End Of The Game by Julio Cortázar, 1956
The magic trick:
Showing the coming-of-age process as the process of sorting through increasingly nuanced emotions
Cortázar’s twist on the coming-of-age story is not nearly as twisted as you might guess. It’s a (mostly) straightforward, beautifully powerful story.
It reminds me a little bit of Adriana Lisboa’s “Success,” featured on SSMT earlier this year. Both stories highlight the way any outside influence and judgment can shatter the safe, innocent world of an enclosed home environment.
I especially appreciated the complex and often-competing emotions the young narrator feels throughout. She’s jealous of the attention her cousin receives. But she’s also protective, sympathetic, concerned, loving. Those more mature – and confused – emotions make up the coming-of-age aspects of the coming-of-age story, which really is a nuanced, knowing way to illustrate a change.
And that’s quite a trick on Cortazar’s part.
The best satisfaction was to imagine that someday Mama or Aunt Ruth would find out about the game. If they managed to find out about the game there would be an unbelievable mess. The G-flat and fainting fits, incredible protests of devotion and sacrifice ill-rewarded, and a string of words threatening the more celebrated punishments, closing the bid with a dire prediction of our fates, which consisted of three of us ending up on the street. The final prediction always left us somewhat perplexed, because to end up in the street always seemed fairly normal to us.
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