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Victoria Ocampo: the north of Argentine culture

131 years after the birth of the founder of the magazine Sur, cultural promoter, writer, polemist and feminist who built bridges between generations and countries.

Art and Literature
Victoria Ocampo

An awkward intellectual, Victoria Ocampo.  He edited Sartre or Faulkner before they were recognized in his own homeland, and boosted the career of his sister Silvina Ocampo, or advanced Eisenstein's Soviet cinema, but disregarded most compatriot writers who did not go through the circle of his magazine South.   “ Aliens” and “snob” was the kind attacks of the left, and right, alike. A firm pioneer of feminism, in a world of men in which space was made against wind and tide, he opposed when women were finally granted suffrage because they felt they were “not in a position to vote responsibly” during the Peronist government . Victoria Ocampo was a whirlwind of contradictions flanked in her extreme liberalism, the spoiled daughter of the “call for hatred” oligarchy who wanted to build lasting ties between Argentina and the world.  And his legacy on this round anniversary remains to be rediscovered among the green waves, with no commands he repudiated so much in his writings and in the writing of Sur:“Mao Tse-Tung himself (so fashionable...) has said — wrote an anti-communist furibunda in 1970, year 1970, year of the South specials dedicated to women, the first exclusive ones on the continent, and who cast polls in favor of divorce and abortion — 'It is a medieval attitude to attach importance to man and belittle woman'. The proletariat of women, which extends to all classes, is the one that interests me. Men don't get smudged to take over what they covet. Let them manage.” Victoria Ocampo, the most beautiful cosmopolitan Creole.  

“For me books have always been living beings. They brought me a food that my body claimed and they would urgently explain to myself the profound meaning of that work, cry of a soul in grief”, I would write many years later their memories in the volumes of “ Testimonies”, edited from 1935 to 1977, sort of autobiograf rehearsals, fictions and reflections that can combine the flight of a butterfly in San Isidro with a Shakespearean meditation, or a controversy with Indira Gandhi or  Eva Perón.    Victoria was born on April 7, 1890 in a mansion on Calle Viamonte al 400, in Buenos Aires, and was the first daughter, older sister of six women, of the marriage of Manuel Ocampo and Ramona Aguirre, who sank their roots in Spanish conquistadors, Guaranis and Patriots, among the Pueyrredón and the Hernandez. “ Families of colonial origin, those who fought and fought for the emancipation of Argentina — appeared in “Archipelago” (1979), the first part of their memories — had the pan by the handle, justifiably. I belonged to one of them... the thing had happened at home, or in the house next door, or in the house across the street.”  

Once the construction of Villa Ocampo, now a cultural center in Beccar, is on a journey through Europe and is enthroned by French culture, so much so that until 1930 he would write only in French — and would only learn better Spanish to relate to the philosopher Ortega y Gasset & ndash;. For the arts, first the performance, which her father vehemently rejected, and then literature, Victoria sifted her experiences and impressions, something that would be a vital drive, “her resemblance to the painting of Napoleon in Arcole and to the statue of Joan of Arc in Fremiet was decisive. Decisive for Napoleon and Joan of Arc, who until then had moderately interested me and who suddenly came to the forefront of my passions,” said a fiftieth anniversary Victoria of her love version as a teenager.  At that time Ocampo understands that, in order to be realized, she must break her class's mandate, and become a writer who explores a challenging sensibility, although her intellectual curiosity and emancipated spirit would lead her along other paths in the near future.  

One of the first warnings of course rectification, and mutation of his novelist yearnings, would occur in 1915. He had managed to place an article in the newspaper  La Nación  about the Dante, and brought to the director of the National Library, Paul Groussac, a complete essay referring to the characters of Francesca and Paolo. I was eagerly expecting an opinion from the prominent French intellectual  , and it was a lapidary Groussac, recommending him to devote himself to a less “dantesco” topic, that it be written in Spanish (while he kept sending the articles in French to the newspapers, and lived in between we have 40 years long) and, by its gender, will guide its efforts to the epistolar genre. Far from discouraging her more Ocampo fraternized with writers from all over the world and met the literary avant-garde firsthand.   Her worried parents insisted on a marriage to Luis Bernardo de Estrada in 1912, and that it would end abruptly when Victoria discovers a letter from Estrada arguing that “a pregnancy would make her forget her illusions as a writer” —in addition to her outrageous romance with Julián Mart& iacute; nez, according to the press of the time, and that began on the same honeymoon with Estrada. Once legally separated in 1922, he would try a frustrated coexistence with Martínez, of a few months, in Villa Victoria de Mar del Plata, also today's cultural center.

 Victoria Ocampo's eternal formation novel has an intense chapter in the twenties, where dialogue with the world's intellectuals continues, including the self-named German philosopher Keyserling and the American novelist Waldo Frank. Its luxurious home in San Isidro becomes a beacon of world culture, with famous visits from the likes of Roger Callois, Graham Greene and Albert Camus . And the surrounding areas were also colonized by the cultural voracity of Ocampo as the fifth Miralrio, owned by a relative, who hosted the Nobel laureate Tagore in 1924 — and that for his rent had to missell Victoria a crescent of brilliant, which had been the envy of the European courts. ndash;. Despite inheriting three fortunes, Ocampo experienced serious financial problems due to its cultural ventures and great acts of generosity, aggravated during Peronism with a rent law that hurt big renters like her. At the end of his days he had no money to pay for services.

By that time, Ocampo was already a figure of the Buenos Aires cultural move, which transcended the doors of his modernist house in Rufino de Elizalde, Palermo Chico, today the home of the National Arts Fund . And also a recurring role character, like so many of his admired cast heroes, and appeared early in “Xamaica”   (1917) by Ricardo Güiraldes, whose liberal starring character, Clara Ordóñez, is taken from Ocampo itself. Later he would also be one of his features inspiration from his sister's novel, Silvina, in tandem with Adolfo Bioy Casares, “Los que amor, odian” (1946), and who had his film in 2017 with Guillermo Francella and Luisana Lopilato, filmed in Villa Victoria itself.


 South, the latest magazine of the eighties generation 

This is a taxative and pejorative definition by Ricardo Piglia about the great cultural project of Ocampo — and one of the largest national. Negative observations started from the same number one in 1931, an unexpected bestseller due to the unusual quality of European collaborators, and encompassed various ideological circles, it was even repudiated by the very conservative sectors to which Ocampo belonged.  Persona   non grata  for the Curia in 1933, and from the slow decline of the magazine in the 1950s, vilified by the epigonous intellectual field of the renewing magazine of the brothers Viñas, Contorno. The mote that would go from lego to lego would be from an “anti-national” medium, and its founder and editor, Ocampo, “AntiArgentinean”  “Necessarily South is like me. And if South is like me, he's hopelessly more interested in quality than in the nationality of something. That's my way of being Argentinean and that's the one I need. Otherwise, I would suffocate,”  replied to a disenchanted Frank, who had suggested the project to Ocampo in 1929 but with an Americanist bias - the magazine Sur was practically indifferent to the boom of Latin American literature in the sixties except for some tales from the first Julio Cortázar.  The editorial decision, beyond the superb editors of the worth of José Bianco, Enrique Pezzoni,  Ernesto Sábato  or Borges himself, was locked in a “romantic conception ” by Victoria, in Osvaldo Aguirre's words, “Truth, sincerity, will, perseverance, intellectual honesty are not enough: talent is needed... the quality requirement to which I refer is increasingly resisting the modern world. It is unpopular, and that's what is said,”  the editor who ignored contemporary giants, among others, Roberto Arlt, Leopoldo  Marechal  -although it was in the genesis of South, far away by Peronism later author of “Adam Buenosayres” - and Witold Gombrowicz.

 South could also be understood as one of the most relevant cultural industries in Argentina because the magazine added an important editorial, responsible for editing the best European and American literature of the moment, and a series of cultural activities that brought the great minds of the world's most important cultural industry. interwar and post-war.   Aldous Huxley, Virginia Woolf, Carl Jung, D.H. Lawrence, Oliverio Girondo, Eduardo Mallea, Dylan Thomas, Igor Stravinsky -for whom he had recited in a musical show verses by André Gidé-, among many large caliber authors, make up the first years of the Editorial Sur, which as it says Beatriz Sarlo, is an Ocampo operation that would fill the local and Latin American publishing gaps. This signary task continued until 1992 with the magazine, although the most productive period was between 1935 and 1970, first monthly, with an initial circulation of 5 thousand copies, and after 1952, bimonthly, with similar levels of print “ South is almost always read as a product of the history of Victoria, not as a varied text that tries to reconcile divergent tendencies,” says researcher John King with certainty. A magazine that knew how to contain Alejandra Pizarnik with Ezequiel Martínez Estrada, Rodolfo Wilcock with Edgardo Cozarinsky, who combined a substantial part of the best of national culture, and matured talent for her collaborators under the protection of Ocampo.  Borges  is a good example.   Much of the best of the writer of “Ficciones” appears in South, to name “Pierre Menard, author of Quixote”, in number 56. A recognition that does not usually appear for Ocampo, perhaps encouraged by Borges himself who was repeatedly humiliated by Victoria publicly, although privately he obtained lectures when he was fired from the Miguel Cané de Boedo library, for having adhered to a statement contrary to the government of Peró ; n, and he paid up to his holiday expenses. Not to mention the occasion he published the famous issue with the “Desagravio a Borges”, when he was denied a national prize in 1942 for an alleged “anti-Argentine prose” - although this article also made it possible for Ocampo to take a position contrary to any nationalism, defended by Borges himself in the no less famous essay “The Argentine Writer and Tradition” in South. Returning to the duo Borges-Ocampo, according to Victoria's biographer Maria Esther Vázquez, the relationship was accentuating hatred before love, “You, che, how packed you are, will never come to anything,” Victoria told Jorge Luis in 1964! , and ended in a direct denial by the author of the stories in “The Garden of the Forking Trails” of all Ocampo's influence.

“ We are not interested in the political thing but when it is linked to the spiritual”, appears in 1937, a year after Ocampo founded and presides over the Argentine Union of Women, in principle that it fights against legal setbacks of President Justo that aim to assimilate women with the & “When Christian principles,  the very foundations of the spirit appear threatened by politics, then we raise our voice. This magazine does not have a political color, other than the color that imposes on an intelligence the honest defense of these principles” the director would sign an editorial. However, the magazine's “apolicitism” appears in quotation marks, in the thirties linked to Spanish Republicanism and the anti-fascist struggle — although Victoria visits Mussolini and maintains contacts with the Nazi intellectual Drieu la Rochelle, and since 1945, fervently antiperonist. In 1952 she would be imprisoned for a month in the “Buen Pastor” of San Telmo, supposedly for “knowledge of a bomb against Perón”, “in prison, one had at least the satisfaction of feeling that it finally hit bottom, lived reality,” Ocampo recalled that at 60 years old and ntilde; he shared a cell with prostitutes and crooks in suburbs, “the thing had materialized. That was my first reaction.  I'm already out of the fake freedom zone, I'm already at least in a real one. I thank you, Lord, that you have granted me this grace,” I finished off whom the coup of the self-called Liberator Revolution called in 1958 in the constitution of the National Fund for the Arts . Bianco, Martínez Estrada, Sábato, Cortázar, and many intellectuals related to the magazine who are beginning to be moved by the changes after the Cuban Revolution and the third world movements, would be on Victoria's blacklist.


 The Monroes of Letters 

“I have been more fortunate than Manuel Aguirre, my great-grandfather,” says the phrase of the editor Osvaldo Aguirre, in the May 2001 magazine “The recognition of our independence that Monroe did not grant him in 1817, when he arrived in Washington on a confidential mission , sent by San Martin, Pueyrredón and O'Higgins, have not denied it to me, finally,  the Monroes de las Letras,” said Ocampo in the 1960s, where she walked around the world as a kind of cultural ambassador to Argentina. His unmistakable Lugone glasses from the forties toured halls and courts, presidential offices and theaters. And they made the world size that woman behind the glasses, a cultural manager who had reversed the course, the South had discovered the North, editing and funding essential authors before London or Rome, and, now, presented a Manuel Mujica Láinez or a Borges . Ocampo was a cultural conqueror to la creolla. And there are the high distinctions of governments and institutions, Commander of the British Empire and  honorary doctorate  of Harvard.  Simultaneously are the times he supports with feminist conferences and publications, which are sometimes abruptly cut when he detects “Marxist” tendencies  . At the end of the decade he is detected with oral cancer and he will suffer the next ten years with constant pain.

With the return of Peronism in 1973, he decided with his sisters to hand over Villa Ocampo and Villa Victoria to UNESCO, in order to preserve the large library of 20,000 copies, architecture, furniture and the incunabulous documentation — and save a desperate economic situation with three fortunes exhausted “for the good  With the arrival of the military in 1976, Ocampo has an ambiguous stance. Unreluctantly support the coup pumpers with a commendable letter to de facto president Videla but shortly draws up a column for La Nación condemning State Terrorism, and asks for the alive appearance of Mendoza writer Antonio Di Benedetto.   She was named at the Argentine Academy of Letters, the first woman in 1977, although she almost did not attend meetings due to her delicate health. Victoria Ocampo died in Buenos Aires on 28 January 1979.

The elitism of Ocampo could be criticized. Or the little understanding of the complexity of the Argentine problems that exceeded the gardens of San Isidro, Mar del Plata or Paris.  However, Ocampo is unavoidably Creole as a number, the will, of a national project with yearning for modernization, and cosmopolitanism, so Argentinian   “ Is it an empire/that light that goes out/or a firefly? “recited Borges, and, we think, that Ocampo's life trajectory blinks without paralyzing certainties, and illuminates with words and deeds in the mobility of life and the instantaneity of things, never boxed in a single thought, always uncomfortable, always overwhelming, always Victoria.


 Sources:  Pezzoni, E. The text and its voices . Buenos Aires: South American. 1986; AAVV  First anthology of trials . Sur Magazine. July-December. Buenos Aires. 1971; by Diego, J.L.  Editorial and Publishing Policies in Argentina (1880-2010).   Buenos Aires: Fund for Economic Culture. 2014; Vázquez, M.E.  Victoria Ocampo. The world as a destination.   Buenos Aires: Seix-Barral. 2002; Doris, M.  Victoria Ocampo against wind and tide  . Buenos Aires: South American. 1981

Publication Date: 07/04/2021

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