Originally published in 1981 as En breve carcel, Certificate of Absence is the first vel of the Argentinian scholar-critic Sylvia Molloy. Invative in its treatment of women's relationships and in its assertion of woman's right to author her own text, the vel has won wide approval in Latin America and the United States. The vel centers around a woman writing in a small room. As she writes, remembering a past relationship and anticipating a future one, the room becomes a repository for stalgia, violence, and desire, a space in which writing and remembering become life-sustaining ceremonies. The narrator reflects on the power of love to both shelter and destroy. She meditates on the act of writing, specifically on writing as a woman, in a voice that goes against the grain of established, canical voices. Latin American male writers are prone to self-portrayal in their texts. Certifcate of Absence is one of the few vels by Latin American women that successfully use this technique to open new windows on women's experiences.
Sylvia Molloy is Professor of Spanish at Yale University. Daniel Balderston is Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Tulane University.