This collection of 28 short stories, first published in 1937 and now in English translation for the first time, introduced readers to one of Argentina's most original and iconic authors. With this, her fiction debut, poet Silvina Ocampo initiated a personal, idiosyncratic exploration of the politics of memory, a theme to which she would return again and again over the course of her unconventional life and productive career.
[S]urrealist influences are evident in her writing, and there is undoubtedly a fairytale quality to Ocampo’s stories: fairytale in the sense of its truest origins—innocence is flooded with the dark and the ominous, childhood confronts and battles adulthood. Throughout Ocampo’s tales, there is always a moment when death enters, knocking the innocent out. And these stories are dark ... Ocampo’s conjured worlds are wondrous, bold, and unique ... Her narrators’ glances never come from somewhere expected, and always land on something unpredicted ... Ocampo is never sentimental; the devastating heartbreak of her stories comes from the suddenness of emotion, which is always comprehended too late, through memory ... This translation from the Spanish is a tremendous accomplishment ... Levine and Lateef-Jan have very skillfully kept...wit and imagination alive in their translation. A literal translation is often foregone to save the humor or spirit of the original.
The stories in Forgotten Journey are vignettes, for the most part...This briefness lends them the dreamlike quality of Surrealist paintings, or of childhood memories. Ocampo was fascinated with childhood, which she treats unsentimentally, often with an Edward Gorey-ish form of brusque violence ... She's always swift, never sentimental. For Ocampo, emotion resides only in memory. Even death in the present is impossible to reach...
Levine is the daring translator of many of Latin America’s most formally inventive writer ... In her, Lateef-Jan’s, and Powell’s hands, Ocampo’s diction is clean and forthright, occasionally fusty like a school-prize essay, but reveals its wilder, more profligate heart in its lavish, extended syntax, its lists and peremptory qualifications, and stacking of event upon event ... Ocampo’s most admirable and maddening quality is her refusal to explicate ... She is a remarkably visual writer. The situations she composes—innocence corrupted; class status revealed or revoked; the external effects on the body of various foods, states of weather, varieties of poison and medicine—make for phenomenal tableaux. By drawing as carefully as possible only what is there without any causal inferences, Ocampo strings together discrete images of real life that together produce an effect entirely unreal and disorienting ... Ocampo’s work often has the antique quality of a half-lost fragment of myth, its moral missing or not fully translatable. Her prolific output...only contributes to this sense of a complete and foreign country underlying ours—perhaps more honest than our own in its refusal to impose causality or logic where they do not really exist.