House of Oliverio Girondo

For most who pass along calle Suipacha, the plain, unassuming house next to Palacio Noel goes unnoticed. Thousands of houses and apartments in Buenos Aires posses more charming exteriors. Of course, as with many buildings in the city, you never know what is behind the facade. In this particular house, decades ago, many of the leading artistic figures of Buenos Aires partook in the dancing and drinking offered by their charismatic host, a monumental figure in Argentine literature, the poet Oliverio Girondo. Serving as hostess for these fortnightly soirées, while cultivating her reputation as a coquettish seductress, was his wife the writer Norah Lange.

Oliverio Girondo

Family wealth financed Girondo’s global journeys and bohemian, but comfortable, lifestyle. In the 1920s Girondo lived in Paris and Rome, traveling widely while amassing a vast collection of sculpture, paintings, and reportedly, one of the largest private collections of gold pre-Colombian artifacts. Returning for good to Buenos Aires in 1932, Girondo re-assumed his leadership of the literary avant-garde much to the annoyance of Jorge Luis Borges.

Always scandalous and seeking publicity, Girondo sought ways to shock the bourgeoisie. He promoted his most famous book Espantapajaros (Scarecrow) by hiring a horse-drawn funeral hearse to parade an effigy of a “learned man” along the streets of Buenos Aires. After the stunt the papier-mâché “scarecrow” resided in Girondo’s house. (I’ve heard that after Girondo’s death that the scarecrow ended up with the Museo de la Ciudad but I have no idea if it still exists).

Girondo is hardly known outside the realm of Spanish-language literary readers despite the fact that a Catholic university in Indiana has an extensive collection of his works. Girondo, if not for his life alone, is overdue for discovery by the rest of the world.