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City Lights Books

The Promise

The Promise

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Kirkus Reviews calls The Promise one of the Best Books of Fiction, and of Literature in Translation, of the year

* Voted one of the Big Fall Books from Indies by Publishers Weekly & LitHub's Most Anticipated Books of 2019

The world is ready for her blend of insane Angela Carter with the originality of Clarice Lispector.--Mariana Enriquez, LitHub

Both her debut story collection, Forgotten Journey, and her only novel, The Promise, are strikingly 20th-century texts, written in a high-modernist mode rarely found in contemporary fiction.--Lily Meyer, NPR

Silvina Ocampo is the next writer you should be reading.--Michael Silverblatt

A dying woman's attempt to recount the story of her life reveals the fragility of memory and the illusion of identity.

Of all the words that could define her, the most accurate is, I think, ingenious.--Jorge Luis Borges

I don't know of another writer who better captures the magic inside everyday rituals, the forbidden or hidden face that our mirrors don't show us.--Italo Calvino

Few writers have an eye for the small horrors of everyday life; fewer still see the everyday marvelous. Other than Silvina Ocampo, I cannot think of a single writer who, at any time in any language, has chronicled both with such wise and elegant humor.--Alberto Manguel

Art is the cure for death. A seminal work by an underread master. Required for all students of the human condition.--Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

This haunting and vital final work from Ocampo, her only novel, is about a woman's life flashing before her eyes when she's stranded in the ocean. . . . the book's true power is its depiction of the strength of the mind and the necessity of storytelling, which for the narrator is literally staving off death. Ocampo's portrait of one woman's interior life is forceful and full of hope.--Gabe Habash, Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

Ocampo is beyond great--she is necessary.--Hernan Diaz, author of In the Distance

I don't know of another writer who better captures the magic inside everyday rituals, the forbidden or hidden face that our mirrors don't show us.--Italo Calvino

These two newly translated books could make her a rediscovery on par with Clarice Lispector. . . . there has never been another voice like hers.--John Freeman, Executive Editor, LitHub

Like William Blake, Ocampo's first voice was that of a visual artist; in her writing she retains the will to unveil immaterial so that we might at least look at it if not touch it.--Helen Oyeyemi, author of Gingerbread

A woman traveling on a transatlantic ship has fallen overboard. Adrift at sea, she makes a promise to Saint Rita, arbiter of the impossible, that if she survives, she will write her life story. As she drifts, she wonders what she might include in the story of her life--a repertoire of miracles, threats, and people parade tumultuously through her mind. Little by little, her imagination begins to commandeer her memories, escaping the strictures of realism.

Translated into English for the very first time, The Promise showcases Silvina Ocampo at her most feminist, idiosyncratic and subversive. Ocampo worked quietly to perfect this novella over the course of twenty-five years, nearly up until the time of her death in 1993.



Author: Silvina Ocampo
Publisher: City Lights Books
Published: 11/05/2019
Pages: 120
Binding Type: Paperback
Weight: 0.30lbs
Size: 6.90h x 4.90w x 0.50d
ISBN: 9780872867710

Review Citation(s):
Publishers Weekly 07/08/2019
Kirkus Reviews 09/01/2019 pg. 34

About the Author

Silvina Ocampo was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1903. A central figure of Argentine literary circles, Ocampo's accolades include Argentina's National Poetry Prize and a Guggenheim fellowship. She was an early contributor to Argentina's Sur magazine, where she worked closely with its founder, her sister; Adolfo Bioy Casares, her husband; and Jorge Luis Borges. In 1937, Sur published Ocampo's first book, Viaje olvidado. She went on to publish thirteen volumes of fiction and poetry during a long and much-lauded career. Ocampo died in Buenos Aires in 1993. La promesa, her only novel, was posthumously published in 2011.

Suzanne Jill Levine is the General Editor of Penguin's paperback classics of Jorge Luis Borges' poetry and essays (2010) and a noted translator, since 1971, of Latin American prose and poetry by distinguished writers such as Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Julio Cortázar, Carlos Fuentes, Manuel Puig, Severo Sarduy, and Adolfo Bioy Casares. She has published over 40 booklength translations not to mention hundreds of poetry and prose translations in anthologies and journals such as the New Yorker (including one of Ocampo's stories in their recent flash fiction issue).

Levine has received many honors, among them PEN awards, several NEA and NEH grants, Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and more recently the PEN USA Translation prize for José Donoso's posthumous novel The Lizard's Tale.

Founder of Translation Studies at UCSB, she has mentored students throughout her academic career (including Jessica Powell and Katie Lateef Jan). Levine is author of several books including the poetry chapbook Reckoning (2012); The Subversive Scribe: Translating Latin American Fiction (1991; 2009); Manuel Puig and the Spiderwoman: His Life and Fictions (FSG, 2000, 2002). Her most recent translation is Guadalupe Nettel's Bezoar and Other Unsettling Stories (2020) for Seven Stories Press.

Jessica Powell has published dozens of translations of literary works by a wide variety of Latin American writers. She was the recipient of a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship in support of her translation of Antonio Benítez Rojo's novel, Woman in Battle Dress(City Lights, 2015), which was a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Translation. Her translation of Wicked Weeds by Pedro Cabiya (Mandel Vilar Press, 2016), was named a finalist for the 2017 Best Translated Book Award and made the longlist for the 2017 National Translation Award. Her translation of Pablo Neruda's book-length poem, venture of the infinite man, was published by City Lights Books in October 2017. Her most recent translation, of Edna Iturralde's award-winning book, Green Was My Forest, was published by Mandel Vilar Press in September, 2018.

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