Alejandra Pizarnik

Flora Alejandra Pizarnik was born on April 29, 1936 at the Fiorito Hospital in Avellaneda. Her parents, Elías Pozharnik and Rezla Bromiker, had emigrated from Rovna, a Russian-Polish town, due to the advance of Nazism during World War II. Before arriving in Buenos Aires they spent time in Paris and then arrived in Argentina. In the registry, Elías was registered with the last name Pizarnik and Rezla was noted as Rosa. Elías successfully dedicated himself to jewelry, so the family was able to settle in a spacious house.


In her family structure, Myriam, her older sister, was admired by her parents and the comparisons they made between the two gave Alejandra a complex. During her childhood she suffered a lot from not being thin. She suffered from nervous asthma and what was said to be a stutter, but which was actually slurring of the last syllable, a psychological reflection of her insecurities. Her family nicknamed her "Buma," which is Yiddish for "flower."


Ella Alexandra attended the Normal School No. 7 of Avellaneda and the Zalman Reizien Schule, a Hebrew school where she learned the history of her town, and reading and writing in Yiddish.


Her mother always remembered her childhood in Russia wistfully. The family suffered greatly during the Second World War. They received news of what was happening in Europe, but fewer and fewer letters arrived from relatives, some of whom were in concentration camps.


During high school, Alejandra, who sported a disheveled, bohemian style, became obsessed with her weight and began taking amphetamines.


In 1954 he finished high school and began to attend the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the UBA, at that time located at 430 Viamonte Street in the Balvanera neighborhood, and the School of Journalism, located on Libertad Street between Diagonal Norte and Tucumán. Juan Jacobo Bajarlía was her Modern Literature teacher at said establishment. In her classes she discovered surrealist authors such as André Bretón and Tristán Tzara who amazed her because she had just read Rubén Darío, Proust and Sartre. Due to the good relationship they had, Alejandra showed him the poems that would make up her first book, “The Most Foreign Land,” published in 1955 when she was only nineteen years old.


Pizarnik began to make literary translations and collaborate in the magazine “Poesía Buenos Aires”. She also started college but she was not interested in the systematic nature of the classes and passing subjects, she was only interested in reading: Arthur Rimbaud, the Count of Lautrémont, Antonin Artaud, Antonio Porchia, Oliverio Girondo, Stéphane Mallarmé, James Joyce. She was passionate about surrealism and existentialism.


In 1956 she met Roberto Yahni at the “Letras” bookstore on Viamonte Street. She soon loses interest in college and drops out. As therapy, Alejandra began to dabble in painting in the workshop of the painter Batlle Planas and psychoanalyzed herself with León Ostrov, whose office was located at Méndez de Andes 1152, in the Caballito neighborhood.


When she meets the poet Olga Orozco they become great friends. Alejandra took her as a literary mother with whom she always felt protected. Olga and Alejandra had a literary aesthetic in common. Orozco dedicated the poem "Pavana para una infanta disfunta" to her.


Antonio Porchia's poetry greatly influenced her work. She published The Last Innocence (Ediciones Poesía, 1956), dedicated to León Ostrov. Thanks to him, the expression of Alejandra's unconscious and surrealism was possible. She stated that she was not a patient, but a friend.


The Lost Adventures (Altamar, 1958) was dedicated to her colleague from the Poesía Buenos Aires literary group, Rubén Vela. Roberto Juarroz reviewed this book.


Alejandra traveled to the city of Paris in 1960 and stayed until 1964, studying, meeting poets and intellectuals, among them, Simone de Beauvoir and Marguerite Duras. She worked for Cuadernos magazine and several French publishers. There she became friends with Ivonne Bordelois, who had worked at Revista Sur. Alejandra lived near the Sorbonne University above a Chinese restaurant. She only talked about literature. She got a job as a proofreader to stay in the city longer.


"Her poetry was a network of intertextualities of another's word converted into her own," declared Ivonne Bordelois.


Pizarnik was very demanding of herself. She often tore the pages where she wrote her poems and even burned copies of her first book. “Arbol de diana” was published in Buenos Aires in 1962 by Editorial Sur and with a prologue by Octavio Paz.

"Deep down," he writes on July 25, 1965, "I hate poetry. It is, for me, a condemnation of abstraction. And it also reminds me of that condemnation. And it also reminds me that I cannot 'sink my teeth' into what concrete. If I could put my papers in order something would be saved. And in my readings and in my miserable writings", Diaries 1960-1968.

In Paris she became friends with Julio Cortázar, and with him she met the intellectual circles of Paris. He, along with her wife, Aurora Bernárdez, tried to help Alejandra with her emotional instability. Pizarnik identified with the Magician from Hopscotch. In his literary criticism of “Stories of cronopios and fames” he states that said work "testifies exemplarily how humor and poetry are subversive." Cortázar and Pizarnik shared a surrealist aesthetic, a common imaginary regarding childhood and love.

Among the collaborations in magazines that he made during those years are "Humor and poetry in a book by Julio Cortázar", published in the Caracas Revista Nacional de Cultura, "It is forbidden to look at the grass", "Search", "In honor of a loss " and "Possible unions."

Pizarnik took a large amount of medication due to his emotional ups and downs. In his writings he begins to reflect on suicide, in which person and poet became dissociated. She returned to Buenos Aires distraught and tortured.

“The Works and the Nights” was published by Editorial Sudamericana in 1965. The following year she received the First Municipal Poetry Prize for said work.

In 1967 her father died. This added to the discomfort that Alejandra had in carrying out her daily life, an obstacle that she was never able to overcome. In 1968 she obtained the Guggenheim Fellowship and traveled to New York. She also published “Extraction of the stone of madness” (Sudamericana, composed of prose poems). There she did not have a good experience. Still depressed, the following year she decides to return to Paris. Between July and August of that year she finished the theatrical text “Los Poseídos entre lilas”.

At that time she became friends with Silvina Ocampo and began collaborating with Revista Sur, located at Rufino de Elizalde 2831 in Barrio Parque. There she carries out literary reviews and translations.

Pizarnik began therapy designed by psychiatrist Pichon-Rivière, which led to a temporary improvement in her situation. In 1969, she published “Names and Figures” (1969), she made a new version of the novel “The Bloody Countess” (1971). That same year she also published the collection of poems “The Musical Hell” and she won the Fulbright scholarship.

In 1970 she wrote in a humorous way “The buccaneer of Pernambuco” or “Hilda the polygrapher”.

She was then hospitalized for several months at the Pirovano Hospital, where she attempted suicide. During that period, Cortazar wrote to him in one of her letters:

(...)The poetic power is yours, you know it, all of us who read you know it; and we no longer live in times when that power was the antagonist against life, and life was the executioner of the poet. The executioners, today, kill nothing other than poets, not even that imperial privilege is left, my dearest. I demand of you, not humility, not obedience, but a link with this that surrounds us all, call it the light or César Vallejo or Japanese cinema: a pulse on the earth, happy or sad, but not a silence of voluntary renunciation. I only accept you alive, I only love you Alejandra.(...)

Pizarnik died in her apartment at 980 Montevideo Street in Barrio Norte, in the early morning of September 25, 1972 after ingesting fifty secabarbital pills. She was unveiled the next day at the Argentine Society of Writers. On the blackboard in her bedroom were the poet's last verses:

"…I do not want to go

nothing else

that to the bottom…”

Ana Becciú and Ana Nuño recovered and compiled her writings over the years. Alejandra Pizarnik's archives are preserved in the Manuscript Department of the Princeton University Library in the United States.