Nicolás Olivari

Real name: Arzeno, Diego
Poet, lyricist, journalist and writer
(8 September 1900 - 22 September 1966)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
José Gobello

e was born in Buenos Aires in the neighborhood of El Once. In 1921, he published a book of stories, Carne al sol, and in 1923 a novel, La mala vida. His first book of poems, La amada infiel, is from 1924. In 1926, he released La musa de la mala pata, a group of poems he himself labeled as «grotesque, furious and useless». In El gato escaldado (1929) he defined his own poetic style: «The lyricism I follow for my poems must be so deep as a narcotic drug and I dream of it as so categorical, rough and concluding that from each piece engraved in the metal of the language, scratched by the acids inspired by the muse brought back to life, we shall come out drowned and blinded as if we had found our way out from the deepest pit of a mine».

In 1952, Olivari sent me the following bio-bibliographical sketch: «Porteño. Journalist. Playwright. Poet. Incidental actor in the movies with Fabrizi. What has he not done? He belonged to Martín Fierro. He wrote the tango “La violeta”. He is the most elegant poet and the one who speaks worst in town. He was translated to several languages. Author of La amada infiel, La musa de la mala pata, El gato escaldado, Diez poemas sin poesía, Los poemas rezagados, La mosca verde and La noche es nuestra (stories), El hombre de la baraja y la puñalada (movie scenes)». We have to add that Olivari —whose last book of poems, Pas de quatre, is from 1966— was in 1962 among the writers that founded the Academia Porteña del Lunfardo.

In Nicolás Olivari’s poetry, as Luis Soler Cañas remarked, «there is protest, there is rebelliousness, there is nonconformity». Certainly it is not a merry poetry but it is acid and melancholic and it only is related to François Villon’s (1431?-1489?) for his naughty and false cynicism. However, Olivari liked to be compared with that delinquent poet: «Comrade Villon, a modern poet /paves the road for you in the new city, /like you he says verses in the cold of winter time /and he laughs at his disgrace in his stanzas. » (El gato escaldado, page 21).

La violeta” dates back to 1929 and was premiered by Roberto Maida on Radio Nacional (later Radio Belgrano) and committed to disc in 1930. That same year Carlos Gardel recorded it accompanied by the guitarists Aguilar, Barbieri and Riverol.

Horacio Ferrer in his Libro del Tango comments about him: «Playwright and writer in the Crítica newspaper run by Natalio Botana, in Noticias Gráficas and in other journals, was also literature and Spanish language teacher».

And about his tango: «With music by Cátulo Castillo he wrote the tango “La violeta” —well-conceived etching about the immigrant’s life—. Later he released another one: “Murallón”».

Other of his numbers in popular music were: “Desdén [b]” (tango with music by Alberto Ruiz), “Saturnia” (tango with music by Juan de Dios Filiberto), “Cuarenta entradas” (tango with music by José López Ares, recorded by the Edgardo Donato Orchestra with Teófilo Ibáñez on vocals), “Dos ojos negros” (tango with music by Raúl de los Hoyos, recorded by the Francisco Canaro Orchestra with Charlo), “Amor [c]” (with music by Alberto Visca) and “Arañita” (with music by Udelino Toranzo).