FILBA: BA’s International Lit Fest


PH: Dara or

Heads up readers, Buenos Aires is wrapping up September with a bookworm compost fest that starts on Wednesday 27th of September and lasts all the way up till Sunday. It’s the city’s annual FILBA international literature festival, and this year the alphabet is getting more swing than ever.

Interspersed between the usual black rimmed debates there are a couple of sparkly speckled surprises including performances, live music, a silent reading party and more.

One of the many changes of the Festival this year is the location, a clear symptom that the literature scene in the city has grown and will continue to do so. Events will be taking place at the MALBA, the National Library, the Margarita Xirgu Theatre and the Casa Victoria OCampo. The topic of this edition is violence.

Some suggestions include:

MALBA: Figueroa Alcorta 3415, Palermo

27/09: Dance performance at 8pm.

28/09: Interview with Juan Echenoz.

29/09: Theatre performance based on a dialogue between John Gerassi and Simone De Beauvoir.

Also, on Thursday and Friday at 7pm, you can tour the museum’s Diane Arbus photography exhibit while listening to a reading of related literary texts.

National Library: Agüero 2502, Recoleta

On Saturday and Sunday most events will take place in the National Library. From 4pm onwards there will also be a book fair, and on Saturday, a literary performance between 4 and 6pm (sign up here:  and bring along a book to donate), drinks and a poetry reading at 7.30pm, and a feminist poetry party at 9pm.  On Sunday, wind down at the Silent Reading Party at 4pm, and then head to the 5.30pm screening of four authors’ favourite violent film scenes.

Margarita Xirgu Theatre: Chacabuco 875, San Telmo

Julieta Venegas and Martín Buscaglia will play together at a live concert that will take place on Friday at 9.30pm. To get tickets, stop by the theatre on any of the festival days between 4pm and 8pm  and donate a book.

Casa Victoria O’Campo: Rufino de Elizalde 2831, Palermo

The rationalist house of emblematic local literary figure Victoria O’Campo will be hosting a special photography exhibit as part of the festival.

5 Argentine Authors worth Reading that are not Borges

eterna cadencia

Eterna Cadencia Bookstore (Honduras 5574, Palermo) PH:aya padrón

If there’s something that Buenos Aires knows how to do, it’s books. The city is chock full with bookstores, publishing houses, readers and writers alike, and although Borges, and Cortázar are the names that usually come up when it comes to local lit, there is plenty more room to make on the bookshelf for Argentine writers. Below, a pick of five that are well worth the read, just as a starter.

Roberto Arlt: A contemporary to Borges, who belonged to the more “refined” Florida group of authors, Arlt was the greatest exponent of the antagonic Boedo literary group that wrote with more of a social focus. His novels, sometimes more straightforward, sometimes more complex, paint a gritty and unique picture of Buenos Aires and its strange characters.   His novels include Diary of a MorphimaniacMad Toy, Seven MadmenThe Flame-Throwers, and Bewitching Love.

Silvina OCampo: Another Borges contemporary, Silvina, sister to Victoria OCampo and wife of author Bioy Casares, wrote mostly short stories and poetry. She also studied painting and drawing and was one of the first Argentine women authors, alongside poet Alfonsina Storni and Alejandra Pizarnik, to receive recognition for her outstanding literary work. Her writing mostly fits into the fantastic and surreal, displays rich imagery and explores recurring themes related to childhood, mirrors and transformations. Some of her translated works include Thus Were Their Faces and Silvina OCampo (stories and poems) by Jason Weiss.

Rodolfo Fogwill: Sociology graduate and first a businessman, Fogwill began his writing career later on in life and was able to focus solely on it after his short story “Punk Girl” was awarded the first prize in a literary contest. His very famous and truly accomplished novel, Malvinas Requiem:Visions of an Underground War, was written while the war was going on, and rumor has it that it was written on a seventy two hour writing binge.

Juan José Saer: Atmospheres tainted by weather and landscapes contain the sinuous narratives that this master of the novel wrote during his life. Some of his works translated into English include: Shadows on Jeweled Glass, The Witness, The One Before, Nobody Nothing Never, and The Event.

Ricardo Piglia: Celebrated internationally, Piglia wrote short stories, essays and novels about truth and fiction, social and political issues as well as having been a well known literature professor both in Argentina and abroad. His novels include Artificial Respiration, The Absent City,  Burnt Money, Nocturnal Target and One Way Road. 

This Weekend: Buenos Aires for Bookworms and Foodies


PH: Floris van Halm

Buenos Aires is known for its literary heritage and in the last ten years has developed a gourmet cuisine scene that has also become one of its attractions. This weekend both combine at Feria Leer y Comer (Read and Eat Fair) where there will be food trucks, book sales, signings and literary and culinary talks and debates from 12 to 9pm on both Saturday and Sunday. Concepción Arenal 4865, Chacarita. 


PH: Nuria Pico

Also this weekend, on Saturday night is La Noche de las Librerías (Bookshop Night) which will offer the possibility of attending poetry readings, debates, and of visiting different bookshops around the city. The event will take place from 6pm to midnight, mostly on Avenida Corrientes, and also offers some activities that non spanish speakers can also understand such as an outdoor jazz jam at 7pm at the Alfonsina Storni stand on Corrientes 1900, and an exhibit of antique book at the beautiful Palacio de Aguas Corrientes (Palace of Running Waters). Readers are also invited to buy a book published by an independent publisher and to share a picture of it on social media with the hashtag #indiebookday.

Bookstores for Anglos

(Photo by blmurch)

Buenos Aires is a city full of beautiful bookstores and avid readers. For English speakers there are a few specialized bookstores too, where you can get translated Latin American literature and books originally written in English, amongst others.

Walrus Books is a cozy bookstore in San Telmo that specializes in used books in English. Head there to find unique copies of beautiful prose and, if you wish, take your own books in English to trade or use to get discounts! Estados Unidos 617, San Telmo. 4300-7135

Eterna Cadencia is set in Palermo and has a great selection of books both in English and Spanish. Its warm lighting, and dark wooden furniture make this bookstore and publishing house an inviting place to browse. Their spacious cafe is a great place to sit and read or even to just stop by for a coffee break. Honduras 5574, Palermo. 4774-4100.

KEL is a chain bookstore that specializes in English books. They have a very good selection and high prices to show for it. Find the closest KEL to you here.

SBS Libreria Internacional is an international bookstore that sells both online and in different stores around the city.  They also have a selection of books in German, French, Italian and Portuguese, mostly for language learners. Find the closest SBS here.

The Book Cellar is an online bookstore that buys and sells books in English. Browse their online catalogue here.

BAN- Buenos Aires Negra Festival

Throughout this week, BAN- Buenos Aires Negra, a new festival related to the detective novel will be celebrated in the city.

Literary enthusiasts will be able to participate in a variety of events including book readings and signings, as well as film screenings, theatre, photography, art, random performances, presentations by authors and forensics specialists, and mock trials.

Although the festival might be of more appeal to Spanish speakers or to those who understand Spanish at least, it still presents a wonderful opportunity to participate in the literary side of Buenos Aires, and in this genre that has become one of the pillars of the local literature. Below are some suggested festival activities (including some which English speakers can enjoy as well). The full schedule can be found here.

Tuesday 12th of June

Juicio Oral: Un Crimen Pasional. A chance to witness a mock trial about a crime of passion! Starting at 7pm. Centro Cultural General San Martin. Sarmiento 1551, Downtown.

Thursday 14th of June

Film Screening. Alias Gardelito by Lautaro Murua. This Argentine film classic from the sixties features the struggles of Toribio to make ends meet as he strives to emulate Carlos Gardel. Starting at 6pm. Centro Cultural General San Martin. Sarmiento 1551, Downtown.

Outdoor Theatre- Los Fantasmas de San Telmo (The ghosts of San Telmo) starting at 6.30pm at the famous Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo.

Interview: Hugo “La Garza” Sosa, a well known Argentine criminal will be interviewed by Ernesto Mallo, one of the festival’s organizers. Starting at 7pm. Centro Cultural General San Martin. Sarmiento 1551, Downtown.

Friday 15th of June

American author Christopher Moore will be interviewed at 8pm and then he will speak about superstition, corruption and ghosts in Thai culture at 9pm. Centro Cultural General San Martin. Sarmiento 1551, Downtown.

Saturday 16th June

Live Music- John Sundae’s Jazz Band at 7pm. Cultural General San Martin. Sarmiento 1551, Downtown

Sunday 17th of June

Film Screening: Un Oso Rojo- Adrian Caetano. This emblematic Argentine film from 2002 shows a gritty side of the city through “Oso”, a convicted prisoner who, after being released from jail, returns to his home to get to know his daughter. Cultural General San Martin. Sarmiento 1551, Downtown.

This Week in Buenos Aires


(Photo by ollarte.olie)

Literature enthusiasts will have a whole week to explore detective fiction at the Buenos Aires Negra festival which will feature book readings, films, theatre, and a fake-trial, amongst others activities. From the 11th-17th of June. Find the full program here.

In the evening don’t miss out on La Bomba del Tiempo, a percussion orchestra that has become one of the local absolute musts. Centro Cultural Konex Sarmiento 3131, Abasto. 4864-3200



(Photo by Sebastian-Dario)

Don’t miss the temporary exhibit on Jesuit missionary cultural activities in Latin America, being held at the Museo de Arte Hispanoamericano Isaac Fernandez Blanco. Tours of the museum are also available in English with prior booking at 4327-0272 or Suipacha 1422, Downtown.

In the evening don’t miss the special production of Rinaldo, an opera by Georg Friedrich Händel, which will be staged at the Colón theatre on the 12th, 15th, 17th, and 19th of June. Tickets here.



(Photo by blmurch)

Whilst touring Recoleta don’t forget to stop by the Palais de Glace where a special photography exhibit is being held until the 9th of July.  Opening hours: Tue-Sun midday-8pm. Posadas 1725, Recoleta.

In the evening head to the Abasto neighborhood for a taste of tango presented by the Orquesta Típica Fernandez Fierro at the Club Atletico Fernández Fierro. Sánchez de Bustamante 764, Abasto.



(Photo by Gustav’s)

Stop by Argentina’s national library and learn more about this historically rich site. Guided tours are available on weekdays from 10am-2pm with prior reservation at 4808-6025 Additionally, the library hosts many exhibits and cultural events. Find a full program here.  Aguero 2502, Palermo. 4808-6040.

Close to the library is the Museo del Libro y de la Lengua (the book and language museum), also worth visiting. Open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 2pm-7pm.  Av. Las Heras 2555, Recoleta. 4808-0090.

For a unique evening, book your place at Fierro Hotel’s Thursday wine tasting and sample some great Argentine wines, chosen by the president of the Argentine Sommelier Association Andres Rosberg and in-house Sommelier Martin Bruno. Tastings, which include special tapas from Hernán Gipponi Restaurant, cost 25 USD per person and are limited to 7 people. Soler 5862, Palermo. 3220-6800.



(Photo by Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires)

Visit the Feria de las Artes at the Plazoleta San Francisco on the corner of Alsina and Defensa.  Whilst you’re in the area don’t forget to stop by the Cafe Tortoni for coffee and medialunas (croissants).

In the evening don’t miss the special production of Rinaldo, an opera by Georg Friedrich Händel, which will be staged at the Colón theatre on the 12th, 15th, 17th, and 19th of June. Tickets here.


Saturday and Sunday

(Photo by fotosterona)

The best of contemporary Argentine design will be on display from the 14th to the 20th of June at Feria Puro Diseño in La Rural. Sarmiento 2704, Palermo.

Head to the Planetarium in Palermo for one of the special screenings of Journey to the Stars. You can also access the planetariums telescopes to get unique views of the sky. Av. Sarmiento and Belisario Roldan. 4772-9265

On Sunday don’t miss the special production of Rinaldo, an opera by Georg Friedrich Händel, which will be staged at the Colón theatre on the 12th, 15th, 17th, and 19th of June. Tickets here.

Also on Sunday, to end the Buenos Aires Negra festival, there will be a Venetian Party at FILO starting at 10pm. San Martin 975, Downtown.

Emblematic Argentine Literature

(Photo by Greh Fox)

The starting point of Argentine literature can be traced back to the 1800’s when the country began to establish itself and cultural identity was needed. It was during this period that gauchesque literature became popular and “Martin Fierro” (1872) by Jose Hernandez was the most emblematic work to come from it. The epic poem (considered by Borges to be a versed novel) was written in the voice of a poor gaucho who deserts the army in the historical war in Patagonia against the native Indians.  The style imitates the Gaucho payadas (ballads) and is a pinnacle of national cultural identity, as it explores some of the local imagery and historical events of the time, and also a general feeling of destituteness, which the immigrant community could identify with.

Another emblematic book that deals with the theme of national identity, political and geographic context and the gaucho lifestyle is “Facundo: Civilización y Barbarie”(1845), written by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento who was president from 1868 – 1874. The book is divided into a description of Argentine geography and history,the life of caudillo Facundo Quiroga and a conclusion of his vision for a Unitarian Argentina. As the title suggests, it deals with the clash of civilization and barbary, each associated with different political ideologies of the time.

Finally, “Don Segundo Sombra”(1926), written by ‘estanciero’ Ricardo Güiraldes, explores the gaucho legend through the eyes of a young farm worker who grows up next to a gaucho he idealizes.

Some years later, Jorge Luis Borges, who was part of the Grupo Martín Fierro that experimented with the vanguard’s uses of language, took up a lot of the imagery and topics from gauchesque literature and included them in famous stories such as “El Sur”, and “El Fin”, both present in one of his most famous books, “Ficciones” (1944). Another of the most renowned literary works by this celebrated author is “El Aleph” (1949), a compilation of stories belonging to the fantasy genre that deal with themes such as time, identity, dreams, myths and the infinite. Borges’s friend, Adolfo Bioy Casares, also explored the fantasy genre receiving great recognition for his sci-fi novel “La Invención de Morel” (1940) about a man who escapes to an Island and then realizes he is submerged in a virtual world invented by Morel. The novel is said to have inspired Alain Resnais’s “Last Year in Marienbad” and the popular TV series “Lost”.

The Boedo Group is generally described as opposing the Grupo Martín Fierro. Although they were also followers of the European vanguards, the Boedo group had a much grittier style, and was less aristocratic. Its most prominent author was Roberto Arlt who really captured the Buenos Aires city energy using a lot of the local jargon in his novels, the most renowned being  “El Juguete Rabioso” (1926), about a high school drop out who searches for opportunities to be somebody, and his masterpiece “Los Siete Locos” (1929) which explores existentialist philosophy, anguish and desolation.

The famous “El Túnel” (1948) by Ernesto Sabato, also brings up existentialist themes, and is about an obsessed painter that deals with alienation and incommunication. Sabato’s later novel, “Sobre Heroes y Tumbas” (1961), is his most acclaimed work and is accepted by some as the best Argentine novel of the twentieth century. It explores Argentine identity and politics and makes a unique description of Buenos Aires’s urban landscape.

Contemporary to Sábato is another Argentine literary giant, the well known Julio Cortazar, often associated with Surrealism, and known for his ambiguous stories where time and space blur. His most famous work, “Rayuela” (1963), can be read in different orders; in the customary front to back manner, in a suggested order by the author, or as the reader pleases. The narrative line in this sense is not fixed and implies openness to alternative realities.

Although literature was generally considered to belong to the man’s world there was also a strong feminine influence in modern Argentine literature, especially in the realm of poetry. Some of the most famous names include Alfonsina Storni, Silvina Ocampo and her sister, Victoria Ocampo, who was the founder of Sur magazine where many respected local authors published their works. Further back in time, authors Manuela Gorriti, Juana Manso and Eduarda Mansilla (amongst others), also contributed to the local literary scene.