Thus Were Their Faces cover
Special offer:
Offer summary:
(20% off)
Publication date:
January 27, 2015
NYRB Classics

An NYRB Classics Original

Thus Were Their Faces offers a comprehensive selection of the short fiction of Silvina Ocampo, undoubtedly one of the twentieth century’s great masters of the story and the novella. Here are tales of doubles and impostors, angels and demons, a marble statue of a winged horse that speaks, a beautiful seer who writes the autobiography of her own death, a lapdog who records the dreams of an old woman, a suicidal romance, and much else that is incredible, mad, sublime, and delicious. Italo Calvino has written that no other writer “better captures the magic inside everyday rituals, the forbidden or hidden face that our mirrors don’t show us.” Jorge Luis Borges flatly declared, “Silvina Ocampo is one of our best writers. Her stories have no equal in our literature.”

Dark, gothic, fantastic, and grotesque, these haunting stories are among the world’s most individual and finest.


These stories are feverish, cruel, and wry, set among the surrealisms of puberty, disability, and precarity.
—Joshua Cohen, Harper’s

She lived a little in the shadow of her sister Victoria on the one hand and of her husband Bioy Casares and Borges on the other. She was an extravagant woman when writing her stories, short and crystalline, she was perfect.
—César Aira

Dark, masterly tales…a (very good) introduction…a (very good) translator…Ocampo’s technique is beyond all reproach; an author has to keep masterly control when letting events veer off beyond the quotidian (the phrase “magic realism” seems inadequate when applied to her).
—Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

Ocampo wrote with fascinated horror of Argentinean petty bourgeois society, whose banality and kitsch settings she used in a masterly way to depict strange, surreal atmospheres sometimes verging on the supernatural.
The Independent

Few writers have an eye for the small horrors of everyday life; fewer still see the everyday marvelous. Other than Silvina Ocampo, I cannot think of a single writer who, at any time or in any language, has chronicled both with such wise and elegant humor.
—Alberto Manguel

Silvina Ocampo is one of our best writers. Her stories have no equal in our literature.
—Jorge Luis Borges

Silvina Ocampo is, together with Borges and García Márquez, the leading writer in Spanish.
—Jorge Amado

Unsettling and off-kilter, revelatory and readable.
—A.N. Devers, Longreads

Magical….Ocampo’s earlier words resonate now with something of the “clairvoyance” Borges once attributed to her….Mind-blowing hallucinogenic lines…make it important to take the stories in small, slow doses lest we zip by and miss them.
—Jill Schepmann, The Rumpus

Sublime poet and eminent master of the modern fantastic—her heirs include Julio Cortázar, who praised her ability to summon the strangeness in the everyday, Roberto Bolaño, who declared that he “would live very happily in Silvina Ocampo’s kitchen,” and César Aira—Ocampo deserves to be heralded alongside the greatest Latin American authors of the 20th century…. her prose is intimate and precise, alert to detail…. Her poetic voice is often tranquil…. Yet when her poetry wanders into the terrain of people, Ocampo exhibits emotional dexterity and arresting candidness.
—Jose Teodoro, National Post

In the dark world of Ocampo’s fiction, the familiar yet unsettling imagery of fantasy has a sense of reality that reality itself often lacks…. Ocampo can be cruel and cynical, but her spitefulness is clever, and, at her best moments, something tender lurks beneath the sadism. The punishments she cooks up for her characters are presented with unmistakable irony, and the results are frequently comedic and not infrequently touching.
—Becca Rothfeld, Bookforum

Her poetic sentences apply just the right pressure to turn everyday details vivid, but not lurid…it is time for Ocampo’s dark star to rise.
—Scott Esposito, Music and Literature