cover image Forgotten Journey

Forgotten Journey

Silvina Ocampo, trans. from the Spanish by Katie Lateef-Jan and Suzanne Jill Levine. City Lights, $14.95 trade paper (134p) ISBN 978-0-8728-6772-7

Ocampo (1903–1993) is a legend of Argentinian literature, and this collection of her short stories brings some of her most recondite and mysterious works to the English-speaking world. Many of these are glancing sense impressions, such as “The Enmity of Things,” a dreamlike vision of sinister windows in a rotting, cavernous house filled with secret rooms, or “The Olive Green Dress,” which briefly follows a scandalous schoolteacher. Other stories are more forthcoming, though just as strange: in “The Lost Passport,” a 14-year-old girl and a streetwalker together board a doomed cruise ship, managing a kind of mystic transference before the inevitable wreckage. “Landscape of Trapezes” follows the story of a tightrope walker and her monkey, while two girls, rich and poor, trade places in “The Two Houses of Olivos” as their Guardian Angels lie sleeping in the garden; and in the title story, a child struggles to recall the moment of her own birth. Common topics for Ocampo include children’s first encounter with death and disease and the secret malevolence of certain clothing items (a cardigan provokes a feeling of misery in one character; a bathing suit reminds another character that the sea is “a device of endless torture”). In Ocampo’s prose, every detail indicates a hidden world just beyond waking. This collection is an ideal introduction to a beguiling body of work. (Sept.)