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from Prose from the Observatory

By
January 15, 2011

This hour that can arrive sometimes outside all hours, hole in the web of time,
this way of being between, not above or behind but between,
this orifice hour to which we gain access in the lee of other hours, of the immeasurable life with its hours ahead and on the side, its time for each thing, its things at the precise time,
to be in a hotel room or on a platform, to be looking at a shop window, a dog, perhaps
holding you in my arms, siesta love or half asleep, glimpsing in that patch of light through the door that opens onto the terrace, in a green gust the blouse you took off to give me the faint taste of salt trembling on your breasts,
and without notice, without any unnecessary warnings of passage, in a Latin Quarter café or the last scene of a film by Pabst, an approach to what no longer follows the order god meant it to, access between two activities installed in the niche of their hours, in the beehive day, like this or in another way (in the shower, in the middle of the street, in a sonata, in a telegram) touching on something that doesn’t rest on the senses, a breach in succession, and so like this, so slipping, the eels, for example, the region of sargasso weed, the eels and also the marble instruments, Jai Singh’s night drinking a flow of stars, the observatories beneath the moon of Jaipur and Delhi, the black ribbon of migrations, the eels in the middle of the street or in the stalls in a theatre, giving themselves for the one who’s following them from the marble instruments, who’s no longer looking at his watch in the Paris night; so simply Moebius strip and eels and marble machinery, this that already flows in a silly, solitary word, looking for itself, that also sets in motion from sargassum of time and fortuitous semantics, the migration of a verb: discourse, this course, the Atlantic eels and the eel words, the marble lightning of Jai Singh’s instruments, he who looks at the stars and the eels, the Moebius strip turning round on itself, in the ocean, in Jaipur, fulfilling itself one more time without other times, being as marble is, as the eel is: you’ll understand that none of this can be said from sidewalks or chairs or city stages; you’ll understand that only like this, eel or marble giving way, growing into a strip, then no longer being among the sargassum, there is a course, that happens: try it, like they do in the Atlantic night, like he who looks for stellar measures, not to know, not for anything; something like the blow of a wing, a drawing back, a moan of love and then now, then maybe, then yes.
Of course inevitable metaphor, eel or star, of course perches for the image, of course fiction, therefore tranquility in libraries and armchairs; as you like, there is no other way here to be a sultan of Jaipur, a shoal of eels, a man who turns his face up to the open in the redheaded night. Ah, but not to give in to the lure of that intelligence used to other offers: entering into words, out of a vomit of stars or eels; whatever’s said, the slow curve of the marble instruments or the boiling black nocturnal ribbon assaulting the estuaries, and not just for being said, this that flows or converges or seeks might be what it is and not what it is said to be: Aristotelian dog, let the duality that sharpens your fangs somehow know your superfluity when another sluice begins to open in marble and in fish, when Jai Singh with a crystal between his fingers is that fisherman throwing out his net, shuddering of teeth and rage, an eel that is a star that is an eel that is a star that is an eel.

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Photographs by Julio Cortázar

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cortazar-3.jpgJulio Cortázar was born in Brussels in 1914 and grew up in Banfield on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. Celebrated for his groundbreaking novel Hopscotch, he is also a master of the short story. Collections include Blow-Up and Other Stories, All Fires the Fire, We Love Glenda So Much, A Certain Lucas, and genre-defying gems Around the Day in Eighty Worlds and Cronopios and Famas. He died in Paris in 1984.

Anne McLean has translated Latin American and Spanish novels, short stories, memoirs, and other writings by many acclaimed authors. Two novels she translated have been awarded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize: Evelio Rosero’s The Armies in 2009, and in 2004, Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas. Prose from the Observatory will be published in June by Archipelago Books.

Translator’s Recommendations:

Lands of Memory by Felisberto Hernández, translated by Esther Allen.

Night Watch / Ronda de noche by Ana Becciú, translated by Cecilia Rossi.

Diary of Andrés Fava by Julio Cortázar.

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