domingo, 10 de julio de 2011

Rayuela

Rayuela (Cátedra, 2003)
por Julio Cortázar
Francia, 1963

Una aventura sentimental fracasada, la muerte de un niño, y la casi inevitable llegada de la locura asedian al intelectual frío y reservado Horacio Oliveira durante la marcha de los acontecimientos de Rayuela, esa célebre "novela total" argentina aquí narrada en o 56 capítulos o 155 capítulos o incluso 154 capítulos según la voluntad del lector y el tablero de dirección incluido con el libro que "es mucho libros, pero sobre todo es dos libros" (ojo: uno de los capítulos está diabólicamente escondido en uno de los métodos de leer la maldita cosa).  Por supuesto, yo elegí leer el "segundo libro" experimental de Cortázar, empezando con el capítulo 73 (uno de los 99 "capítulos prescindibles" según "la  forma corriente" de leer la obra, que se acaba con el capítulo 56) y siguiendo con el primer capítulo antes de dar saltos a lo largo de la rayuela-en-prosa creada por los 36 capítulos "del lado de allá" (la historia de los amantes bohemios Horacio y la Maga en París de los cincuenta y del círculo de amigos que pertenecen al Club de la Serpiente) y los 20 capítulos "del lado de acá" (lo que pasa al más y más preocupado Oliveira después de su regreso a su ciudad natal de Buenos Aires, donde se encuentra con sus amigos Traveler y Talita e incluso un "gato calculista" al circo) y el complemento total de los 99 "capítulos prescindibles".  Además de su estructura abierta y la construcción que se parece a un puzzle y sus evocaciones de un distinto tiempo y lugar, había tantas cosas que me gustaron en Rayuela.  Por ejemplo, hay docenas de descripciones inolvidables: "París, una tarjeta postal con un dibujo de Klee al lado de un espejo sucio" (132).  Capítulos enteros dedicados a la música o que tienen lugar en fiestas donde discos de jazz se cambian de manos en el trasfondo.  Hay una variedad de reflexiones metafísicas elípticas: "La vida, fotografía del número, posesión en las tinieblas (¿mujer, monstruo?), la vida, proxeneta de la muerte, espléndida baraja, tarot de claves olvidadas que unas manos gotosas rebajan a un triste solitario" (635).  También hay comentarios magníficos sobre la lectura y los lectores, como éste que claramente anticipa a Bolaño en la flor de la vida: "La teoría del libro-más era de Oliveira, y la Maga la había aceptado por pura ósmosis.  En realidad para ella casi todo los libros eran libro-menos, hubiese querido llenarse de una inmensa sed y durante un tiempo infinito (calculable entre tres y cinco años) leer la opera omnia de Goethe, Homero, Dylan Thomas, Mauriac, Faulkner, Baudelaire, Roberto Arlt, San Agustín y otros autores cuyos nombres la sobresaltaban en las conversaciones del Club.  A eso Oliveira respondía con un desdeñoso encogerse de hombros, y hablaba de las deformaciones rioplatenses, de una raza de lectores a fulltime, de bibliotecas pululantes de marisabidillas infieles al sol y al amor, de casas donde el olor a la tinta de imprenta acaba con la alegría del ajo" (156-157).  Además de todo esto, Cortázar también se dedica a una discusón sobre el lector ideal y la teoría literaria como aplicada a su propia novela en los pasajes donde el escritor Morelli habla de la necesidad de la novelista para hacer un "cómplice" del lector activo en cuanto a la creación de "un texto desaliñado, desanudado, incongruente, minuciosamente antinovelístico (aunque no antinovelesco).  Sin vedarse los grandes efectos del género cuando la situación lo requiera, pero recordando el consejo gidiano, ne jamais profiter de l'élan acquis.  Como todas las criaturas de elección del Occidente, la novela se contenta con un orden cerrado.  Resueltamente en contra, buscar también aquí la apertura y para cortar de raíz toda construcción sistemática de caracteres y situaciones.  Método: la ironía, la autocrítica incesante, la incongruencia, la imaginación al servicio de nadie" (559-560).  Etcétera, etcétera.  Entre las pocas cosas que no me gustaron, me limito a decir que algunos de los capítulos prescindibles son inescrutables hasta el punto de ser o pesados o pedantescos de vez en cuando y que también está frustrante a veces seguir en los pasos de che Oliveira, un personaje tan involucrado en su crisis existencialista que él no puede ver el daño que provoca a sí mismo y a otros.  Esté, dicho sea de paso, no es una debilidad de la novela sino una fuerte en lo que refiere a la caracterización; de hecho, yo casi lloré al final cuando me di cuenta (o, al menos, pensaba que me di cuenta) de cómo la novela iba terminar.  En resumen, otro tomo para ese especial anaquel para libros donde se encuentran Moby-Dick, Proust, La vida instrucciones de uso, y 2666.  Espectacular.  (http://www.catedra.com/)

Hopscotch (Pantheon Books, 1987)
by Julio Cortázar [translated from the Spanish by Gregory Rabassa]
France, 1963

A failed love affair, the death of a child, and what then seems like an almost inevitable descent into madness haunt cold, distant intellectual Horacio Oliveira during the course of Rayuela [Hopscotch], the celebrated Argentinean "novela total" here narrated in either 56 or 155 or even 154 chapters according to the will of the reader and the "table of instructions" provided for by this book "which consists of many books, but two books above all" (beware: one of the chapters is fiendishly hidden in one of the methods of how to read the damn thing).  Naturally, I chose to read Cortázar's experimental "second book," beginning with chapter 73 (one of 99 "expendable chapters" according to the "normal fashion" of reading the work, which ends with chapter 56) and continuing on with the first chapter before jumping about here and there throughout the game of hopscotch-in-prose created by the 36 chapters "from the other side" (the story of bohemian lovers Horacio and La Maga in 1950s Paris and the circle of friends that form the Serpent Club) and the 20 chapters "from this side" (what happens to the increasingly troubled Oliveira after he returns to his native Buenos Aires and meets up with his friends Traveler and Talita and even a "calculating cat" at the circus) in addition to the full complement of 99 expendable chapters.  Besides its open structure and its puzzle-like construction and its surehanded evocation of time and place, there were any number of things I loved about Hopscotch.  For example, there are dozens of just unforgettable descriptions: "Paris, a postcard with a drawing by Klee next to a dirty mirror" (11).  Entire chapters dedicated to music or that take place as conversations set to music as jazz albums change hands in the background. In addition, there's an assortment of elliptical, metaphysical reflections to constantly keep you on your toes: "Life, a photograph of the noumenon, a possession in the shadows (woman, monster?), life, pimp of death, splendid deck of cards, ring of forgotten keys that a pair of palsied hands degrade into a sad game of solitaire" (458).  There are also wonderful commentaries on reading and readers, as with this one which clearly anticipates Bolaño in his prime:  "The another-book theory was Oliveira's, and La Maga had accepted it by pure osmosis.  For her, in truth, almost all books were one-book-less; she would have liked to be overcome by an immense thirst and for an infinite period of time (figured as between three and five years) to read the complete works of Goethe, Homer, Dylan Thomas, Mauriac, Faulkner, Baudelaire, Roberto Arlt, Saint Augustine, and other writers whose names would keep coming up in conversation in the Club.  Oliveira would answer this with a sour shrug of his shoulders and talk about the distortions of the Río de la Plata, where a breed of full-time readers has developed, where libraries swarm with old maids who have forsaken love and sunshine, where the smell of printer's ink can end the joy of garlic in a home" (31).  To top it all off, Cortázar also engages in a discussion of the model reader and literary theory as applied to his own novel in the passages where the writer Morelli waxes on about the novelist's need for an active reader to become "an accomplice" in the creation of "a text that is out of line, untied, incongruous, minutely antinovelistic (although not antinovelish).  Without prohibiting the genre's great effects if the situation should require it, but keeping in mind the Gidean advice, ne jamais profiter de l'élan acquis.  Like all creatures of choice in the Western world, the novel is content in a closed order.  Resolutely opposed to this, we should search here for an opening and therefore cut the roots of all systematic construction of characters and situations.  Method: irony, ceaseless self-criticism, incongruity, imagination in the service of no-one" (396).  Etc., etc.  Among the few things I didn't care for so much, I would only note that some of the so-called expendable chapters are inscrutable to the point of being boring or pedantic at times and that it was sometimes frustrating to follow in the footsteps of Oliveira, a character so wrapped up in his own existentialist crisis that he can't see the harm he's causing to himself or others.  The latter point, just in passing, of course really isn't a weakness of the novel but rather an argument in favor of the strength of its characterization; in fact, I had to fight off tears at the end when I realized (or at least I thought I realized) how the novel was about to conclude.  In other words, another volume for that special shelf where you keep Moby-Dick, Proust, Life A User's Manual, and 2666.  Absolutely spectacular.  (http://www.randomhouse.com/) 

Julio Cortázar

Otras lecturas de Rayuela
Emily (Evening All Afternoon) #1, #2 y #3

14 comentarios:

  1. As time goes by I'm finding that, like they always tell you about childbirth and family vacations, I am tending to remember the parts of this book I loved more than the parts I hated. In particular you remind me in this entry how impressively Cortázar handles jazz & blues and weaves them into the narrative in those Paris chapters. The expendable chapters for me were either the repositories of the pure gold in the novel (Traveler & Talita's political science book!) or, as you say, verging on the pedantic or sophomoric. And I didn't delight in the Morelli-on-reading stuff all that much because of the equation of "passive" readership with femaleness (at least in translation - is all the "female reader" stuff present in the original?). But in any case, my memories of Hopscotch become more and more fond & admiring as time goes by, and someday I must revisit.

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  2. This is one that is my wishlist richard I read his autonauts book last year and this is the next one I want to get and read ,thanks for the review ,all the best stu

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  3. *Emily: How interesting (and oddly reassuring in a way!) to hear about these evolving memories of yours--I don't doubt that this will be a book with staying power for me. And while I totally agree with you about the feast or famine nature of the expendable chapters, I guess I was less bothered about the Morelli passive reader thing than you for two reasons. 1) I saw Morelli as kind of an aged crackpot in some regards, so the fact that he would say something "anti-female" in a way in the 1950s didn't strike me as terribly out of the ordinary. Also, even though the other male members of the Club parrot Morelli's usage of the term "lector-hembra," it's clear from a couple of discussions they have that the term has a unisex application in which gender doesn't really factor in (I'm pretty sure you also pointed that out in one of your posts). With this in mind, I saw it as an unfortunate gaffe but not necessarily a misogynist gaffe on Cortázar's part. 2) In the introduction to my critical edition of Rayuela, Andrés Amorós notes that although the term "lector-hembra" became popular among early readers of the novel, Cortázar himself was embarrassed enough by the term to ask forgiveness for it on various occasions. Amorós quotes Cortázar as saying, "Yo debí poner 'lector pasivo' y no 'lector hembra', porque la hembra no tiene por qué ser pasiva continuamente; lo es en ciertas circunstancias, pero no en otras, lo mismo que un macho". Not trying to convert you to my position or anything, but I thought it might be worthwhile to share these thoughts with you since I didn't touch on gender issues in my write-up even though they were very much in mind after having read your three excellent posts on the novel.

    *Stu: Though I've read a handful of short stories by him over the years, this was the first full-length Cortázar for me. Think I need to make him a regular part of my reading diet, and I think you might very well agree if/when you get a chance to settle down with this novel. I was majorly impressed. Cheers!

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  4. Wow, Richard, that is one heck of a recommendation, and I have another of this writer's books on my shelf right now...hmm...

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  5. This book is, I believe, my #1 South American Humiliation.

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  6. No apologies, I am very I asked you about the lector-hembra stuff! Although I do agree with you that Morelli is painted in a kind of crackpottish light, that wasn't quite enough to skew the balance for me. But that quote from Cortázar acknowledging that "woman" does not equal "passive" racheted my respect for him up at least a couple of notches. Good for him. And good for me in a future read when I will have that nugget to take into consideration.

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  7. The penultimate sentence packs a punch. Maybe 2012 for me. (I couldn't seem to get a handle on this.) Or I will have to resort to more Cortázar stories for the time being.

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  8. Un libro para querer toda la vida, para serle fiel aun cuando ya no se lo relea más. Bravos por esta reseña, Richard.

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  9. *Nicole: Rayuela is the real deal. Was wildly impressed both by its provocative storytelling and its thought-provoking nature in general. If your experience with that other Cortázar title (c'mon, which one is it anyway?) is even half as good as mine was with this one, you should be a happy camper.

    *Amateur Reader: I can relate. That was exactly how I felt about the book until last Friday afternoon.

    *Emily: Glad to hear what UN-style peacekeeping can be achieved with a simple extended exchange in the comments section of a blog! And I, too, look forward to a Rayuela reread someday knowing that it'll be totally worth it when it happens. Cheers!

    *Rise: I can't imagine you not liking this novel when you get around to it again, but it did take me at least three different occasions or partial efforts before I found the time that was meant to be for me and the book. Worth the wait for sure. And that penultimate sentence in the post was supposed to be the final one, but I just couldn't hit the brakes fast enough without throwing in two more words of praise before I stopped!

    *Martín: Gracias por tus palabras tan amables. Por supuesto, estoy totalmente de acuerdo con tu juicio en lo que refiere a Rayuela siendo "un libro para querer toda la vida". ¡Cómo me encantó, te digo! ¡Saludos!

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  10. Hola Richard: leí Rayuela hace tiempo y las veces que volví al libro sólo fue por fragmentos. La edición de cátedra está muy buena porque los apuntes de jazz y sobre la tortura china están completos. Además de ponderar cuál capítulo fue escrito primera, cuál después y un toco de información que enriquece la lectura. Particularmente las morellianas siempre me parecieron un enigma que nunca quise profundizar. La verdad que desaproveché la edición de Cátedra que tenía en la antigua biblioteca y no recurrí a las notas sobre las morellianas. Rayuela historia triste,no ?

    saludos

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  11. This one is in that sidebar I have that you love making fun of, and I really don't know when I will get to it but so plan to read according to the same plan as you. Maybe Christmas break. But now I will be thinking about it again.

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  12. Mario: ¡Hola! y perdona la demora en responderte. De acuerdo con todo lo que dices sobre esta edición, tengo que confesar que soy hincha de la editorial Cátedra en general. ¡Cómo me encantan esos libros suyos! Aunque Rayuela sí cuenta una historia triste, también ofrece un retrato de una amistad redentora. De hecho, el libro me impactó mucho más de lo que esperaba. ¡Saludos!

    *Frances: Although I'm not sure you'll like this quite as much as I did, I can't imagine you not liking it both for the story and how it's told. Quite a gratifying experience/revelation when a big, thick classic like this not only lives up to the hype but actually surpasses it. Although that US cover has to go if you ask me--doesn't represent the book well at all. Cheers!

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  13. Sounds compelling; I thought this was somewhere on my shelves, but no record in LibraryThing, so I will put in on my list to order. Thanks, Richard.

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  14. *Anthony: Hope you like it--easily one of my favorite books of the year so far, and I think it'll have lots to offer to the right reader. Cheers!

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