Sometimes I think the only thing we did in school was read Julio Cortázar. I remember taking tests on “The Night Face Up” in each of my last three years of school, and countless were the times we read “Axolotl” and “The Continuity of Parks,” two short stories that the teachers considered ideal for filling out an hour and a half of class. This is not a complaint, since we were happy reading Cortázar: we recited the characteristics of the fantasy genre with automatic joy, and we repeated in chorus that for Cortázar the short story wins by knockout and the novel by points, and that there was a male reader and a female reader and all of that.
The tastes of my generation were shaped by Cortázar’s stories, and not even the xeroxed tests could divest his literature of that air of permanent contemporaneity. I remember how at sixteen, I convinced my dad to give me the six thousand pesos that Hopscotch cost, explaining that the book was “several books, but two in particular,” so that buying it was like buying two novels for three thousand pesos each, or even four books for fifteen hundred pesos each. I also remember the employee at the Ateneo bookshop who, when I was looking for Around the Day in Eighty Worlds, explained to me patiently, over and over, that the book was called Around the World in Eighty Days and that the author was Jules Verne, not Julio Cortázar. Read More