"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 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. The narrator's conflicted memory, as well as the intrusion of memories that are not her own, illustrate Ocampo's struggle with dementia in the last years of her life, and much like the author herself, here we find a narrator writing "against a world of conventional ideas."
City Lights Publishers 2019. New paperback; 120 pages