Continuation of the late Argentine novelist and scholar’s revisitation of the country of his youth.
Happy years? Piglia’s (1940-2017) alter ego wades into the 1960s a touch less confused than in the predecessor volume, Formative Years (2017). He plans, carefully, meticulously, his budding career as a writer, worrying in one notebook entry about his chances for success: “And what if the best thing I have ever written, the best thing I will ever write in my life were these notes, these fragments, in which I record that I never manage to write the way I would like to?” But those notebook entries, telling stories within Piglia’s larger story, are more effective than a larger framing narrative might be, announcing themes and introducing characters who turn up at odd moments. One of those themes is Renzi’s constant self-scrutiny, which sometimes threatens to become circular: “I have recorded here a substantial though incomplete part of my daily activities,” Piglia writes, “which, due to those same occupations, I can’t always record in this diary.” A figure who pops up from time to time is the legendary writer Jorge Luis Borges, evoked in a story about a duel fought by two men near a drug store so that, according to Borges, “they could be treated”; getting off a bus, Renzi later spots Borges on a Buenos Aires street: “I see him passing and call his name, and he pauses a moment and smiles toward me.” While engaged with the likes of Lacan and Sartre, Renzi mostly confines his political engagement, in a time of rising authoritarianism, to making notebook sketches of cops-and-robbers stories and questioning “the autonomy of literature, or rather, the illusion of autonomy in literature"; his resistance is subtle, though real. One wonders whether the next volume, set in the time of the generals, will see more direct involvement with the world outside Renzi’s study.
A significant work of modern Latin American literature by a writer too little known.