tierra del Fuego, her second novel, was shortlisted for the 1998 Premio Alfaguara. At the Buenos Aires Book Fair 1999 the work was awarded the prestigious Literary Critics Prize as Best Book of the Year (1998), and the Sigfrido Radaelli Prize by the Club de los 13 for the best novel in 1998 and in Mexico the Sor Juana Prize.

In 1830 the “Beagle” sets sail from England for Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, captained by the young Robert FitzRoy. On arrival, the crew encounter members of the Yámana people. When the ship returns to London a Yámana girl, Fuegia, and three young men, one of them called Jemmy Button are on board. In London the Indios are introduced to British society and the royal family and later initiated into “civilised life” at a school in the country. Having spent two years in England, the Yámanas are returned to Tierra del Fuego by Captain FitzRoy. On board the ship this time was a young natural scientist, Charles Darwin, fully convinced of his science. Captain FitzRoy on the other hand sees it as his task to teach the Indios his language and culture and thus help them to achieve a better, more “civilised” life. He believes that once back in Tierra del Fuego the Yámanas will maintain their British way of life and pass it on to others. One year later, when Captain FitzRoy sails by Tierra del Fuego, he realises to his horror that Jemmy and the others have reverted to their old way of life and are living just like those around them; they want nothing more to do with England.

 

Sylvia Iparraguirre, a disciple of Borges, has succeeded in reconciling two things: an analytical viewpoint and a delight in adventure stories, a highly poetic tone and unaffected passion. An eloquent meditation on civilisation and wilderness and the roots of a nation.

Der Spiegel

 

La Tierra del Fuego deals with European arrogance without resorting to the cliché of the ‘Noble Savage’.

Hispanic Outlook

 

This brilliant and beautifully wrought work deserves to become a classic.

The Texas Observer

 

This efficient and fragile book poses good questions about the human motivations of “missionaries” and scientists.

Le Monde

 

Tierra del Fuego. Una biografía del fin del mundo (“Tierra del Fuego. A Biography of the end of the World”) was first published as a coffee-table book and will soon be available in a more handy edition. In her introduction, Iparraguirre says: After its extensive journey from the north, the Andes, South America’s imposing vertebral column, stretches down to the continent’s southern most tip, crosses Tierra del Fuego’s Isla Grande, slips under the Le Maire Strait and then emerges finally, like a blackened, burned dragon’s tail in the Isla de Los Estados. This mountain range, right at the end of the world, was, according to myth, a source of shamanic power for the people of Tierra del Fuego. Marked by American largesse, nature rules dramatically in this corner of the world, towering over mankind. Men and women who behold these landscapes are swept giddily back to the beginning of time, overwhelmed by how small they feel in their presence, as they surrender to the natural boundaries that surround them.

 

El muchacho de los senos de goma (“The Boy with the Rubber Breasts”) is set in present-day Buenos Aires. Cristobal, or Cris, is seventeen years old and rather annoyed by his family home. His mother always takes his stepfather’s side, and he is always expected to help out in the workshop. He would rather be listening to music and indulging his passionate interest in philosophy. His teacher is Professor Mentasti, who invites him to attend advanced courses due to his incisive and independent reasoning.

One day he packs his bags and leaves home. In a distant corner of Buenos Aires he finds refuge by chance at the home of Señora Vidot, a strange woman who seems to live in her own world. Cris does not know that her husband was lost at sea. She gives him a room without posing too many questions or asking anything in return. They both feel drawn to one another, and one night sexual tension becomes lovemaking. It is only later that Cris discovers that he has confused his new feelings with love, has new experiences and becomes more mature.

He gives up his job as a seller of merchandise on the street - the rubber breasts, meant for relaxing office workers, were a real flop! – and, after a final talk to his Profesor who himself is passing through a crisis, decides to leave Buenos Aires.

With a sure hand and shimmering storytelling Sylvia Iparraguirre leads her readers through a compartmentalised city, in which flights of intellectual brilliance and bitter poverty, hope and hopelessness stand side by side, and where people survive crises and occasionally grow from them. The final scene, a description of the waking city and a young man making his escape, reads like the crescendo to a piece of music that gets deep under your skin.

 

 

In a small town in the Argentine pampas, quiet Sonia grows up in an orphanage. Only when the anarchist trade unionist Bautista, who spent many years in prison as an innocent man, woos the young woman does she awake from her long years of paralysis and turn to face life.

Told in retrospective, the novel’s intensive characters and atmospheric descriptions of the broad landscapes of the Argentine pampas truly draw the reader in.

After El muchacho de los senos de goma, La orfandad ("The Orphaning") is the second part of a trilogy in progress portraying three generations of an Argentinean family.

 

This book confirms the privileged place that Sylvia Iparraguirre takes among our narrators. Here she presents us with one of the most moving and beautiful love stories in Argentine literature.

Los Andes

 

A disturbingly clear and very sensitive novel.

Página 12

 

 

Rights

 

 

Novels:

Encuentro con Munch

Buenos Aires: Alfaguara 2013, 200 p.

 

La orfandad, Buenos Aires: Alfaguara 2010, 264 p.

Shortlisted for the Premio Rómulo Gallegos 2011

Italy: L’Asino d’Oro 2015

 

El muchacho de los senos de goma, Buenos Aires: Alfaguara 2007, 345 p.

German: Stockmann 2010Italy: L’Asino d’Oro Netherlands: de Geus 2012

 

La tierra del fuego, Buenos Aires: Alfaguara, 1998, 286 p.,

pb punto de lectura 2006

Brazil: Record 2001 France: Métailié 2001 Germany: Alexander Fest 1999, Büchergilde Gutenberg 2000, Fischer, pb 2001 Israel: Carmel 2011 Italy: Einaudi 2001 Netherlands: de Geus 2001 Portugal: ASA 2001 US: Curbstone Press 2000

 

El parque, Buenos Aires: Emecé 1996; Alfaguara 2004, 259 p.

Italy: Crocetti 2004

 

 

Short prose:

Del día y de la noche

Buenos Aires: Galerna 2015, 174 p.

 

 

Stories:

Narrativa breve, Buenos Aires: Alfaguara 2005, 393 p.

 

El país del viento, Buenos Aires: Alfaguara 2003, 168 p.

 

Probables lluvias por la noche, Buenos Aires: Emecé 1993; Alfaguara 2009, 150 p.

 

En el invierno de las ciudades, Buenos Aires: Galerna 1988, Alfaguara, 158 p.

 

 

Photo-text-book:

Tierra del Fuego. Una biografía del fin del mundo.

Together with the photographer Florian von der Fecht

Buenos Aires: Total Austral 2000, 112 p., first published by El Ateneo; Del Nuevo Extremo 2009, 223 p.

(Bilingual English-Spanish edition)

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