Piglia, Ricardo (Emilio) 1941(?)-

views updated

PIGLIA, Ricardo (Emilio) 1941(?)-


Born 1941, in Adrogue, Argentina; married Beba Eguia (a translator). Education: Graduated from University of La Plata (history), 1965.


Home—Buenos Aires, Argentina. Office—Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures, Princeton University, 346 East Pyne, Princeton, NJ 08544. E-mail—[email protected].


Novelist, literary critic, and educator. Worked as a proofreader and editor in Argentina; currently professor at Princeton University, Princeton, NJ. Has also taught at universities, including Harvard University, Boston, MA; University of California, Santa Cruz; and University of California, Davis.


Casa de las Américas prize, for Jaulario; Boris Vian prize, for Respiración artificial; Nacional prize, for La ciudad ausente; Planeta prize, for Plata quemada; Bartolomé March prize, 2001, for Formas breves.


La invasión; (short stories), [Argentina,] 1967.

Nombre falso, Siglo Veintuino Editores (Mexico), 1975, translation by Sergio Gabriel Waisman published as Assumed Name, Latin American Literary Review Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1995.

Respiración artificial, Editorial Pomaire (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1980, translation by Daniel Balderston published as Artificial Respiration, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 1994.

Crítica y ficción (interviews), Universidad Nacional del Litoral (Santa Fe, Argentina), 1986, 2nd edition, Seix Barral (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 2000.

Prisión perpetua, Editorial Sudamericana (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1988.

Por un relato futuro: diálogo (literary criticism), Centro de Publicaciones, Universidad Nacional del Litoral (Santa Fe, Argentina), 1990.

La ciudad ausente, Editorial Sudamericana (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1992, translation by Sergio Gabriel Waisman published as The Absent City, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2000.

La Argentina en pedazos, Ediciones de la Urraca (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1993.

Cuentos morales: antologia, 1961-1990, Espasa Calpe (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1995.

(With Juan José) Diálogo (literary criticism), Centro de Publicaciones, Universidad Nacional del Litoral (Santa Fe, Argentina), 1995.

Plata quemada, Planeta (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1997, translation by Amanda Hopkinson published as Money to Burn, Granta (New York, NY), 2003.

Formas breves (essays; title means "Brief Forms"), Temas Grupo Editorial (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1999.

(Editor) Diccionario de la novella de Macedonio Fernández (literary criticism), Fondo de Cultura Económica (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 2000.

Tres propuestas para el próximo milenio (y cinco dificultades) = mi Buenos Aires querida, Fondo de Cultura Económica (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 2001.

El pianista, La Cortonera Eloísa (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 2003.

(With Katarzyna Olga Beilin and others) Conversaciones literarias con novelisticas contemporáneos (interviews), Tamesis (Rochester, NY), 2004.

Author of screenplays, including adaptations of "Diary for a Story" by Julio Cortazar; The Shipyard by Juan Carlos Onettie; and "The Impostor" by Silvina Ocamp. Also collaborated on screenplay La sonnambula; adapted his story "En otro país" for the film Foolish Heart.

Novels have been translated into English, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese.


Nombre falso was adapted as a film; Plata quemada was adapted for film by Marcelo Piñeyro and released as Burnt Money by Grupo Editorial Norma, 2000; La ciudad ausente was adapted as an opera with music by Gerardo Gandini, performed at Colón Opera House in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


A novel, Blanco nocturno, about the Malvinas war.


Ricardo Piglia is arguably Argentina's most prominent contemporary writer. Admired as a literary critic and novelist, Piglia is known for deftly mixing genres, literary influences, and historical and political issues in a unique blend that is both captivating and intellectually challenging. In Américas, Caleb Bach explained how the author "through a flux of singular ingenuity and imagination … has managed to forge an amalgam distinctly his own." Bach also stated that Piglia's "narratives, which mix fact with fiction and employ a variety of high-and low-brow devices, possess a kaleidoscopic quality." Library Journal contributor Silvia Gil de Cwilich, commenting on Pilgia's essays in Formas breves, suggested that the author is Argentina's "most perceptive contemporary reader" and "perhaps its best practitioner." Piglia teaches literature at Princeton University, dividing his time between the United States and Argentina.

As a student at the University of La Plata, Piglia studied history and planned to be a writer. He first found work as a proofreader and went on to edit police stories and detective novels, forms he has always loved. His own short stories were gathered in the 1967 collection La invasión. The book was also published as Jaulario in Cuba, where it was awarded the Casa de las Americas Prize. In another early collection of short stories, Nombre falso, Piglia copied the style of Argentinean author Roberto Arlt so successfully that some readers believed that the story "Luba" was a newly discovered work by Arlt.

In the mid-1970s Piglia moved to the United State, teaching there while his home country was ruled by military dictatorship. Political repression and politically motivated revisions of history became important themes in Piglia's fiction beginning with the novel Respiración artificial. This work introduces novelist Emilio Renzi, who also reappears in some of Piglia's more recent works. In Respiración Artificial, Renzi is searching for an uncle who vanished during Argentina's "Dirty War" of the 1970s and 1980s, when a military dictatorship ruled the country. Letters exchanged between Renzi and his uncle prior to the war explore a vast range of historical events and figures.

In The Absent City Renzi takes a secondary role while his assistant, Junior, tries to find a machine created by poet-novelist Macedonio Fernández to hold the memory of his deceased wife, Elena. After the poet's death, the machine begins telling stories that reveal terrible secrets about the war and will be silenced if it is found by the police. Booklist critic Frank Caso described the work as treading "a dense narrative path that is often confusing but never boring." Lee McQueen commented in Library Journal that "those used to the Borges tradition of mixing the real and the unreal will appreciate Piglia's style." Although the book was described as "frequently confusing" by Thomas Hove in the Review of Contemporary Fiction, the contributor concluded that "overcoming the plot's difficulties should satisfy anyone interested in seeing how intricate literary puzzles reflect the political significance of the narrative imagination."

A legendary 1965 bank robbery in Argentina is the basis for Piglia's novel Money to Burn. The book tells how the band of robbers escaped with millions to Montevideo, hoping to make it to New York City. While hiding out, they indulge in sex, alcohol, and cocaine, and the reader learns about their hopeless pasts. The gang is unaware that a tip has brought 300 policemen to surround their apartment. During the bloody shootout that follows, the robbers decide to set the money on fire and throw it, burning, out the windows. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that "the plotting is choppy, the ending predictable and many of the action sequences run out of gas, but Piglia's remarkably precise descriptions and feel for his characters keep the novel's engine churning." Library Journal contributor David Wright stated that the book is "reminiscent of both classic noir fiction and reportorial masterworks like Truman Capote's In Cold Blood." Wright concluded that the book "should not be missed by fans."

Piglia told CA: "What first got me interested in writing was the idea of speaking well. The writers whom one admires are not always the ones who most influence one's work. Of course, the writers whom I admire have changed with the years, as have the names in my ideal library. Let us say (since we are speaking of libraries) that Jorge Luis Borges has been the writer whom I have always read as if I were reading him for the first time.

"I write every morning, and what I write every morning is always different than what I want to write. Writing has made me change the way I read. My favorite among my own writings is the story 'The Madwoman and the Story of the Crime,' from my book Assumed Name. In that text I was miraculously able to recount in ten pages (or I imagine that I was miraculously able to recount in ten pages) a story that I now read as if it were a novel that is a river, and vice versa. Like all writers, I would like, with my books, to help imagine reality in other ways."



Américas, May-June, 2002, Caleb Bach, "Between the Lines of a Literary Detective: Ricardo Piglia," p. 44.

Booklist, November 1, 2000, Frank Caso, review of The Absent City, p. 519.

Latin American Literary Review, January-June, 1997, Brett Levinson, "Trans(re)lations: Dictatorship, Disaster, and the 'Literary Politics' of Piglia's Respiración artificial, "p.91.

Library Journal, summer, 2001, Sivia Gil de Cwilich, review of Formas breves, p. 38; December, 2000, Lee McQueen, review of The Absent City, p. 192; December, 2003, David Wright, review of Money to Burn, p. 169.

Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, October, 1991, Ellen McCracken, "Meta-plagiarism and the Critic's Role as Detective: Ricardo Piglia's Reinvention of Roberto Arlt," p. 1071.

Publishers Weekly, October 13, 2003, review of Money to Burn, p. 55.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, summer, 2001, Thomas Hove, review of The Absent City, p. 152.


Literatura Argentina Contemporánea Online,http://www.literatura.org/ (August 26, 2004), "Ricardo Piglia."

Princeton University Web site,http://www.princeton.edu/ (August 26, 2004), "Ricardo Piglia."