Letter To A Young Lady In Paris by Julio Cortázar, 1951
The magic trick:
Shocking the reader with a bit of surrealism, but never locking that surrealistic element into a single meaning or metaphor
We started a week of Julio Cortázar yesterday with the excellent “House Taken Over.”
“Letter To A Young Lady In Paris” is similarly evasive. You know you’re in for something odd when early on the narrator admits in his letter that he sometimes coughs up baby rabbits into existence.
So the reader has to take that in stride and keep reading.
What’s brilliant about it – and perhaps marks this story as being more advanced “House Taken Over” – is the versatility of the rabbit motif. It’s no straight-line magic realism, where the surrealist element is an obvious stand-in for a single idea or feeling.
These rabbits are complicated and will keep the reader considering and analyzing long after the story ends.
And that’s quite a trick on Cortázar’s part.
You know why I came to your house, to your quiet quarters bright with midday sun. Everything seems so normal, as it always does when one is ignorant of the truth. You have gone to Paris, I’m staying in your apartment on Suipacha; we arranged a simple and satisfying plan of mutual convenience until your return this September when I will move once more to another house where perhaps… But that’s not why I’m writing; I’m writing this letter because of the rabbits; it’s only right that I inform you, and because I like writing letters, and perhaps because it’s raining.
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