cover image The Diaries of Emilio Renzi: A Day in the Life

The Diaries of Emilio Renzi: A Day in the Life

Ricardo Piglia, trans. from the Spanish by Robert Croll. Restless, $22 trade paper (480p) ISBN 978-1-63206-050-1

In this posthumous autobiographical masterpiece by Argentinian writer Piglia (1941–2017), the final work in a trilogy after The Happy Years, Emilio Renzi transcribes his journals while enduring the debilitating effects of ALS and reflects on a post-Peronist Argentina that offers little safety or stability for authors and intellectuals. Renzi’s entries from the late 1970s and early ’80s in Buenos Aires tell how he survived political instability with self-imposed censorship and isolation, which was broken up by clandestine meetings with writer friends and frequent bouts of despair. He also takes comfort in figures like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who worked under the radar with support from friends who copied his books by hand. Piglia then employs a traditional narrative for the book’s middle section, which take a closer look at Renzi in the ’80s and ’90s before returning to loosely sketched, undated diary entries revolving around Renzi’s career as a professor emeritus at Princeton, his return to Argentina, and his physical decline from ALS (which Piglia himself died of). While Piglia has been touted as the inheritor of Borges’s mantle, the diaristic form and sharp observations bring to mind Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. Renzi’s repeated desire to construct the life of an artist in his writing, one who “invents fictions in his conversations with friends, incessantly, never stopping, especially about himself, because he forgets who he is but does not want to recognize that he is disoriented,” is profoundly moving. A meditation on both the accumulation and ephemerality of time, Piglia’s final work is a brilliant addition to world literature. (Oct.)