‘The Night Face Up’ by Julio Cortázar

The Night Face Up by Julio Cortázar, 1956

The magic trick:

Confusing the reader as to which setting is reality and which is a dream

The concept won’t likely strike you as the most original thing in the world. Strange things start to happen to our protagonist, but he soon awakes, reassuring the reader with an “Oh phew, it was only a dream” moment.

Cortázar isn’t going to leave it lie there, though. The story shifts back and forth between reality and dream. Back and forth. Back and forth. Until, finally, the reader (and the protagonist) finds no relief in the “just a dream” feeling. We no longer know what is what. Which was reality? Which was the dream?

And that’s quite a trick on Cortázar’s part.

The selection:

“It’s the fever,” the man in the next bed said. “The same thing happened to me when they operated on my duodenum. Take some water, you’ll see, you’ll sleep all right.”

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