Diana Raznovich was born in Buenos Aires on May 12, 1945. Her paternal grandparents emigrated to Argentina from tsarist Russia in 1905, while her maternal forebears arrived from Vienna in 1922. Her father, Marcos (1916–1973), was a pediatrician; her mother, Bertha Luisa Schrager Rothschild (1924–2004), was a dentist. They married in April 1944 and were, in their daughter’s words, “an odd and loving couple.” In a period of less than five years after Diana’s birth, her mother bore two sons. Raznovich spent her childhood receiving both a Jewish and a general education, reading avidly and being indelibly impressed by Alice in Wonderland. She began writing poetry at an early age and recalls playing Bach on the piano at the age of four. She studied literature at university.
In 1976, during a period of political persecution, and a year after the “disappearance” of her husband, Ernesto Clusellas (b. 1944), she immigrated to Spain, carrying only a few personal belongings. She divorced her second husband, Hugo Urquijo (b. 1944) in 1983. She has no children.
Raznovich remained in Spain until 1983, returning to Argentina upon the restoration of democracy. (However, in 1981 she had participated in the dramatists’ collective Teatro Abierto [Open Theater], a festival which, in staging a cycle of one-act plays in defiance of the military regime, hastened the demise of censorship.) She returned to Europe once again in 1988 and remained there until 1993, based in Madrid, but traveling frequently to other countries as her plays began to be performed in Italy, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, England and Switzerland. During her first stay in Spain she taught at the Centro de Estudios Teatrales in Madrid and while she was in Argentina (1993–2000) she was on the board of directors of Argentores as a member of the Professional Theater Board (1998–2000). Since 2000 she has once again resided in Spain.
Raznovich began her literary career at the age of sixteen, with Tiempo de amar (A Time to Love, 1960), a volume of what she defines as nihilistic poetry. Although she is chiefly a dramatist, she has also worked as TV screen-writer (Bárbara Narváez, 1983) cartoonist and novelist. Para que se cumplan todos tus deseos (All Your Wishes Come True, 1990) shows the strong influence of magic realism. In it a wizard, capable of creating vast riches, is kidnapped by greedy criminals, whereupon he loses his gift. The novel is a reflection on powerful talents which evaporate when exploited. In her second novel, Mater erótica (Erotic Mother, 1991), the fall of communism in Europe is represented by a shaking off of sexual and political taboos.
Throughout her prolific career Raznovich explores the female role in its multiple manifestations. Her writings invite a kaleidoscopic reading. They are poetic, rather than ideological or anecdotal, and always iconoclastic. Influenced by family history and what she calls her “Hebrew roots,” she immerses herself fully in Torah and Kabbalah, in the Jewish tradition. Her Jewish spirit prevails in her inclination towards metaphysical reasoning and universal metaphors as well as in the humor that envelopes her characters. She sometimes employs a profusion of clichés to pose serious and original questions; and she sets her plays in surrealistic, absurd milieus which bring to mind images from Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett.
Raznovich’s female characters strive to escape from suffocating feelings of confinement. In Desconcierto (Disconcerted, 1981) the decision of a pianist to tell the audience her life story rather than perform her concert on a piano that emits no sound, acquires added significance in the context of the censorship imposed by the Argentinean military regime.
Her most acclaimed play, Jardín de otoño (Autumn Garden, 1983), can be regarded as a criticism of mass culture projected through the media, as an exposition of class conflicts, or even as a fantasy of heterosexual love that conceals the fear of homosexuality. The play is about two spinsters who naively devise a plot to kidnap a soap-opera star in order to save him from a fictional danger. Their rather pathetic longing for their hero permits them to idealize him as long as he is unreachable. By the end of the play, even as the star surrenders to the demands of the women when they discover he is not the ideal (the messiah) they had been waiting for, they return him to the television screen. Jardín de otoño also reveals manifestations of Jewish consciousness: The longings of the protagonists may be regarded as suggestive of the age-long futile dreams of redemption of Raznovich’s Jewish ancestors.
The monologue Objetos perdidos (Lost Belongings, 1988) contains images such as having one’s suitcases ready for any eventuality, which are common to every wanderer, and are generally ingrained among Jews. In Raznovich’s style, such feelings bestow a sense of urgency on her dramas. The play is also a metaphor for the exiles who escaped the military dictatorship in Argentina and those who disappeared. Totally lost amidst her own luggage, Casalia Beltrop opens it and finds remnants of her past life. In the author’s mind, the play’s title—a warning usually heard at stations and airports—is associated with the personal belongings that Jews had to leave behind upon their arrival at concentration camps. It is also reminiscent of the anguish and confusion Raznovich reports having felt upon leaving her country and deciding what items to take along that might later become essential. This process of transplantation is similar to what she imagines her ancestors must have suffered before each exile.
From the Jewish perspective, the crowded landscape of luggage that fills the stage stands for the home of the Jew, surrounded by the perpetual presence of suitcases, conveying the idea that she will have to move on to unknown places, for indefinite periods of time. When Casalia hesitantly opens some of the cases, she finds in them human bones, which she recognizes as belonging to her dear ones, and her memories become unbearably real.
With no one to welcome Casalia except for a loudspeaker warning her to be careful, the atmosphere of the play is that of a nightmare that persists even after she wakes up. Enveloped by suitcases, Casalia’s last recourse is to get into a suitcase herself. The images of Objetos perdidos show the individual in an ironic relationship with the political system. No matter what Casalia says or does, she fears that she will always be regarded with suspicion.
Among Raznovich’s other plays, Casa matriz (Matrix House, 1988) is a parody of consumerism, both social and individual, that trades on human emotions, rather than catering to real needs. In this comedy a daughter may rent, from the “menu” of possibilities an agency has to offer, the kind of substitute mother whom she wishes to reenact the roles of the “real” mother. In La madre posmoderna (The Postmodern Mother, 1993) a feminist woman scholar has to attend psychonalytic sessions with her forty-year-old son, who refuses to release her from motherly duties. De atrás para adelante (Rear Entry, 1993), a parody of a Jewish father with a transsexual son, is a reflection on the prejudices of a traditional family toward a child who is different. De la cintura para abajo (From the Waist Down, 1999) satirizes the boredom of a bourgeois couple who engage the services of an unemployed torturer after democracy is restored, to act as their sadomasochistic sexologist and help them solve their marital problems.
Cables pelados. Buenos Aires: 1987; Defiant Acts/Actos desafiantes: Four Plays/Cuatro Obras. Edited by Diana Taylor and Victoria Martínez. London Press, 2000; “Desconcierto.” In Teatro abierto. Buenos Aires: 1992, 315–322. Jardín de otoño. Buenos Aires: 1985; “Lost Belongings.” In Contemporary Argentine Jewish Drama: A Critical Anthology in Translation (seven plays), edited by Nora Glickman and Gloria Waldman. Lewisburg, PA: 1996; Mater erótica. Barcelona: 1992; Para que se cumplan todos tus deseos. Madrid: 1988; Paradise y otros monólogos. Buenos Aires: 1994; Teatro completo de Diana Raznovich. Buenos Aires: 1994; Tiempo de amar y otros poemas. Buenos Aires: 1963.
Glickman, Nora. “Parodia y desmitificación del rol femenino en el teatro de Diana Raznovich.” Latin American Theatre Review 28 (1994): 89–100; Idem. “Paradojas y mitos judaicos en dos obras de Diana Raznovich.” Noaj 9 (1993): 83–87; Martínez, Marta. “Tres nuevas dramaturgas argentinas: Marta Mahieu, Hebe Uhart y Diana Raznovich.” Latin American Theatre Review 13.2 (1980): 39–45; Weinstein, Ana and Miriam Nasatsky, editors. Escritores judeo-argentinos. Bibliografía. 1900–1987. Buenos Aires: 1994, 103–105.