Letters From Alejandra Pizarnik to
Antonio Beneyto

(Traslated by Carlota Caulfield and Angela McEwan)

How I Met Alejandra Pizarnik (Fragments)

Antonio Beneyto
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 of 1967.

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

Thank 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]); [1] 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 de Mallorca.
I feel moved and proud that you are opening your new book with one of my texts.[2] 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. [3]
In regard to A. Pieyre de Mandiargues and his wife, they will be in Venice at the following address until October 15:
San Bastian 1709 D.D.
It would be very nice if you chose a short story of Mandiargues IN ADVANCE and asked him for permission to publish it in "La Esquina" [4]. 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.
I am 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.
I am 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.
Thank you for the blue color of the print in the book.
As soon 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.
I just 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.[5]
Yes, 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.
I think 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.

Until very soon, I hope. Yours



[1] Pizarnik is referring to her book Extracción de la piedra de locura (Bs.As.: Ed. Sudamericana, 1968).

[2] 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?

[3] She is referring to Beneyto's Algunos niños, empleos y desempleos de Alcebate (Barcelona: Ed Lumen, 1974).

[4] 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.

[5] 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 in 1971.


Buenos Aires, 10-26-69

Dear 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.[1]
I "envy" (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.
(Last 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.)
I'll obtain a cassette recorder, but how do I send the cassette? I await instructions. In addition, what would you prefer I read or say?
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 ever.
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.
The helpful secretary at the Editorial Jorge Alvarez set you book aside. [2] 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 my house.
I liked your face (I'm speaking of the photo).[3] 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 "on demand."
My delay 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.
With a hug from


[1] On December 2, 1992, Farreras Valenti wrote to Antonio Beneyto:

Dear Antonio,

Thank 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.
I see 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.
Neither 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 years.


Once again, Thank you. And a hug.


[2] Beneyto's Los chicos salvajes.

[3] 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

Dear 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 table).
I already 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.
I am 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. [1] 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).
I will 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.
I am 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.
I am 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.
Your 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.
Did 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.
And since it's 4 in "the dawn of the day" I say goodbye with a
Very affectionate hug


P.S. My book is beautiful. All my friends envy me that unusual silver cover and the delicate blue printing. [2] A thousand thanks, dear Antonio.

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.

[1]Pizarnik's Los trabajos y las noches (Bs.As.: Rd. Sudamericana, 1965) received the First Poetry Prize of the Municipality of Buenos Aires.

[2]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"?

Dear 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.
I reread 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.
Re "the 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.
Re LOS 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.
Re MAROSA 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 not exist.
On the 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 [1]. 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).
Another 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.
I'm 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.
You 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.
Thank you for the clipping about Ramn. I found it very interesting. As far as ZUT,[2] 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.
The 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.
I confess 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." [3]
I am 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.
For 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.
Don't trust my photos. They are and are not me. There is a mystery that makes me reveal my most hidden faces to the camera.
And now I'll leave you to go and mail this letter at a distant post office that doesn't close at night.
A hug from your


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 Serreau.

[1] Pizarnik 's note at the bottom of the first page of the letter: "They are surrealists."

[2] She 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)

[3] She is referring to Ramón Bello Bañón's review of Nombres y figuras (La voz de Albacete, October 14, 1969).