‘Secret Weapons’ by Julio Cortázar

Secret Weapons by Julio Cortázar, 1959

The magic trick:

Creating a gap between the protagonist’s thoughts and the story’s reality

We have a Weekend Double of Julio Cortázar for you. Prepare accordingly.

“Secret Weapons” is a very unsettling way to spend 30 pages.

It introduces us to a protagonist named Pierre, who likes cigarettes and novels and cognac and feels very insecure about his new girlfriend. It’s that insecurity that feels recognizably endearing. Oh, we think, he just lacks some confidence. Let’s root for him.

As the story advances, it’s an increasingly troublesome side to take.

The narration puts us inside Pierre’s thoughts. The narrative tension stems from the way his thoughts don’t always mesh with the rest of the story’s reality. The reader is left to try to bridge that gap, and the minimal clues suggest something ominous.

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

The selection:

Why doesn’t Michele get here? Too late for her to come now, useless to go on waiting for her. Really, he’ll have to believe that she doesn’t want to come to his room. Well, what the hell. No tragedy; have another cognac, a novel that’s been started, go down and eat something at Leon’s. Women won’t be any different, in Enghien or Paris, young or full-blown.

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