The Diaries of Emilio Renzi: Formative Years

Ricardo Piglia, trans. from the Spanish by Robert Croll. Restless, $19.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-1-63206-162-1
This volume is the momentous first installment of the Argentine novelist’s 327 diaries, written as the autobiography of his alter-ego, Emilio Renzi. The source material chronicles Piglia’s attempts, as he was coming of age in the ’60s, to answer the question, “How does one become a writer?” Renzi first encounters literature at 16, when he reads Sartre to impress a girl. From then on, love and writing are forever intertwined: his story wins a prize at the same time he’s embarking on an affair, and, later, a woman in Buenos Aires prompts him to abandon his studies at university and move in with her so he can focus on writing exclusively. After they break up, he wonders, “What was the point of the three long years I spent with her? Loving her. Finishing a book.” Of the difficult times every young writer suffers, he writes, “These dark days will seem luminous when distance allows me to observe them as though they were landscapes.” As he draws closer to publishing his debut, the incidentals of this personal history fade in favor of literary insights. Borges is labeled “a marvelous literature-making machine” and Marquez criticized for being too “professionally” Latin American. In this fictionalized autobiography, Piglia’s ability to succinctly criticize and contextualize major writers from Kafka to Flannery O’Connor is astounding, and the scattering of those insights throughout this diary are a joy to read. This book is essential reading for writers. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/25/2017
Release date: 11/14/2017
Genre: Fiction
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