28 July 2010

Julio Cortázar

[from Julio Cortázar’s Diary of Andrés Fava, tr. Anne Mclean, Archipelago, 2005]

Before understanding with sufficient dialectic clarity the irruption of poetry in any contemporary verbal genre, and by extension the eradication of “genres” as such, I felt its obscure work present in my prose, in what up till then had been prose. I wrote a novel where, without excessive effort, I managed to express well a clearly a repertoire of ideas and a set of sensations and sentiments. Later, amusing myself with a few short stories, I noticed the first signs of rot in that prose; fear of the “emphatic” period, the “fortissimo” end of chapter. Every proposition that contains a whole development of its object, is like a tiny chapter, and ergo should finish “roundly”; a discourse — and my prose was always discourse, like this that I write now effortlessly, because its content is rigorously transmissible — is composed of dozens of propositions, each one of which has its progression, its peripeteia, its know and its final crash, that artistic order that masters emotion and moves to applause, a gesture that consists of hitting the hands together to see if one can trap in them the je ne sais quoi that provokes enthusiasm.

When I realized I could no longer write like before, that language had turned its back on me, that the rhythms were demanding otherwise, and that on the whole what I was now writing (because I didn’t for a single minute decline the entreaty from within) was less valuable as meaning than as object, I had the first suspicion of the contemporary phenomenon. That was when I read Ulysses, with a South American delay. And I confirmed what was happening when I accidentally stumbled upon The Death of Virgil.

. . . liberty, won by the putrefaction of my excellent former prose, lies in getting as close as possible to the material to be expressed, the physical or fictitious material I want (or I'm obliged) to express. For this I escape from adequate language (which it isn't anyway, more like adequating) and I accept, provoke, invent and try out a way of saying things that — me keeping quite still in the middle — is a self-asserting of all that surrounds me, interests me, and awakens me. There you are, memory of a night on Congreso, an adolescent weeping on a bench. You are there, it's you. Well, now it's your turn because I want it to be, or because I accept that you want it: come, say yourself. This is a hand, this is a sheet of paper. Pass through me like light through a stained-glass window: make yourself word, be here. The order of the elements doesn't matter, it doesn't matter if you're really stained glass and the word illuminates you, making you be, or if you are the light itself and my word (yours, yes, but mine) will be little by little the stained glass that gives you meaning forever.

For others, which is the miracle.


  1. it reads like a person describing their attempts at masturbation

  2. Anonymous23:47

    Good stuff. So is masturbation, which this doesn't remind me of at all. So sheltered am I.