To be Read in the Interrogative

By Julio Cortazar

Have you seen,
have you truly seen
the snow, the stars, the felt steps of the breeze…
Have you touched,
have you really touched
the plate, the bread, the face of that woman you love so much…
Have you lived
like a blow to the head,
the flash, the gasp, the fall, the flight…
Have you known,
known in every pore of your skin,
how your eyes, your hands, your sex, your soft heart,
must be thrown away
must be wept away
must be invented all over again.
Julio Cortazar


Carta a una Señorita en Paris

Extract from a short story by Julio Cortázar, Letter to a Young Lady in Paris:

When I think I’m about to vomit a rabbit I put two fingers down my throat like an open set of tongs, and I wait until I can feel the warm hair rising like the fizz of an alka-seltzer. It’s quick and clean, it all happens in an instant. I remove my fingers from my mouth and with them a little white rabbit comes dangling by the ears. The rabbit looks happy, it’s a perfectly normal little rabbit, only exceedingly tiny, as small as a chocolate rabbit except for the fact that it’s white and most definitely a rabbit. I place it in the palm of my hand, stroke its fur with my fingers; the rabbit seems happy to be alive and hoovers about burying its nose in my skin with that quiet, ticklish gnoshing of a rabbit’s nose on one’s hand. It looks for something to eat so I (I’m referring to when this used to happen in my house on the outskirts of the city) I take it out to the balcony and place it in the big pot with the clover I’ve planted especially. The little rabbit pricks up his ears as high as they go, grabs at a clover with a quick swirl of his snout, and I know then that I can leave him there and go off, continue with a life that’s no different to that of so many other people who purchase their rabbits from farms.

After-Easter Show, Miroslaw Balka, sculpture, nature, rabbit 1986,

After-Easter Show. Miroslaw Balka. 1986

Original text in Spanish:
Cuando siento que voy a vomitar un conejito me pongo dos dedos en la boca como una pinza abierta, y espero a sentir en la garganta la pelusa tibia que sube como una efervescencia de sal de frutas. Todo es veloz e higiénico, transcurre en un brevísimo instante. Saco los dedos de la boca, y en ellos traigo sujeto por las orejas a un conejito blanco. El conejito parece contento, es un conejito normal y perfecto, sólo que muy pequeño, pequeño como un conejilo de chocolate pero blanco y enteramente un conejito. Me lo pongo en la palma de la mano, le alzo la pelusa con una caricia de los dedos, el conejito parece satisfecho de haber nacido y bulle y pega el hocico contra mi piel, moviéndolo con esa trituración silenciosa y cosquilleante del hocico de un conejo contra la piel de una mano. Busca de comer y entonces yo (hablo de cuando esto ocurría en mi casa de las afueras) lo saco conmigo al balcón y lo pongo en la gran maceta donde crece el trébol que a propósito he sembrado. El conejito alza del todo sus orejas, envuelve un trébol tierno con un veloz molinete del hocico, y yo sé que puedo dejarlo e irme, continuar por un tiempo una vida no distinta a la de tantos que compran sus conejos en las granjas.


Instructions on How to Wind a Watch

By Julio Cortazar

Death stands there in the background, but don’t be afraid. Hold the watch down with one hand, take the stem in two fingers, and rotate it smoothly. Now another installment of time opens, trees spread their leaves, boats run races, like a fan time continues filling with itself, and from that burgeon the air, the breezes of earth, the shadow of a woman, the sweet smell of bread.

What did you expect, what more do you want? Quickly. strap it to your wrist, let it tick away in freedom, imitate it greedily. Fear will rust all the rubies, everything that could happen to it and was forgotten is about to corrode the watch’s veins, cankering the cold blood and its tiny rubies. And death is there in  the background, we must run to arrive beforehand and understand it’s already unimportant.

Graciela Iturbide4

Graciela Iturbide

 

 


Faint Taste of Salt

An extract from From the Observatory by Julio Cortazar:

…amor de siesta o duermevela, entreviendo en esa mancha clara la puerta que se abre a la terraza, en una ráfaga verde la blusa que te quitaste para darme la leve sal que tiembla en tus senos.

English translation:

…holding you in my arms, siesta love or half asleep, glimpsing in that patch of light through the door that opens onto the terrace, in a green gust the blouse you took off to give me the faint taste of salt trembling on your breasts


Instructions on How to Cry

From Julio Cortázar’s Cronopios and Famas (1962), translated by Paul Blackburn, we bring you Instructions on How to Cry:

Putting the reasons for crying aside for the moment, we might concentrate on the correct way to cry, which, be it understood, means a weeping that doesn’t turn into a big commotion nor proves an affront to the smile with its parallel and dull similarity. The average, everyday weeping consists of a general contraction of the face and a spasmodic sound accompanied by tears and mucus, this last toward the end, since the cry ends at the point when one energetically blows one’s nose.

In order to cry, steer the imagination toward yourself, and if this proves impossible owing to having contacted the habit of believing in the exterior world, think of a duck covered with ants or of those gulfs in the Strait of Magellan into which no one sails ever.

Coming to the weeping itself, cover the face decorously, using both hands, palms inward. Children are to cry with the sleeve of the dress or shirt pressed against the face, preferably in a corner of the room. Average duration of the cry, three minutes.