The name of Cortazar entered my life a long time ago.
This is what I write in my history “Serious Relationship” from the Cycle “The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh”:
“These names of Latin American writers were a kind of cultural code for us, a sort of secret Masonic greeting, by which we recognized a member of the inner circle. It’s no accident the urban myth existed that Phystech students used to seduce the girls as follows: “Didn’t you read Cortazar? Go to bed! Didn’t you read Borges? To bed!”
Long time ago when I first learned about the existence of Cortazar, this luminary of 20th century prose seemed to me such a classic figure from the past that it never occurred to me that somewhere in pre-youtube reality his color videos were being carefully stored.
But then Cortazar fan from western hemisphere sent me a link to a video of Julio’s color interview from 1980.
In principle, a lot of what he says in this interview, I read many years ago in printed Russian interviews in the prefaces to collections of his stories. But it so happened that the video footage of Cortazar, walking in bell-bottomed trousers near the canal, and then riding a bus along the Seine embankment with a panoramic view of the opposite bank in the window made me feel nostalgia for Paris and remember one completely Parisian story of Cortazar – “Another sky” – ” El otro cielo “.
In this story, Julio does what I love most about him: he shuffles the points on the map and different eras. The hero of the story goes through the Pasaje Güemes gallery in Buenos Aires to the galleries of Paris,
“into a small world that has chosen the near sky, where the glasses are dirty and the plaster statues are holding out a garland for you”.
To be honest, I was racking my brain a little trying to decipher this story.
The first and most banal thing that comes to mind is the so-called notorious escape from the everyday reality of Buenos Aires since the end of the Second World War.
But then over time more and more insistently during the descriptions of the main hero’s wandering through the Parisian galleries, the author draws our attention to a certain “American” who seemed to be deeply in some of his dreams and did not want to interrupt the hero and his company,
“And while she was talking, I looked at him again and saw him paying for absinthe, throwing a coin on a lead saucer, and looking at us (as if we had disappeared for an endless moment) with a careful, empty look, as if he has stuck in dreams and did not want wake up!”
Then the “American” dies in that Parisian reality, which seems to be parallel to Buenos Aires’ reality.
“I found out how he fell on one of the streets of Montmartre; I found out that he was alone, and that a candle was burning among the books and papers, and his friend took the cat, and he lies in a common grave, and no one remembers him.”
And right after the death of the “American” our hero stopped falling into another dimension,
“I broke away, like a flower from a garland, from the two deaths, so symmetrical in my opinion – the death of an American and the death of Laurent, – one died in the hotel, the other disappeared in the Marseille, – and the two deaths merged into one and were erased forever from the memory of this local sky.”
Still, I have a serious suspicion that the second – Argentine – reality is also not very … real, and the hero has long died, and only his ghost in the form of an “American” has been walking through the galleries for some time.
Indeed, here is the phrase, confirming this version, at the very beginning of the story:
“Even now it is not easy for me to enter the Guemes gallery and not to be moved a little mockingly, remembering my youth when I almost died.”
And it turns out that all these Parisian characters are just flowers on a dead garland, which a plaster statue gives the ghost.
“We were, as it were, woven into a garland (later I realized that there are also funeral garlands)”
“But gradually, slowly, from there, where there is neither him, nor Josiana, nor the holiday, something was approaching me, and I more and more felt that I was alone, that everything was not so, that my world of galleries was under threat – not, even worse – all my happiness here is just a deception, a prologue to something, a trap among flowers, as if a plaster statue gave me a dead garland “
Really, we need not to forget that Cortazar is very fond of “juggling” characters. For example, he has the story “Clone”, where he came up with 6 characters and the relationship between them, simply based on the parties of different instruments in a particular piece of music.
Then I found a short video with another interview with Cortazar in Paris, where it is about Julio’s special places in Paris.
He talks about the notion of “place of passage”, and then calls Paris “a mythical city”. As the first such special place, he calls “Pont Neuf next to the statue of Henry IV and the lamppost – an absolutely lonely corner with a sense of mystery and inevitability. The second place is the Paris Metro, where time flows in a completely different way.”
And – attention! – at 4.45 he talks about … Parisian galleries.
“There are also absolutely magical and mysterious indoor galleries and haunted places. This is what I call mythical” – at this time, the galleries Galerie Vivienne and Passage des Panoramas are shown.
Passage des Panoramas
Oh, and if you are interested to find out what I personally think about the surroundings of Pont Neuf, then this is written in part 5 of my Saga “The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh” , which describes my own night wanderings along Paris:
“The most memorable sight in Paris for me was the night dark Seine, flowing its waters under the bridge to the music in my headphones, and the flow of cars on the freeways on both sides of the river. Unlike the endless sea, the dark expanse of which is also bewitching in its own way, an alluring way to the other side was opened to me, where something truly remarkable seemed to be happening … There, on the other side, I spotted the floating restaurant “Jardins du Pont Neuf” – “Gardens of the New Bridge” , to visit which sometime in good company has become an unattainable dream for me – so it is the highest life point of the type “Life is Good” for me so far… “