After Princeton: On the Ricardo Piglia Papers
Ricardo Piglia was one of the most relevant Hispanic writers of the second half of the 20th Century. After his death in 2017, new approaches to his work are needed. The Ricardo Piglia papers at Princeton University, which were opened up for research in 2018, offer the opportunity for a turn in the academic interpretation of his work. These papers consist of different materials, including letters, drafts, pictures, notebooks, lecture notes, and Piglia’s famous diaries, among other items. These documents are generally easy to navigate, especially the diaries, drafts, and correspondence. However, Piglia’s notebooks prove challenging, as they seem to have been classified mostly based on the content of the first page of each notebook (thus, a notebook tagged “Notas sobre Proust” does not cover the contents one would expect). It is necessary to add that many letters held in the archive are not included in the correspondence boxes but will be found between the pages of Piglia’s diaries. This should be relevant to anyone interested in the correspondence between Piglia and Andrés Rivera (a series of letters that need attention, if not publication). Therefore, whereas some of the papers are easy to handle, other documents require patience from researchers.
Among the most interesting documents are Piglia’s diaries, a series of notebooks that register events and ideas in detail (at least until the end of the 70s). The contrast between these and Los diarios de Emilio Renzi (the published version) is already a matter of scholarly interest. One can find the expected additions in the published diaries, but I would argue that omissions are even more relevant. As has been noted, the young Piglia/Renzi is “unusually mature” in Los diarios. Researchers will find a much more adolescent vein (and a few poems) in the early entries. Later on, Piglia’s readings seem even wider than they appear in his published work. Authors such as Hélène Cixous, Merleau-Ponty or Vicente Leñero were discarded at some point, and Piglia’s approach to Barthes and psychoanalysis is, arguably, very different from the attitude we are used to. This filtration process deserves further examination.
Piglia’s intellectual endeavour was aimed at rewriting the history of Argentine fiction, a process that included positioning himself as one of its great figures. Self-canonisation is as important in his work as his analysis of the relationship between literature and politics. This is why Piglia’s manipulation of his own image (both via Emilio Renzi or his own name) needs to be addressed. The Ricardo Piglia papers can help us understand how Piglia turned himself into a myth.
After the writer’s passing, it is even more urgent that we approach his work in a less “Pigliesque” manner, recognising both the advantages and shortcomings of his views on literature in general and Argentine fiction in particular. I have attempted to show that the Ricardo Piglia papers provide essential tools for such a renewal. If we diversify the perspectives on Piglia’s work, we can only enrich it. I have no doubt new elements (such as the role of masculinity or the symbolism of light) will soon emerge and change our view of Ricardo Piglia’s writing.
Fernando Concha Correa
University of Warwick