Two years ago the online translation magazine Words Without Borders (WWB) published an issue devoted to contemporary Argentinean fiction. "Beyond Borges", the title of the issue, was proof of César Aira's assertion that every writer from Argentina finds herself writing against the master.
A year ago The Argentina Independent also launched a series called "Beyond Borges". It profiled writers like Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Leopoldo Lugones, Silvina Ocampo, Ernesto Sabato, Alejandra Pizarnik, Rodolfo Walsh, and many more.
"The Golden Hare", a story by Silvina Ocampo (1903-1993), was included in the WWB issue. Ocampo, who was part of a literary set with Borges and Bioy Casares, wrote poetry and story collections. She was younger sister to Victoria Ocampo, the founder of the influential literary journal Sur. She edited with husband Bioy and friend Borges the anthology The Book of Fantasy (1940) which contains 80-plus stories from an international set of writers. Her own writing style was considered as belonging to the surrealist-fantastic mold. Only two other books of hers appeared in English: the collection Leopoldina's Dream (1988) and the novella The Topless Tower (2010).
"The Golden Hare" is a fable for children and adults. It first appeared in the collection La furia in 1959. The story was about an immortal hare who had undergone a series of metamorphoses ("innumerable transmigrations" of soul) and then was pursued by a pack of dogs. Its meaning was not readily transparent. At some point, the narrator warned, "This is not a children's story, Jacinto", but then acknowledged that the conversation between the animals could enchant a curious seven-year old boy.
The opening was rather ornate: "In the bosom of the afternoon the sun illuminated her like a conflagration in the engravings of an ornate Bible." The overall tone hovered between menace ("The dogs were not evil, but they had sworn to catch the hare just to kill her.") and whimsicality ("The black Dane had time to snatch up an alfajor or some other pastry, which he kept in his mouth until the end of the race.").
Meanings can surely be attached like prostethic antlers to the head, although that's another animal. There was something about the tale that resembled the slipperiness of a hare, or a deer. Andrea Rosenberg, the story's translator, wrote a brief note about gender and word choice. She pointed out that "it is impossible to read Ocampo’s original without noticing how the contrast between dogs and hare is underscored by their opposing grammatical gender." The story was not limited, however, by the assumed gender of its participants.
If not for any earth-shattering insights, read it for the sake of reading. It was a short playful race too.
A Halloween-ish post for the Argentinean Literature of Doom. More translated works by Argentinean writers – Saer, Piglia, etc. – appearing in WWB can be accessed here.