Because I want to, here are three Julio Cortázar pieces I love from the collection Cronopias and Famas.
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THE INSTRUCTION MANUAL (INTRODUCTION)
The job of having to soften up the brick every day, the job of cleaving a passage through the glutinous mess that declares itself to be the world, to collide every morning with the same narrow rectangular space with the disgusting name, filled with doggy satisfaction that everything is probably in its place, the same woman beside you, the same shoes, the same taste of the same toothpaste, the same sad houses across the street, the filthy slats on the shutters with the inscription THE HOTEL BELGIUM.
Drive the head like a reluctant bull through the transparent mass at the center of which we take a coffee with milk and open the newspaper to find out what has happened in whatever corner of that glass brick. Go ahead, deny up and down that the delicate act of turning the door knob, the act which may transform everything, is done with the indifferent vigor of a daily reflex, "See you later, Sweetheart. Have a good day." Tighten your fingers around a teaspoon, feel its metal pulse, its mistrustful warning. How it hurts to refuse a spoon, to say no to a door, to deny everything that habit has licked to a suitable smoothness. How much simpler to accept the easy request of the spoon, to use it to stir the coffee.
And it's not that it's so bad that things meet us every day and are the same. That the same woman is there beside us, the same watch, that the novel lying open there on the table starts, once more, to take its bicycle ride through your glasses. What could be wrong with it? But like a sad bull, one has to lower the head, hustle out from the middle of the glass brick toward the one nearest us, who is as unattainable as the picador, however close the bull is to him. Punish the eyes looking at that which passes in the sky and cunningly accept that its name is cloud, its answer catalogued in the mind. Don't believe that the telephone is going to give you the numbers you try to call, why should it? The only thing that will come is what you have already prepared and decided, the gloomy reflection of your expectations, that monkey, who scratches himself on the table and trembles with cold. Break the monkey's head, take a run from the middle of the room to the wall and break through it. Oh, how they sing upstairs! There's an apartment upstairs where people live who don't know there's a downstairs floor and that all of us live in the glass brick. And if suddenly a moth lands on the edge of a pencil and flutters there like an ash-colored flame, look at it. I am looking at it. I am touching its tiny heart and I hear it. That moth reverberates in the pie dough of frozen glass, all is not lost. When the door opens and I lean over the stairwell, I'll know that the street begins down there; not the already accepted matrix, not the familiar houses, not the hotel across the street, that busy wilderness which can tumble upon me like a magnolia any minute, where the faces will come to life when I look at them, when I just go a little bit further, when I smash minutely against the pie dough of the glass brick and stake my life while I press forward step by step to go pick up the newspaper at the corner.
They cut off this gentleman’s head, but as a strike broke out among the gravediggers and they couldn’t bury him, the gentleman had to go on living headless and manage as well as he could.
He noticed immediately that, along with his head, four or five senses had disappeared. Left solely with the sense of touch but full of good will, the gentleman seated himself on a bench in the plaza Lavalle and felt the leaves of the trees one by one, trying to distinguish them one from another and name them. Thus at the end of several days, he was reasonably sure that he had gathered and placed on his lap a eucalyptus leaf, one plantain, one wild magnolia, and a small green pebble.
When the gentleman observed that this latter item was a green pebble, he spent a very perplexed couple of days. Pebble was correct, but green, no. To test, he imagined the stone red and at the same moment felt a profound repugnance, a rejection of this flagrant falsehood, this absolutely false red pebble, for the pebble was completely green and disk-shaped, very sweet to the touch.
Furthermore, when he noticed that the stone was sweet, the gentleman was for a time subjected to great surprise. Then he opted for happiness, which is always preferable, since now he saw himself analogous to certain insects which can regenerate their amputated parts, he realized he was capable of feeling in diverse ways. Stimulated by this conclusion, he left the bench in the plaza and went down via calle Libertad to the avenida de Mayo which, as everyone knows, is redolent of the smell of fried food from the Spanish restaurants. Confirming this detail, which gave him back another sense, the gentleman wandered vaguely west—or east—he couldn’t be sure which, and he walked tirelessly, expecting from one moment to the next to be able to hear something, for hearing was the one sense that he was still missing. What he was seeing actually was a sky, pallid as at dawn, he was touching his own hands with sweaty fingers, his fingernails pressing into the flesh of the palms, he smelled something like sweat, and in his mouth there was the taste of metal and cognac. The only sense lacking was hearing, and just then he heard, and it was like a memory, because what he again heard were the words of the prison chaplain, hopeful and consoling words by themselves, even very beautiful, but what a pity, they had that certain air of being used, said too many times, stale from having been said again and again.
Established that ants are the true rulers of creation (the reader may take this as a hypothesis or as a fantasy; in any case he will do well with a little anthroescapism), and I have here a page of their geography:
(p. 84 of the book; possible equivalents of certain expressions are given in parenthesis, following the classical interpretation of Gaston Loeb)
“… parallel seas (rivers?). The infinite water (a sea?) grows at certain times like an ivy-ivy-ivy (idea of a very high wall, which would express the tides?). If one goes-goes-goes-goes (an analogous idea applied to distance) one comes to the Great Green Shade (a field under cultivation? a thicket? woods?) where the Great God raises up his perpetual granary for his Best Workers. Horrible Immense Beings (men?) abound in this region who destroy our trails under the earth. On the other side of the Great Green Shade, the Hard Sky begins (a mountain?). And all is ours, though under great threat.”
This geography has been the object of another interpretation (Dick Fry and Niels Peterson, Jr.). The landscape might correspond topographically to a small garden at 628 calle Laprida, Buenos Aires. The parallel seas are two gutters for waste water; the infinite water, a duck pond; the Great Green Shade, a bed of lettuce. The Horrible Immense Beings, they suggest, might be ducks or hens, though the possibility that, really, men are meant cannot be discarded. As for the Hard Sky, a polemic is already being waged which will not soon be resolved. In the opinion of Fry and Peterson, they hold it obvious that it means the brickyard next door, as opposed to the notion of Guillermo Sofovich, who surmises it to be a bidet abandoned among the lettuce.