“The Diaries of Emilio Renzi: Formative Years” by Ricardo Piglia— A Great Work of Argentine Literature

Piglia, Ricardo. “The Diaries of Emilio Renzi: Formative Years”, translated by Robert Croll, Restless Books, 2017.

A Great Work of Argentine Literature

Amos Lassen

Argentine novelist Ricardo Piglia’s secret magnum opus was a compilation of 327 notebooks that he composed over nearly six decades, in which he imagined himself as his literary alter ego, Emilio Renzi. Renzi is a detective who is a bit tired of the world but he is also so much more than that. In the t diaries we see a multilayered reconstruction of the self.

We watch as Piglia develops as a writer, read about when he fells in love, argues with his father and we get new perspectives on the history of Latin America in the twentieth century. When Piglia was diagnosed with a fatal illness in 2011, he rushed to complete the diaries.

Naturally there were rumors about the book and this simply intensified the wish to read them. They were first released in Spanish as a trilogy to great acclaim and they secured Piglia’s place in the world canon. He had no idea that they “would become a lesson in literary genius and the culmination of one of the greatest works of Argentine literature.” Today he is celebrated as the rightful heir to legends like Borges, Cortázar, Juan Jose Saer, and Roberto Arlt.

“The Diaries of Emilio Renzi” is Piglia’s secret story of his shadow self and as such is “a book of disquiet and love and literary obsession that blurs the distinctness of each and the other.”