Ifigenia: diario de una señora que escribió porque se fastidiaba
Ifigenia: Diario de una senorita que escribio porque se fastidiaba (Diary of a young lady who wrote because she was bored, 1924) is the first of two novels by the Venezuelan writer Teresa de la Parra (Paris, 1889-Madrid, 1936). Her second, much shorter novel, Las memorias de Mama Blanca (1929), was one of the few authored by a woman to be admitted to the Spanish American canon before the radical rereading of the tradition by feminists in the 1970s and 80s. Ifigenia, however, was long neglected, in part, due to the controversy it ignited when it first appeared and its subtle and even deceptive use of a first person narrative. Recently, the contemporary Mexican novelist Carmen Boullosa has described Ifigenia as "one of the most convincing, intelligent, and seductive novels in [the Spanish] language," and called its republication "an elemental and necessary act of literary justice." In her own times, Teresa de la Parra mingled with the European and Latin American avant garde, but resisted its fascination while taking note of its lessons. Instead, she opted to respect the basic narrative rules of the 19th century, but used these to describe a very modern conflict: women's need for economic and intellectual independence, and the tragic and far from edifying fate reserved for those who fail to achieve it. Eugenia, the novel's young, naive, but ambitious, intelligent, and well-read protagonist/narrator, tells her own story, at first in a confidential letter to her best friend, and then, to the ever forgiving indulgence of "Dear diary." The narration is by turns witty, even mockingly funny, presumptuously self-important, and poignant as it reveals the temptations and doubts of an all too inexperienced young woman pressured to choose among too few alternatives. Eugenia's confessional tale takes us on a mesmerizing tour through the confined universe of an upper class senorita in the Caracas of the early 1920s. At first her journey seems a safe and even promising one, but soon enough the reader discovers that her comparatively privileged world bears little resemblance to paradise. To grow, to mature, to understand, in this world mean to eschew ones better judgment, to become diminished, to live life as a string of renunciations. The title hints at sacrifice. To join this social order is to become a sacrificial victim, true, but the voice we listen to (socially constructed, like all voices) is compelling proof that everything urgently needs to be rethought. The novel itself forces us to rethink, and paradoxically does so by appearing to respect the very rules that suffocate its heroine. In this edition Elizabeth Garrels (MIT) provides a critical foreword and notes to assist the reader in discovering the richness and complexity of this longtime underestimated novel.
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