“Soriano”, written by Ángel Berlanga, is the biography of the writer and journalist Osvaldo Soriano, remembered as the most popular author and the most charismatic chronicler of Argentine literature in the second half of the 20th century.
“Argentine literature lacks epic and a sense of humor,” the writer and journalist Osvaldo Soriano used to say. Perhaps that was his formula for becoming the most popular author and the most charismatic chronicler of Argentine literature in the second half of the 20th century.
The only son of a Sanitary Works official and a housewife, Soriano was a serene worker in a metallurgical company in Tandil when, at the age of 20, his passion for cinema, literature and journalism led him to venture into local media. But his talent quickly led him to become the star editor of the newspaper La Opinión.
Twenty-five years after his death, the Sudamericana publishing house published Soriano, the biography of the famous journalist written by the Argentine Ángel Berlanga. Nurtured by innumerable interviews, the investigation of his work and access to private archives, the author manages to amalgamate Soriano’s voice with that of his friends, detractors, relatives, colleagues and editors to build a story about his life that is also The story of an entire era.
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From his first steps in journalism -with notes to which his editor removed his signature after scratching them and others that led him to leave his city- to his passion for cats and San Lorenzo, this monumental biography delves into the intimacy of one of the fundamental writers of Argentina in the 20th century.
Cover of “Soriano”, written by Ángel Berlanga and published by Sudamericana.
It’s three in the morning on a summer night and Osvaldo Soriano is lying in bed, alone, depressed, in the apartment he rents, on Mario Bravo street. Buenos Aires, 1972: he has been living in the city for almost three years and several months as a writer at La Opinión. He can’t get around to the novel about Laurel and Hardy that he works on: he wants to tell his parables of anonymity, of Hollywood stars and popular idols, and finally of downfall and indifference to the industry. In his childhood and adolescence, he loved the Fat and Skinny movies. He eventually set out to find out everything he could about them. Shortly before leaving Tandil, he published a profile in the notebooks of Grupo Cine, the independent cultural group that he coordinated.
In “The mistake of making people laugh”, the note he wrote a few days ago in La Opinión Cultural, it is clear that he knows much more about them. And that he counts much better. But now he wants to take a leap, let go of his imagination. Stan & Ollie is shocked that they have fun from the destruction of property and the mockery of authority in the United States. Big Business is his favorite, a masterpiece: the duo want to sell a pine tree to a guy who has a park full of pine trees and a phenomenal destructive crescendo ensues.
Soriano even recounted the fleeting passage through Buenos Aires of one and the other back in 1914, 1915, each one on their own, and in the article in La Opinión he narrated, with some recreational licences, several “biographical” scenes: the arrival of the ship that in 1912 he took Charles Chaplin and Stan Laurel, star and understudy in a touring artistic company, from London to the United States; or Hardy’s attempt, already in decline, to get a job at John Wayne’s production company. But there is no case: he does not get a plot that convinces him.
Since he has been at La Opinión he has written about Pelé and Chazarreta, about Muhamad Ali, about a movie, about books, especially about North American authors: the stories of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler dazzle him. One night we were walking through Florida with a group of friends, all drunk, and one of them started reciting a prose text so beautiful that it impressed me. There he himself asked Norberto Soares, the reciter, whose was that. He replied: “Don’t you know Chandler?” And the next day he sent me for a cadet The long goodbye. That’s how I discovered Philip Marlowe. “Pain and dignity”, the first article he published in the cultural supplement of La Opinión, was about this anti-hero of crime novels and his author.
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While ruminating bitterness hears a crash of pots in the kitchen. More perplexed than scared, he gets up and goes, slowly, to see what is happening. Among the pots there is a big black cat that came in through the window. In the half-light the cat stares at him. Soriano speaks to it, moves a little closer, and the animal jumps to the window. And there he stayed for a while, as if telling me what are you doing, idiot, don’t you realize that the thing is obvious… What is obvious, what does Soriano read there, what does he imagine? Which could very well be Chandler’s black cat. And that he appeared to tell her that the only one capable of investigating the story of Laurel and Hardy is a professional detective like Marlowe. When this idea takes shape in his head, the cat leaves.
This may seem like a joke for those who do not understand the language of cats, for those who do not know that they are mediums —telephones, as Cortázar says—, but I know very well that if Sad, Lonely and Final exists it is thanks to that cat.
Then Soriano goes back to his typewriter and types Philip Marlowe’s meeting with an Argentine journalist named Osvaldo Soriano at Stan Laurel’s grave in Forest Lawn Cemetery.
The biography delves into the intimacy of Osvaldo Soriano, from his passion for cats and San Lorenzo to the time he had to leave his city because of one of his first and most controversial notes.
Osiris Troiani spends a few days on vacation in Tandil, at the ranch of the lawyer Juan Claudio Tuculet. It is January 1969. Soriano, a chronicler for the local newspaper Actividades, had met him a year or so before, when he went to the city to give a talk. Much later, Soriano will recount that he shook his hand “paralyzed by emotion”, without even waiting for him to speak to him: Troiani is then editorial secretary of Primera Plana.
When he can, in texts for himself, or that he publishes in the Grupo Cine notebooks, Soriano imitates the style, the tone of the magazine. One night Tuculet invites him to a dinner where Troiani is also present. “As soon as I told him that I would give anything to write an article in the magazine, he smiled sarcastically and told me: ‘Go, do a survey of rural electricity for the entire Tandil district, visit the power plants, interview those responsible, to the beneficiaries, to the harmed, and pay attention to the world in which they live; add some color and drop me sixty lines on the first bus that comes by.’” Soriano fulfills the order. Shortly after the note appears, but there are forty lines, they are reformulated and do not bear his signature.
The days of a boring summer go by: Facundo Cabral, Jorge Di Paola and Víctor Laplace have already emigrated from Tandil and the other friends of the group are eager to follow them. One afternoon, before the end of the summer, his mother shows him a telegram: “Please contact Mr. Julio Algañaraz urgently at the Primera Plana telephone numbers.” Soriano calls with the same emotion with which he had shaken Troiani’s hand. On the other side of the line they ask for “the most informed, virulent and comical note that had ever been written about the Holy Week procession in Tandil.” Right away he understands that if he does what they ask, he will have to leave town.
Interview, find out, spend two days correcting. The note presents the procession as a decadent spectacle that uses faith to attract tourism and business. It also raises a tussle between the conservatism of the bishopric and the criticism of some young priests, aligned with Third World ideas. The one who has been playing Christ for eight years denies: “I no longer feel the interpretation of Jesus, we paint him as too good, almost a fool, not as he really was, a true leader of the masses.” The procession, writes Soriano, is a caricature of Catholicism.
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The night before the magazine appears, he says goodbye to his girlfriend, Ana María, and flees with a suitcase: what he wrote is going to make noise. When the bus arrives at Constitución, he hears the newsboys shouting that Primera Plana has come out. He buys it, leafs through it: his name is at the bottom of the note. Also signed in that number are Héctor Tizón, Daniel Moyano, Francisco Juárez.
I think I started dancing in the middle of the square, he will say in an interview.
I think I was about to start crying, he will say in another.
It was rare that Primera Plana put the signature of the authors. “Sometimes some modest initials and from time to time the names of Ramiro de Casasbellas, Tomás Eloy Martínez, Ernesto Schoo or Mariano Grondona”. He takes it for granted that they are going to make a place for him in “the Argentine cathedral of modern journalism.” He leaves the suitcase in the Tandil, a small hotel on Avenida de Mayo that Cabral and Laplace had already passed through. When he shows up at the newsroom, Troiani doesn’t give him the ball: “And what are you doing here?” he asks, and refers him to the Algañaraz twins, or to Juárez, who shelter him. He warms up an armchair at the reception, takes advantage of some food vouchers that idol journalists give him, reads newspapers and waits for the chance to be sent to cover something. Immediately, the letter from the Bishop of Tandil, Monsignor Luis J. Actis, arrives like crazy because of the blasphemies that Primera Plana publishes about the procession.
♦ Born in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 1943. Died in Buenos Aires in 1997.
♦ He was a writer and journalist.
♦ Wrote books like Sad, Lonely, and Final, The Shadowless Hour, and Tales from Happy Years.
♦ He wrote movies like A Woman, There Will Be No More Sorrows or Forgetting and Winter Quarters.
25 years without Osvaldo Soriano, the chronicler of the simple things that define ArgentinaThe man who loved cats and gave his life for San Lorenzo5 must-see books by Osvaldo Soriano to immerse yourself in his magnificent work