María Sonia Cristoff
© Gabriel Díaz
María Sonia Cristoff was born in Trelew, Patagonia, in 1965. Since the early 1980s she has lived in Buenos Aires where she studied Language and Literature. For years now Christoff has applied herself to the literature of Patagonia, published Acento extranjero (“Foreign Accent”), an anthology of historical travelogues, in 2000, and the volume Patagonia in 2005, in which various authors portray their villages in southern Argentina. With Falsa calma (“Deceptive Calm”), which she wrote thanks to a scholarship of the Fondo Nacional de las Artes, she advanced to become an outstanding ambassador for the narrative non-fiction of her country. The author writes for the newspaper La Nación on a regular basis.
Falsa calma – Un recorrido por
pueblos fantasmas de la Patagonia (“Deceptive Calm, Patagonia’s haunted Villages”) is a
travelogue which aims to track down Patagonian conditions of living without
following in the line of Chatwin’s creation of myths. The emphasis is not on
the meagreness and vastness of the countryside, which has now almost become a
cliché, but on isolated villages, which are swept through by the winds and seem
like ghost towns at first sight. And so María Sonia Cristoff becomes part of
the village Cañadón Seco, the first stop of her journey. As she waits endlessly
for a bus, she meets people, enters their lives for a short while and listens
to stories. She stays much longer than
intended and it is the sudden aggression of the stray dogs that tells her it is
time to leave. There are recurring moments where the chronicler turns from
observer into the observed. Her refreshingly different report is a blend of
essay and literary narration which includes quotes of old travel reports,
newspaper articles as well as autobiographical elements. It is also a journey
back to her childhood, from which she clearly remembers a general feeling of
being forgotten by the world, which is so widely spread among the people of
Patagonia takes off its mask and shows one of its most authentic facets.
Bajo influencia (“Under Influence“) is both a subtle parody on the world of the arts and a story about an era continuously in motion, in which originality has become devoid of meaning. Cristoff’s protagonist Tonia, a freelance editor and workaholic, starts to change when she gets to know the passionate walker and wannabe artist Cecilio. Her detailed observations depict a society bordering on the laconic.
In fact, Bajo influencia makes for powerful, ingenious and unpredictable reading.
This novel confirms that Cristoff is an exceptionally artful narrator.
Patricio Fontana, writer
Falsa calma - Un recorrido por pueblos fantasmas de la Patagonia
Buenos Aires: Seix Barral 2005, 221 p.
Germany: Berenberg 2010
Buenos Aires: Mondadori 2006, 123 p.
Buenos Aires: Edhasa 2010, 207 p.
Germany: Berenberg 2013
Participation in anthologies:
Südamerika. Der eigene Kontinent
Germany: Le Monde Diplomatique, forthcoming in May 2011
Edited by María Sonia Cristoff:
Pasaje a Oriente. Narrativa de viajes de escritores argentinos
Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica 2009, 424 p.