Woman as Witness: Essays on Testimonial Literature by Latin American Women

By Linda S. Maier; Isabel Dulfano | Go to book overview

Victoria Ocampo's Making
of Self in Her Autobiograf'a

MIMI Y. YANG


In memory of Theja Gunawardhana

Victoria Ocampo (Argentina, 1890—1979) is known as a feminist, autobiographer, essayist, cultural ambassador, and magazine director (Sur). Her contribution to Latin American letters is enormous, and her prolific publications treat a variety of themes ranging from literature, criticism and classics to society, women, arts, politics, Argentine history, Oriental philosophy, and of course, her own life. As a writer, she wrote “more than ten volumes of essays and several longer biographical studies and dramas, not to mention dozens of translations and hundreds of published letters” (Meyer, Against the Wind and the Tide 171). Ocampo herself compares her writing to “the Argentine pampa in its sprawling, uncontained quality— impetuous and unpredictable, like the frontier itself” (Meyer, “Victora Ocampo, Argentine Identity” 60). My purpose in this essay is not to examine Ocampo's prominence as a literary, cultural, social, and political icon, but rather to consider the making of her character and spirit—that is, her inner world. In so doing, I intend to map out the sprawling pampa of Ocampo's writings and to chart the process of her self-construction. Ocampo's self, unconfined within its “categories, ” transgresses frontiers and transcends the conventional modes of perception and expression in her time and society.

After her death in 1979, Ocampo's serial essays on a wide range of topics published since 1931 have been grouped in eight volumes under the title Testimonios. My interest, however, lies in her six-volume Autobiografía, her only other work. It “is remarkable for its pre-history of the author” and

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