The myth of Alejandra Pizarnik grows apace, not because she killed herself young—an overdose of Seconal, at the age of thirty-six—but because the strengths of her language, a few “solitary ladies, desolate,” resist the passage of time. These solitary, desolate ladies were words, which, in turn, were subjects for her. Each word a subject. Sleep, death, infancy, terror, night. She combined these subjects tirelessly with a great trust in language, which paradoxically ended up awaking in her the suspicion that her words had a mortal dimension and that perhaps the only thing they named was absence.

“Alejandra Pizarnik. Just saying her name sends vibrations of poetry and myth through the air. An extreme lyric and a tragedy, too,” her compatriot Luis Chitarroni has written. And so, what with things said of her by various people, the unstoppable myth of Pizarnik grows, above all among younger readers, who see in her someone with the stature of Lautréamont and Artaud, who see in her a poet who entered hells seldom visited by contemporary Spanish-language poetry. Her myth grows among the young because they are discovering, all by themselves (for publishers today are not exactly making it easy to do so), that there was a time in literature when writers were figures shrouded in mystery: eccentric, inexplicable characters; people from another world, not like modern-day writers, most of whom profess to be ordinary people, with an ordinary current account at the bank, administrating literature from a bureaucratic desk in their ordinary office.

To the allure Pizarnik has, as a figure wrapped in mystery and an inexplicable personality, must be added the fact that, word by word, she “wrote the night,” and the reader who takes an interest in her will discover that this nocturnal writing, which had a great sense of risk, was born of the purest necessity, something seen in very few twentieth-century writers: an extreme lyric and a tragedy.


To read the entirety of Enrique Vila-Matas's essay on Alejandra Pizarnik, purchase your copy of Music & Literature no. 6. . .