Letters From Alejandra Pizarnik to
(Traslated by Carlota Caulfield and Angela McEwan)
How I Met Alejandra Pizarnik (Fragments)
Writer, Editor and Painter, Barcelona.
At the edge of the Mediterranean, right on the beach, while people
splashed in the water, while they foolishly let the sun burn
them, the poet and painter, A. F. Molina, and I were both writing
on a typewriter "in the shade of an umbrella." We were
answering some questions put to us in an interview by one of
the newspapers in Palma de Mallorca. That was around the summer
Once we had finished answering the questionnaire (before a public
astonished at observing our unusual act of writing on typewriters
at the beach) Molina took out a folder, blue cardboard with white
rubber bands, from which he took a handful of papers and told
me: "Look, read this, perhaps you could publish it in your
collection "La Esquina." I immediately began to read
what my friend had handed me, without stopping until I finished,
and then without saying anything I left it on our little writing
table and went for a swim. After a few minutes I came back and
spent a while in a terrible yet beautiful silence in regard to
what I had just read. I turned it over. I looked at it on the
table. I felt that I should return to it. And that is what I
did. I returned to its meaningful title, "Nombres y figuras"
(Names and Figures) by Alejandra Pizarnik. When I had read it
again, I told Molina that I was taking the book to publish in
the collection of "La Esquina."
That was how I became acquainted with Alejandra Pizarnik. Later,
there would be the letters we exchanged one after another; there
would be the drawings, the edited books, the photographs, finally
it would be everything. My relationship with the poet was so
close that from the moment I held her first original manuscript,
we never lost touch, one way or another.
Four letters from Alejandra Pizarnik
Buenos Aires, Sept. 26, 1969
you, dear Antonio, for your letter and the beautiful catalogs.
It was with melancholy that I thought about the printing presses
and, above all, the high quality of Spanish paper (infinitely
superior to what we have here, as you can see by examining my
"piedra de la locura" [stone of folly]);  by the
way, I am crazy about beautiful printing and, more than anything,
high quality paper. So much so that I had the fantasy of going
to live for a few years in Barcelona or, if possible, to Palma
moved and proud that you are opening your new book with one of
my texts. Thanks to that news, I rushed to reread my text
and, finally, after a couple of years, I understood it in depth.
I am even more eager than ever to read this book of 44 stories.
to A. Pieyre de Mandiargues and his wife, they will be in Venice
at the following address until October 15:
Bastian 1709 D.D.
be very nice if you chose a short story of Mandiargues IN ADVANCE
and asked him for permission to publish it in "La Esquina"
. As far as his wife, Bona, she has published only a small,
beautiful book. As far as the copies of my book, I myself will
send them to Mandiargues and to Cortázar, so you don't
need to do it.
very happy that A.F. Molina took a galley proof to review. If
he can't find a place to publish it in Spain, why not try Imagen,
in Venezuela? Also (although it's insulting to receive zero remuneration
) he can publish it in Sur.
very interested in your sending my book to "almost all"
the Spanish critics. Above all, I am interested in Cirlot, and
- because of Hijos de la ira (Sons of Rage) - Dámaso
Alonso. Also (at least I liked her some years ago when I read
her work) Ana M. Matute and, more than anyone, Camilo J. Cela.
But I see I haven't named anyone who is strictly a critic; I
leave it in your hands.
you for the blue color of the print in the book.
as I have the energy to face them, I'll send you the short, short
stories I already mentioned to you.They are very appropriate
for "LA ESQUINA" but what you think about them matters
to me more than anything else.
called Jorge Alvarez. I have to call back in a week. The woman
in charge didn't seem to have a problem with returning the manuscript.
I also draw and paint, although I don't hold exhibitions of my
work, since I draw and paint exactly like the savages - those
savages without tradition or art training who learn by inheritance.
I would be thrilled to receive something of yours some day as
I was very pleased with the drawing that was with the dedication
of your book. (Now that I've written this, I feel like drawing.)
Tell me what materials you use, as it interests me.
that "c Alejandra Pizarnik" sounds very good. It would
be even better as "c A.P." but that definitely can't
be used. Anyway, it's unimportant. I just wanted to let you know
and confirm that I don't claim any author's rights.
very soon, I hope. Yours
 Pizarnik is referring to her book Extracción de
la piedra de locura (Bs.As.: Ed. Sudamericana, 1968).
 She is referring to the following text: "Las muñecas
desventradas por mis antiguas manos de muñeca, la desilusión
al encontrar pura estopa (pura estopa tu memoria): el padre,
que tuvo que ser Tiresias, flota en el río. Pero tú,
¿por qué te dejaste asesinar escuchando cuentos
de álamos nevados? / "The dolls gutted by my ancient
doll's hands the disappointment at finding only stuffing (your
memory pure stuffing): the father, who must have been Tiresias,
floats in the river. But you, why did you let yourself be murdered
listening to stories of snowy poplars?
 She is referring to Beneyto's Algunos niños, empleos
y desempleos de Alcebate (Barcelona: Ed Lumen, 1974).
 La Esquina (The Corner) was founded in Barcelona by Antonio
Beneyto in 1968. Beneyto published 15 chapbooks. The last one
was El alfabeto griego by Carlos Edmundo de Ory in 1970.
After being a small press, La Esquina became part of Ediciones
Picazo publishing house of Barcelona. Its first published title
in book format was Un caracol en la cocina by A.F. Molina.
 It refers to Beneyto's book, Los chicos salvajes that
the writer had sent them for a possible edition. It never came
out there, it was published by Ediciones Picazo of Barcelona
Buenos Aires, 10-26-69
friend Antonio: 1000 thanks for your beautiful and much appreciated
drawing dedicated to me. It arrived today, when it needed to
arrive (since I was feeling sad because of an old and irremediable
matter). Thank you also for your confidence in telling me about
that marvelous woman, Victoria Gotor, who I would like to meet
(please send her my regards and my little book). Lastly, or in
the first place, endless thanks for the beautiful (looking) little
book Nombres y figuras" as I can see your careful
editing and elimination of errors and all those devilish things.
I don't want to be insist ent to much about thanking you (perhaps
you are timid as I am and therefore excessive praise makes you
feel uncomfortable). I want to tell you how happy I am that you
sent my little book to A.M. Matute. Please don't forget the very
intelligent Cirlot, or Lapesa (a mutual friend told me he loves
poetry) or, above all, the enchanting F. Arrabal. Do you need
photos for the press? I'll send them if you do. Another thing:
some 6 or 7 years ago I published translations from Russian (in
collaboration, of course) in Figueroa's review which is called
Indice (Index) (or perhaps Insula). If you can,
send him a copy and another to Francisco Farreras, from Barcelona
but living in France (23, rue de la Pépinier, Paris 8).
Send another to the same address for Ignacio Iglesias and another
for Francois Bondy. Politically they're misguided, but they were
very pleasant to me.
(I don't know how to envy) your talent for drawing: your primitive
eyes; your delicious phantoms. Of course I received the 2 copies
of my book with your beautiful drawing which looks wonderful
on the wall of my studio, which, I hope, you will visit some
day. As far as my desire to live for a while in Barcelona, I'll
explain it to you in detail when the time comes to make it reality.
night I was with Luisa Sofovich at an exciting gathering. She
is a brave and very intelligent woman. I like to hear her talk
for hours and hours about Ramón, who I so much admire.)
obtain a cassette recorder, but how do I send the cassette? I
await instructions. In addition, what would you prefer I read
It is midnight and I am ..... from having spent 4 hours immersed
in a book on Hieronymous Bosch. Or perhaps I am more lucid than
Besides, I love the night, I believe in the night. I am - fatally
- a daughter of the night just as you are a son of the night.
helpful secretary at the Editorial Jorge Alvarez set you book
aside.  Since she is sick, the other employees either don't
want to or don't know how to send it to me. Soon it will be in
your face (I'm speaking of the photo). Above all because it
reminds me of a little playmate of my childhood. (This resemblance
is mysterious, isn't it?)
Soon I'll copy the few short stories I mentioned to you. I also
wrote a play in one act (a long one) and I just turned down an
offer to do a film script, as I'm not good at writing literature
in thanking you for the two copies and your drawing was caused
by a trip to the interior of my country. For the first time in
my life I read poems and spoke about poetry (!) before the most
diverse audience. It was an intense adventure.
I'm pleased that my drawing pleased you. You are welcome to decipher
those symbols that you were guessing bout. Obviously I would
be interested in knowing your deductions. And, you, why did you
put a chain with a cross on the beautiful yellow body of the
green-haired lady? Of course the artist (you) doesn't need to
know the reason why... Until soon.
a hug from
 On December 2, 1992, Farreras Valenti
wrote to Antonio Beneyto:
you very much for your promptness in sending the copy of Alejandra's
letter in which she mentioned me, for your stupendous article
in Quimera, in which you describe so well her lively and
sensitive personality, and for your book of short stories, which
I have enjoyed very much.
that her reference to me and to the people who were working with
me in Paris at that time is extremely kind. (...) When I found
out about her suicide-not from your article-I felt a great sadness
and a deep regret. I never would have thought that such a self-assured
young woman with sturdy legs, over which she rolled up wool socks,
would turn out to be sensitive and delicate... We were together
for some months and were so distant from one another that we
never knew each other.
did she reach the rish conclusion-politics wasn't her field-in
judging us. We couldn't have been so mistaken politically when,
by our modest work and those years in Paris as well, we contributed
to create the basis for a future understanding among Spaniards,
which years later would contribute to the transition toward democracy
in which-some more than others-we have live in the past fifteen
again, Thank you. And a hug.
 Beneyto's Los chicos salvajes.
 She is referring to the photo that appears in Bonet's "Dos
escritores exponen lo que pintan" (Destino, Barcelona,
August 16, 1969)
Buenos Aires, 11-8-69
friend Antonio, thank you for framing my very elementary, infantile,
and cathartic drawings. Although I don't think they deserve a
frame, I appreciate it. On the other hand your drawings deserve
much more than a frame (the color of the frame of the last beautiful
drawing you sent me is lavender and it's very near my writing
made arrangements with J. Alvarez's secretary and she promised
to give me Chicos salvajes ( a very beautiful title).
But what happened was she has been sick and will only return
to work next week. As soon as I know she is back at the publishing
house, I will quickly go and look for your book, which I so much
want to read. I accept, in principle, to be your resource person:
to write a prologue for your book. I will accept with more details
and explanations after reading it, naturally. But I fear the
problem of the number of pages is something I can't resolve,
since I tend to concentration. Anyway, we will talk about the
number of pages it should have. Another of my faults which I
must confess is my slowness. An essay will take me, without a
doubt, something more than a month. (It's true that a month ago
I wrote one in a week, on Mandiargues.) If you receive Sur
or if you manage to read it, notice one of my articles which
took me a month-for instance one on Silvina Ocampo which appeared
last year with the title of "Dominios ilícitos"
-and compare it with the one that came out or will come out on
"La motocicleta," so badly translated. But from now
on you can count on the most essential part: my sincere desire
to write the prologue.
thrilled at the news that Cirlot will write an article about
me. I read an excellent essay of his on surrealism when I was
16 years old, so he is a personality who interested me very much.
As soon as the 50 copies arrive I will send him one with a dedication
(no, they haven't arrived yet; I think that I already sent you
a thousand thanks for the two copies you sent me by air mail).
I really want to send more of my "thinks" to Cirlot-and
to you, naturally- but my books are sold out (because of that
damned municipal prize) and the new edition will not be considered
in Sudamericana until next year.  Nevertheless, I will see
if I can send you an anthology in which there are poems from
those nonexistent books (neither do I know if the anthology is
available or if it sold out).
send Nombres y figuras to Mandiargues, Cortázar
and Paz. Regarding Paz, I have lost track of him in these months
of epistolary laziness. Do you know his address? Can you send
it to me? The poet Goytisolo was here, and I had a long telephone
conversation with him, before I left for a beautiful and distant
province where I astonished myself for several days talking with
gestures or whatever with the Indians.
a friend of or have friendly ties with several more or less famous
writers in this country. If you are interested in them for "La
Esquina" you have only to tell me the names you select.
I am thinking now of Adolfo Bioy Casares (he has a little 18-page
play) and above all Silvina Ocampo, whose stories sometimes take
up half a page. I could send you her two collections of stories
(I am talking about Silvina) and you can select some, or also
I could send you from here the selection already done by me.
surprised you didn't ask for photographs of me since chez nous
the bibliographical notes usually have them. If you plan to ask
me for them, please do it ahead of time, so I can send you the
most recent photos.
words referring to "knowing things about me" moved
me because of the friendship they imply. Also, because of a text
by Hölderlin which speaks of "telling each other about
themselves" because "that is what language is for."
Well, I can't tell you very much "about myself" at
least not now. I am coming out of some experiences which divide
life in something like stages. The main thing will be my final
separation from someone who, for two years, was my most intense
emotional tie. In the name of this tie I turned down, a few months
ago when I was in Paris, another person I had loved. Anyway,
somehow it is "natural" that it be this way since "you
and I Jorge Guillermo Federico Hegel" (sic Borges) are complicated
people or, more precisely, labyrinthine. In spite of this last,
I am not confused and I know perfectly well what I want and what
I don't want, which is, at times, a misfortune (don't imagine,
from what I say, that I'm mental since I am completely the opposite).
Please, let's stop talking about our own problem. I would like
to tell you more about myself when I recover my humor (don't
you think that it's a kind of Savior or Mender (I am referring
to "the blessed gift of humor"). Anyway, little by
little I will reveal myself, as we send letters and drawings.
I ask you to give my warmest homage to Victoria Gotor? I very
much liked your description of her, I mean I felt close to her.
since it's 4 in "the dawn of the day" I say goodbye
P.S. My book is beautiful. All my friends envy me that unusual
silver cover and the delicate blue printing.  A thousand thanks,
In regard to Michaux, I am deeply interested in your proposal
to translate something of his for your editions. The problem
I'm faced with is the scarcity of all of Michaux's books (they
are unavailable in Buenos Aires). I'd like you to go into detail
in regard to which texts you would like me to translate, as well
as the quantity, length, the time you can allow me, etc.
Pizarnik's Los trabajos y las noches (Bs.As.: Rd. Sudamericana,
1965) received the First Poetry Prize of the Municipality of
Nombres y Figuras, chapbook 10 of "La Esquina
was published with a silver cover. The front has a horse's head
in the style of the knight chess piece designed by Beneyto. La
Esquina was founded in Barcelona by Beneyto in 1968.
Buenos Aires, "le 46 févruar"?
friend Antonio: There are several things you have mentioned which
I haven't answered as speedily as I would have liked. I don't
think it was my fault, since I was overcome with asthma attacks
which dragged me to my most desolate "properties" -
evoking our venerated Michaux. The best thing, or the worst,
is that my asthma is exclusively of "psychic" origin,
according to my old friend, the president of the psychoanalytical
society of this city. For that reason, I felt as if I had betrayed
my own self. Anyway, I'm hurrying - it's 3 in the morning - to
write you a few lines because I don't like silence where there
should be language.
a non-recent letter I had answered although I forgot your question
about the "cassette" recorders. Unfortunately I do
not have this beautiful toy, although one of my friends would
be delighted to lend me one. Tell me: how can I send the aforesaid
cassette to you, in case I want to record some poems? I await
your instructions and after receiving them I shall take action.
Barcelona publishing company" where you started to collaborate:
as far as I go, you have my entire confidence and I give you
the freedom to publish what you like of mine, whether it be from
the little book of "La Esquina" or from the short,
short stories that I sent you.
CHICOS SALVAJES: J. Alvarez's secretary had promised just
today to send me your book. If it doesn't arrive this week, I
shall go personally and act like a violent person - I'm violent
every 5 or 10 years, but then I don't answer to any pronoun.
In parenthesis this shows you something about the orderliness
and promptness of J. Alvarez and how beneficial it is NOT to
publish chez lui. As far as my prologue, I wrote you that you
can count on it.
D. G. Medicis. Surely the criteria of Manuel Pacheco - and thanks
(tell him for me) for his esteem for my little works - must be
undisputed. But I like our friendship because we are keeping
it free of misunderstandings (as happens with me and dear A.
F. Molina). I think Marosa is good, I think she is more of an
innate poet than Molinari, than Carrera Andrade, than so many
famous well-read and educated men. But something happens with
the lovable Marosa. She doesn't draw on her whole self to write.
She fantasizes - and there are always beautiful images - and
fantasizes but she isn't conscious of the body of the poem, nor
of the rigorous lucidity which is worth putting at the service
of the treasures emanating from the unconscious inspiration or
the "other voice" or whatever it is. The sum total
is: if you and I KNOW the reason we love Michaux, Artaud, and
above all the unexcelled Lautréamont, then we have to
ask Marosa for something more than some fantasies written in
fluid but precarious, very poor language. And how is it possible
to disdain the somewhat suicidal conflict which each of us maintains
with language? Therefore: 1) my liking for Marosa would tell
you to publish her. 2) my intense love for the true and dangerous
poetry would tell you to wait, or that you read her with very
clear eyes, or that you manage to extract an "ultranthology"
from her texts. 3) Besides, and on the other hand, let's be careful
with the comments about the "best" foreign poets. For
example: someone was praising Blas de Otero to me. Do you like
him? I found him insignificant, that is: he might just as well
other hand, I'm telling you what only a minority - the secret
sect - knows in Argentina: the best poets are Olga Orozco and
Enrique Molina (both in their fifties). Enrique is hard to catch,
but if you want to publish an anthology of Olga's poems - how
you would enjoy illustrating them - just let me know. Both are
friends of mine . To sum up: since you allude to "feminine
names," I would reply that the highest, in Spanish American
poetry, is Olga Orozco (if she isn't very famous it's because
she doesn't want to be).
thing: the fiction. The ones who know - very few - list Silvina
Ocampo (Victoria's sister, though they are opposites) who is
married to the great Adolfo Bioy Casares. Fortunately for "La
Esquina," Silvina writes short texts. I believe I proposed
sending you a selection of, for example, 10 stories or, if you
have time, I would send you her 2 books of stories so that you
yourself could choose your favorites and publish them in your
editions or in the new one, the name of which you haven't told
me. Silvina - she's a friend of mine - consistently refuses any
such projects. For that reason, it amazed me when I showed her
your stories, your drawings and some letters and then she said
yes, why not, etc.
happy we agree about " literature written to order. I very
much liked your list if "some strange writers." One
exception: my dear "Néstor Sánchez, I mean
to say: if we love Michaux, Potocki, Dylan, etc., etc., then
we can't "commit the solecism" - as Borges would say
- of admiring Néstor, an excellent person but a great
plagiarist of everyone.
Continuing with the feminine names: I can obtain many for you.
For example Norah Lange, the novelist, widow of Girondo. Or Elvira
Orphée, a novelist who is a poet and vice versa. Or Luisa
Mercedes Levinson, who wrote a book in collaboration with Borges.
You can let me know and then I will expand the list and the explanations.
asked me if I know anyone who does literary criticism and who
could comment on the new publishing company. To answer you, I
need more information. Names, and if they are novels or poems,
purposes of the collections, plans to publish Latin Americans,
etc. To which I add that my knowledge of the journalistic environment
is mediocre, perhaps because I don't like journalism or anything
related to it at all. But if, for example, you publish me, Olga
O., Silvina O., etc. the critics will be forced - I suppose -
to notice that strange event occurring in Barcelona.
you for the clipping about Ramn. I found it very interesting.
As far as ZUT, I can't hide my envy for the beautiful
green cover and for the folder in general. I liked the poems.
I liked your image - it is the most authentic, the most responsive,
or, what is the same, the most real.
package with 50 copies of my book ARRIVED. How can I thank you,
dear Antonio? In regard to your encounter with A.M. Matute, it's
so delicious that you ought to write a little story - just as
happens to her, I am fascinated and bewitched and spellbound
by mechanical pencils and felt pens (I have 83) and everything
that exists in those palaces called stationery stores.
that nothing interests me less than the articles about my books.
Nevertheless, I read the one that appeared in La voz de Albacete
several times. It is respectful and warm and one can see that
it caressed the book instead of mistreating it. I emphasize the
"respectful" because I identify myself with Artaud's:
"No familiarity. Not in life, nor, above all, in thought."
Which would be a modern version of "I will only sing my
song to those who go with me." 
delighted that you want to come to Argentina. Although I am a
creature rather apart from the "scenes," I know a lot
of people, so I would be happy to help you in what I can.
myself, the prospect of living for a time in Barcelona is not
unattractive. Tell me if it would be easy for me to find a little
work (I'm very sober; I don't need much money) that would allow
me to live there without bothering my mother with requests. Perhaps
we could make an arrangement: I would let you use my apartment
in B. Aires and you would lend me yours in Barcelona, so we could
both avoid the gloom of hotels. Nevertheless, A place like Ibiza,
for instance, calls to me. I suppose that 6 months - for example
- confined there, would make me , perhaps, write some less bitter
poems. I would like for you to tell me how much money is necessary
- if you know, - and, also, how much in Palma de Mallorca, which
also attracts me -I will ask A.F.M. about this.
trust my photos. They are and are not me. There is a mystery
that makes me reveal my most hidden faces to the camera.
now I'll leave you to go and mail this letter at a distant post
office that doesn't close at night.
P.S. If you are interested, ask for texts from Maurice Nadeau,
a recent prize winner.Use me as a reference. I recommend as well
the novels and articles on theater by Nadeau's secretary, Geneviève
 Pizarnik 's note at the bottom of the
first page of the letter: "They are surrealists."
is referring to the catalog that accompanied the first exhibit
of the group ZUT (Antonio Beneyto, Pere Pages, Alejandro Grimal,
T. Ruiz Arago, Nuvoloni, Ramón Serrano and Bigas Balcells)
that took place on May 9, 1969 in the Bar Taita of Barcelona
and on May 10, 1969 in the Cercle Artistic de Sant Lluc. ZUT
was an avant-garde group of artists that united painters, engravers,
sculptors, writers, musicians and photographers in an attempt
to "integrate" different artistic manifestations in
order to create a sharper awareness of reality: "The artists
of ZUT have decided to commit themselves and their time, to integrate
their live with the here and now of the passing moment."
(Barcelona, Maig 1969)
 She is referring to Ramón Bello Bañón's
review of Nombres y figuras (La voz de Albacete,
October 14, 1969).
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