Thursday, May 7, 2009

Aimless Reading: The C's, Part 35 (Julio Cortázar )


Rayuela
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Cortázar, Julio
Rayuela


I bought this book about five years ago at the World Language Center at the Yale Bookstore in New Haven. I was visiting the literary outlaw Richard Deming (who last week received the Edna Farber first book award from the Poetry Society -- some outlaw! -- but congrats to Richard, anyhow) while I journeyed home from the Poetry of the Forties Conference in Orono, Maine.

When the "year of reading in Spanish" began last June, I had high hopes of reading this once I got my language chops sharpened. Well, they are still not sharp enough. Three times have I begun, and thrice failed. I hope to try again some day.

Part of the problem is that it is a scholarly edition, so it is crammed with footnotes. Every Paris street name and every passing reference to anything is footnoted, which means that just about every page contains about half primary text and half footnotes. I guess this is useful if you need to write a paper. Otherwise, it is very, very obtrusive. Not to mention there is a 91-page scholarly introduction. Christ, can I just read the book?

An excerpt in the original:

¿Encontraría a la Maga? Tantas veces me había bastado asomarme, viniendo por la rue de Seine, al arco que da al Quai de Conti, y apenas la luz de ceniza y olivo que flota sobre el río me dejaba distinguir las formas, ya su silueta delgada se inscribía en el Pont des Arts, a veces andando de un lado a otro, a veces detenida en el pretil de hierro, inclinada sobre el agua. Y era tan natural cruzar la calle, subir los peldaños del puente, entrar en su delgada cintura y acercarme a la Maga que sonreía sin sorpresa, convencida como yo de que un encuentro casual era lo menos casual en nuestras vidas, y que la gente que se da citas precisas es la misma que necesita papel rayado para escribirse o que aprieta desde abajo el tubo de dentífrico.

Correction

The literary outlaw Richard Deming won the Norma Farber Award, not the "Edna" Farber Award.  Edna was Norma's half-wit sister who tried her hand at prose before leaping into the Harlem River with a pocket full of stones.

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