He had put it down because of some urgent business conferences, opened it again on his way back to the estate by train; he permitted himself a slowly growing interest in the plot, in the characterizations. That afternoon, after writing a letter giving his power of attorney and discussing a matter of joint ownership with the manager of his estate, he returned to the book in the tranquility of his study which looked out upon the park with its oaks. Sprawled in his favorite armchair, its back toward the door--even the possibility of an intrusion would have irritated him, had he thought of it--he let his left hand caress repeatedly the green velvet upholstery and set to reading the final chapters. He remembered effortlessly the names and his mental images of the characters; the novel spread its glamour over him almost at once. He tasted the almost perverse pleasure of disengaging himself line by line from the things around him, and at the same time feeling his head rest comfortably on the green velvet of the chair with its high back, sensing that the cigarettes rested within reach of his hand, that beyond the great windows the air of afternoon danced under the oak trees in the park.
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Shelves: Now I am an axolotl! After spending some quality time in the company of Julio Cortazar and his choice short prose, I believe I can more easily identify with the weirdness, wonder and mystery of existence, as seen though the lens of his imagination.
Te hype is in his case entirely justified, at least as far as I am concerned. He is a master stylist, a poet that playfully yet carefully constructs his phrases I wish I could be able to read in the original Spanish, or at least in the French he adopted in his later career. The main atracton is not the prose itself, so much as the masterful capture of things usually left unsaid, of the inner labyrinths of the psyche where logic and science must take second place to the fears of the subconscious.
His stories are more metaphor than mirror of the world, and almost all of them provide an unusual angle, a skewed point of view that is meant to push us out of the comfort zone and challenge us to consider said world and our fellow humans from a new perspective, like that of a tiny invertebrate: Or it was also in him, or all of us were thinking humanlike, incapable of expression, limited to the golden splendor of our eyes looking at the face of the man pressed against the aquarium.
Axolotl opens the book, just like my review, with an invitation to consider that as we are looking at the world, the world is looking back at us.
We are maybe haunted by our lizard brains who remember a time we lived in primeval swamps waiting for our minds to develop higher powers of reasoning. House Taken Over is almost a horror story, the tale of a brother and sister living alone in a big mansion somewhere in Argentina, spending their entire lives cloistered inside, one of them reading books, the other knitting useless knick-knacks.
We were fine, and little by little we stopped thinking. You can live without thinking. I think the metaphor here is the way we waste our best years in inconsequential pursuits, denying the slow draining of the sand from the hourglass. Alina Reyes has trouble falling asleep, and when she does she experiences the life of a woman thousands of miles away, in Budapest.
The theme of confused identity and soul changing will be reiterated in other stories in the collection, almost always with an unexpected ending and a provocation to make sense of events that defy logic and common sense.
See as examples The Idol of the Cyclades where an archeological team discovers and ancient fertility statue, and later in Paris they get involved in a dangerous love triangle that may be provoked by the memories stored in the ancient stone; or A Yellow Flower where a middle aged man thinks he has discovered his doppelganger in a young boy he sees on the street, doomed to repeat the same life he has lived through once already; or The Night Face Up where a young man has a bike accident and the trauma flips his brain into reliving the emotions of an Aztec prisoner being prepared for ritual slaughter.
A couple of quotes from these stories highlight the concept of deja-vu, of repeated histories and subconscious memory The man was crying in his beer, only it was wine in this case, what could you do about it, nothing. Letter to a Young Lady in Paris is probably the funniest in a collection whose major tonality is dark and anxious.
It is almost a prank, the story of a man house-sitting for a friend visiting overseas, and of an infestations of rabbits. The rabbit in question is for me the result of the creative mind, the poem or the story or the painting that the artist produces in order to explain the world better, when regular words fail to capture the feelings he is experiencing: A month is a rabbit, it really makes a real rabbit; but in the maiden moment, the warm bustling fleece covering an inalienable presence Continuity of Parks is something that I think every modern writer has tried at one point or another: metafiction, the reader being read, being inside and outside of the story and being visited by the characters from the book.
Scary, clever and thought provoking. Bestiary is a bit longer than the previous stories, but all good. Michael is more than a photographer, he is an artist with an unquenching curiosity about the world around him, prone to flights of fancy but able to see deeper and truer into the lives of the people around him, able to enjoy the sun, the streets, the life surrounding him as only people who look at the world trough a special lens, searching to capture its essence in a still image, can do.
Michael knew that the photographer always worked as a permutation of his personal way of seeing the world as other than the camera insiduously imposed on it.
There is a mystery, a puzzle to anchor the story, as Michael witnesses a strange duo having an argument on the quai of Ile St Louis and as he tries to imagine what they are fighting about and what their lives are like Michael is guilty of making literature, of indulging in fabricated unrealities.
There is also danger, and a recurring theme of clouds passing overhead that I will not spoil other than to say that I see it as the result of the artist being unable to live in an ivory tower, insulated from life, coldly objective I am sure I will look now with different eyes at the movie version, trying to find the common ground as well as the artistic licence the Italian filmmaker used.
End of the Game.
Blow-Up and Other Stories