Josephine Delgado, a life full of literature

Josephine Delgado

He says they already had everything ready, that they even had a farewell party at the house of Beatrice Sarlo. He says that he couldn’t take it anymore, that he had two children and every time the phone rang, he sensed the threat. He says that several of his friends had already left—they should have left—and that during the night they had knocked over a piece of furniture outside the door: he says they thought it would give them a few extra seconds. He says fear and he says terror and he says terror and his eyes darken. He says that explosions were heard from time to time and that the ten-year-old told the five-year-old, “Don’t be scared, Dad, it was a bomb.” Say what Cortazarwhom he met in 1973 was attentive to his situation – there is a letter documenting it – and that Arocene he had found them a house and a job in Austin, Texas, teaching Spanish. He says that they already had everything ready to go, but something happened: the job or the accommodation did not work and suddenly they found themselves in an insoluble problem and decided to stay.

Borges and me

“We didn’t want it Borges“, she recalls now, in a bar of Uriburu and Melo, in Recoleta, on a sunny Saturday that warms the winter and where the waitresses know her so well that they serve her coffee without asking her. “I was from PCR and he publicly joined the Conservative Party“, he says, “we respected him literary, but he was, how shall I say, a witness to hell.”

The us refers to Richard King, Jose Malagon Y Luis Tedescowith whom they founded the magazine The owla kind of response to The gold bugon Abelardo Castillo. It was the early 60s and they had gone to see him in the National Library, where he received them without a preliminary audience. In order not to fall into the political discussion – to which Borges would not have succumbed in any case – the interview was strictly literary. None of them could have foreseen that thirty years later Delgado would be in charge of the sub-directorate of the library and that he would recover the first editions and manuscripts of many of the stories that in that day spoke of the Argentine heritage.

Although in spurts, meetings with Borges persisted over the years, and the initial apprehension gave way to a sense of friendship that lives on in the memory. Delgado devotes several passages to Borges in his autobiography, imperfect memories (2014). He speaks, for example, of the months he was assigned to accompany him while he wrote the prologues to Shakespeare’s tragedies.

“I particularly remember the day the Nobel Prize was awarded,” he wrote in the book. “Fanny had to give him a sleeping pill the night before. The next morning she told me she was nervous. However, nothing in our conversation hinted at this possible concern. A few days later, when it became clear that they would not give it to him, he admitted to me that he would like to have the money to buy a house in the southern district”.

Josefina Delgado at the Walter Benjamin Foundation, Frankfurt, 2011. (Photo by Mordzinski)
Josefina Delgado at the Walter Benjamin Foundation, Frankfurt, 2011. (Photo by Mordzinski)

On the art of the novel

In the 1970s and 1980s, Delgado was a cultural manager who actively intervened in saving works, promoting young authors from Argentina and abroad, etc. He formed networks between these writers and also acted as a bridge so that some of them could visit Borges: the Brazilian Nelida Pinonthe Chilean George Edwardsso many others.

Delgado speaks and the names appear in a row: Beatrice Guido, Jose Donoso, Antonio Di Benedetto, Joseph Saramagobut also Julian Barnes, John Cruz Ruiz, Sergio Ramirez, Mario Vargas Llosa. But this name dropping It’s a cover-up exercise. Delgado tells his life, but through others. How to be unimportant.

There is one final fact that surrounds Borges and that has long been the subject of controversy and version. At the end of 1982, Borges was a member of the jury of a literary prize organized by the publishing house where Josefina Delgado worked and which was completed with the presence of Jose Donoso, Enrique Pesoni, George Laforgue and myself. Over 1,700 competitors showed up. The award had two important problems. The first was the amount: the winner received $5,000, which at the time was the value of a one-bedroom apartment; the second was that Argentine writers living in Argentina and abroad could participate, which meant a political manifesto and recognition of the exiles. The winner was Charles Gardini with a story about the Malvinas, “front line”.

Imperfect Memories, by Josephine Delgado (2014)
Imperfect Memories, by Josephine Delgado (2014)

One of the contestants was Rodolfo Foguil who for years recounted how his story was read to Borges. Borges was now blind and had to be read to. I myself reproduced Fogill’s version in a 2010 interview: “It’s one of my best stories,” he said, “Pezzoni and Josefina Delgado read it to him, and they both did the same thing: they left out the part where the character hugs.” . And ended the anecdote with Borges’ assessment: “This man masters the art of ellipsis.” Last year, Delgado came out to clarify on Twitter that “what Fogill said was completely false.”

In a passage from imperfect memories we’re talking about the contest. Here are two excerpts:

I learned a lot from reading [a Borges]. The memory of his sincere surprise from “first line” I only have him. “He has a lot of power,” he said. “Is what he says true?” When I told him I didn’t think so, he concluded that it was his belief that mattered. I loved it “night visit”, “Plagiarism and Death”, ‘The Challenger’, “Initiation to Fear”He found Foguille’s story curious. I do not like him “plane of the sun” neither “The Celebrations”which Donoso described as a very mature story”.

Then the award ceremony [fue] at Hotel Claridge’s, where Borges did not come, and a kind of claim to the purity of this competition, made in the form of a reader’s letter by a finalist writer: Rodolfo Foguil”.

In Cortazar's tomb
In Cortazar’s tomb

you leave Alfonsina

How many events are enough to tell a life. How many stories, how many tragedies, how many battles, how many books. Among the several books that Delgado has published, there is one that stands out above the rest: Alfonsina Storni. Substantial biography (Planet, 2001).

His story with the author of Love poems It started when I was in 5th grade. class and the called teacher Rita Victoria, had them read “I’m going to sleep.” This poem, which talks about suicide, ignited the gothic-romantic spirit of the students. “Teeth of color, cap of dew, / hands of herbs, you, good nurse, / lend me the sheets of earth / and the quilt of storm moss,” says the first stanza and ends “Ah, errand: / if he calls again on the phone / you tell him not to insist that I’m out”.

The girls finished school with the promise to meet again and visit the monument in Mar del Plata. Alfonsina never lets go of Josefina Delgado. So much so that in 1986 she founded the Women’s Library, which she named “Alfonsina Storni”. So much so that when Felix Luna told her he was preparing a collection of the women of history, she told him, almost shouted at him, “I’m doing Alfonsina!”

Josephine Delgado at the Book Fair.  I visited the Ticmas booth
Josephine Delgado at the Book Fair. I visited the Ticmas booth

Gutted despair

The interview ends, but Delgado sends a long audio via WhatsApp about his friendship with Jose Donoso. He has a dreamy voice

“I met him in 1982 when he was a jury for the award and we immediately became very close friends. He liked to walk the streets of the city. I accompanied him and we made real excursions, like going to Tigre by train. In the years that followed, we would stop at bookstores where we knew his books were available, and I would go in and ask how many were left. He began to write Hopelessness, which was the novel of the comeback and, as he usually came to Buenos Aires, he brought the drafts and I gave him my opinion and felt it a wonderful privilege. I have a card he wrote me in November 1985 where he says. “I am gutted with despair and I am lying on the ground. I am in the same condition. In the 90s published Taratura/Still life with hookah, which are two short stories, and in “Taratura” I am one of the characters, precisely the one who goes with the writer. I appear with my most familiar name, Native gold“.

With Borges in 1992
With Borges in 1992

Featured Person

After the return of democracy, Josephine Delgado held positions in public administration. She was the director of Libraries of the City of Buenos Aires during two managements: he dealt with the catalogs, the improvement of fourteen buildings, he worked on the restoration of great writers and on a great tribute to the centenary of Borges, which included the publication of an anthology that was given away with the purchase of every book by an Argentine author .

In the presidency of Fernando de la Rua he continues his work at the National Library. I was going to be the director, but the new president asked for it Francis Delich —the former rector of SBH— led and she was second. They took office on January 17, 2000. “Then radio and television were waiting for me,” he recalls, his blue eyes turning dreamy. The administration ended prematurely with the resignation of De la Rua, and shortly after, thanks to a proposal by Kive Steiffwas included in Center for Theater and Dance Communication of the Theater Complex of Buenos Aires to dedicate itself to the preservation of the archive of the San Martín Theater. In 2007, he took over as Deputy Secretary of Culture of the city and from there promotes the work of young writers in order to present them to publishing houses in the country and abroad: Hernan Roncino, Gabriela Cabeson Camara, Esteban Castroman Y Julian Lopez are some of the authors it spawned.

The biographical arc of Josephine Delgado This is another chapter in the story that explains the country: a political prisoner in the 1960s, persecuted by a genocidal dictatorship in the 1970s, a servant of democracy in the 1980s, next week she will receive an award for overall contribution from the Legislature of Buenos Aires Next Monday, September 19, thanks to the initiative of Deputy Ariel Alvarez Palmawill be recognized as an outstanding cultural figure.


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