‘In The Name Of Bobby’ by Julio Cortázar

In The Name Of Bobby by Julio Cortázar, 1978

The magic trick:

A clever twist on the Chekhov’s Gun principle

Welcome to a very disconcerting household triangle of mother, 8-year-old Bobby, and our narrator, Bobby’s aunt.

The story brought to mind poor young Sasha who closes Chekhov’s otherwise comic “The Darling” with a haunting nightmare causing him to yell out in his sleep, presumably at his mother.

Cortázar’s Bobby here has similar nightmares. Perhaps, too, the story was on my mind because “In The Name Of Bobby” is a sly twist on the old Chekhov’s Gun principle.

Our eyes focus an extra second longer on the aunt’s mention of the long knife very early in the story. Surely, we figure, this is Chekhov’s Gun. We read on worried about the devilish possibilities within Bobby and assume the knife will make an encore appearance in the story soon enough.

And it does.

What is interesting, though, is the twist. As we’ve suspected the presence of a devil in Bobby, perhaps we have missed the true wielder of the gun in the Chekhov’s Gun concept.

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

The selection:

Bobby put on a strange expression and looked at me out of the corner of his eye; I don’t know, the idea suddenly came to me and I asked him if he was having his nightmares again. He began to weep very quietly, hiding his face; then he said he was – why was his mother that way with him? That time I realized that he was afraid; when I lowered his hands to dry his face I could see the fear, and it was hard for me to act indifferent and explain to him once more than they were only dreams.

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