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Bestiario (1951 original; edició 2014)
de Julio Cortázar (Autor)
Informació de l'obra
Bestiary de Julio Cortázar (1951)
No hi ha cap discussió a Converses sobre aquesta obra.
Tras terminar mi segundo libro -Bestiario- de Juio Cortázar, me queda la duda de cual será la clase de mariguana que consumía para diatribar sus cuenticos. Dos... y basta!
Ocho cuentos: Casa tomada - Carta a una señorita en París - Lejana - Ómnibus - Cefalea - Circe - Las puertas del cielo - Bestiario -
Bestiario was published in 1951 and was the first collection of short stories by the Argentinian writer Julio Cortazar. I don't read in Spanish and so I ordered an English translation and the book that arrived was somewhat bigger than I expected: Bestiario is a slim volume of 160 odd pages. Bestiary turned out to be selected short stories from most of the collections published throughout Cortazar's life (which happened to include six of the eight stories in Bestiario). At first being something of a completist I was disappointed at not having all the stories originally published in Bestiario, but as I read on through the book I realised what a privileged piece of good fortune it was to read not only some wonderful stories but also to follow the development of Julio Cortazar the writer.
Julio Cortazar was born in Brussels, Belgium to Argentinian parents in 1914, but moved to Buenos Aires when he was five years old, where he spent his formative years. He emigrated to France in 1951 the year of the publication of his first collection of stories and was based in Paris, although he had a second home in the South of France. He worked as a translator. Not surprisingly in subsequent collections of stories after Bestiario they seem to be set more or less equally in France or Argentina. He became politically involved late in the 1960's and his stories came to reflect this more obviously, although I would argue that most of the stories I have read in this collection show an intense political awareness of one kind or another.
There are 35 stories in this collection with an average of ten pages for each one. Typically the stories start with a rush of information, ideas and startling imagery which set this readers head spinning. They soon settle down allowing you to catch up a little and also to appreciate what a fine teller of stories Cortazar was in this medium, because he places his readers inside the story: first of all there is that immediate grabbing of attention before the tale unravels. Take one of his most famous stories from his first collection: "Letter to a Young Lady in Paris" where the speaker has a curious condition of vomiting up live rabbits, it starts:
"Andrea, I didn't want to live in your apartment on Suipacha. Not so much because of the bunnies, but rather that it offends me to intrude on a compact order, built even to the finest nets of air, networks that in your environment conserve the music in the lavender, the heavy fluff of the powder puff in the talcum, the play between the violin and the viola in Ravels quartet. It hurts me to come into an ambience where someone who lives beautifully has arranged everything like a visible affirmation of her soul............."
The speaker from time to time vomits up tiny rabbits, he keeps them in a pen allowing them to grow and he spends time gathering clover on which to feed them. This surrealist image like the best surreal images becomes an accepted fact of the speakers existence; he vomits up rabbits, it doesn't happen all that often and he deals with the consequences. When he takes over the occupancy of Andrea's apartment he finds that he is vomiting rabbits on almost a daily basis. The early stories are shot through with these surrealist images, but they become so much part of the story that the allegory is not difficult to grasp and Cortazar usually provides an ending that is not only satisfying, but reflects back on the story that you have just read.
The stories from the first selection are stunning indeed, varied, finely crafted and involving. In the Gates of Heaven a grieving lover becomes convinced he seas his dead wife in a sleazy nightclub, in 'Circe' a young man gets involved with a girl who it is rumoured has killed two of her previous boyfriends, In "Omnibus" a young woman becomes aware of all the other passengers on the bus staring at her because she is not carrying a bunch of flowers for a graveyard on route, in "House taken Over" a reclusive brother and sister shut off portions of their large family home when they hear mysterious noises.
The tales selected from the second collection "Final del juego" (End of the game) are shorter and contain more elements of magic realism, but again there are some unforgettable stories: in 'The Night Face Up' a motorcyclist has an accident and in hospital with a fever he dreams he has been selected for a human sacrifice by the Aztecs, it becomes all too real, in 'In the Afternoon' a young boy is charged with taking his idiotic younger brother for a walk in town, 'End of the Game' itself is an arresting story of three girls who play at making a tableau of themselves beside the railway tracks at a certain time each day when the train carrying the commuters comes along, one day a passenger gets off the train and walks back along the track to meet the girls. The selections from "Todos Los Fuegos El Fuego ( All fires the fire) are set in Paris and contains "The Southern Thruway" which was adapted for a Jean Luc Godard film 'Weekend" Cortazar imagines an endless traffic jam approaching Paris where immobilised travellers have to survive for days in a hostile environment. In this selection there is also 'Instructions for John Howard' where a casual theatre goer at an intermission to a play is selected to go backstage where he finds the actors want him to improvise his way through the rest of the play with them, there are strange undercurrents......
Selections from the 1974 collection Octaedro are once again based largely in South America, there is less magical realism in these stories as the author is telling stories of love and relationships, but once again full of atmosphere and mystery. The 1977 collection 'Alguien que anda por ahl' continues these themes, but against a more cosmopolitan European background for example 'The Faces of the Medal tells of a romance set against the headquarters of CERN: The Organisation for Nuclear Research in Switzerland. Press Clipping from Quaremos Tantoa Glenda tells of missing people and torture in Argentina and is much more of a political statement, but is juxtaposed with a newspaper story of a woman being tortured by her lover in Marseilles (France). Their are four stories from Deshoras published in 1982 two years before the authors death that show that Cortazar never lost his mastery of the short story format. No loss of the power of the story teller here and the final story Nightmare provides the perfect bookend to the very first story in the collection.
Having read this selection of short stories I am sorry not to have a complete collection in translation, buI can console my self with the prospect of reading most of these again without the need of rushing toward the denouement (always a temptation in short stories for me). I am certainly going to get a copy of Cortazar's celebrated novel Rayuela (Hopscotch). This was a major discovery for me and a five star read.
This little collection of eight strange and subtle short stories marked the start of Cortázar's "official" literary career. At least two of the stories had previously been published by Borges in his review Los Anales de Buenos Aires, and there's obviously some overlap with the Borgesian way of seeing the world, but the emphasis is different - Cortázar is clearly particularly interested in the point at which the strange collides with the everyday, and in what the close examination of that could tell us about the way the human mind works. The fantastic elements in his stories are often quite subtle, and never quite take over from the realistic ones. We are never quite permitted to decide whether the logic of the story requires us to take the fantastic element literally, or if it is pushing us to step back and see it as a delusion of the narrator.
In "Casa tomada" a brother and sister gradually abandon parts of their house to a something that they experience only as vague sounds coming from the rooms they have given up, whilst in "Bestiario" parts of the house where two children play are out of bounds because of the movements of a tiger we never get to see; in "Ómnibus" two passengers are inexplicably frightened because everyone else on the bus has a bunch of flowers and they don't.
Some are nearer to ghost-stories: in "Lejana" a woman has a dream-like encounter on a bridge in Budapest with the woman she's been dreaming about, whilst in "Las puertas del cielo" the narrator takes a recently-widowed friend to a dance hall and they both see his dead wife dancing a tango (thus undermining Borges's famous idea that what distinguishes Argentinian literature is that it is not recognisably Argentinian...). Interestingly, the story that worked least well for me was the most recognisably Borgesian one, "Cefalea", about some ranchers who are attempting to breed an imaginary and very sensitive creature, the mancuspia.
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A grieving family home becomes the site of a terrifying invasion. A frustrated love triangle, brought together by a plundered Aztec idol, spills over into brutality. A lodger's inability to stop vomiting bunny rabbits inspires a personal confession. As dream melds into reality, and reality melts into nightmare, one constant remains throughout these thirty-five stories: the singular brilliance of Julio Cortázar's imagination.
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Classificació Decimal de Dewey (DDC)863.64 — Literature Spanish and Portuguese Spanish fiction 20th Century 1945-2000
LCC (Clas. Bibl. Congrés EUA)
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