william.t.wilson at verizon.net
Mon Dec 12 22:35:44 PST 2005
Re: CotrtazarI'm interested in this discussion of Cortazar, especially his story "El Otro Cielo" ("The Other Heaven"). My reading of the story is a little bit different; the main character seems to "double" between Buenos Aries and an earlier Paris. I was wondering if any of you knew any books or sources that provide a line-by-line reading of this story.
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+ From: Ricardo Bastianon <rbastia at xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
+ Date: Tue, 1 Apr 1997 23:46:16 +0000 ()
Helo there, helo Santiago and Joao:
Here I'm sending a paper wrote in 1995 about Cortazar and Deleuze.
I hope it could be interesting for you (sorry about my English).
The original paper is in Spanish.
rbastia at xxxxxxxxxxxx ar
CORTAZARING FROM DELEUZE
THROUGH THE PASSAGES TO "THE OTHER"
By Cynthia Mansfield* and Ricardo Bastianon**
This paper is an attempt at a multiple-reading of Julio Cortazar's
fiction writing. It includes interviews and comments about his life and
work, our wanderings with Deleuze's thinking as our camera. Our script of
this "journey" has no other aim but to explore "in-between" terrains and
open up lines of becomings.
We have been forced to choose a patch of Cortazar's vast patchwork,
namely: three short stories, El Perseguidor (The Pursuer), El Otro
Cielo (The Other Heaven) and Anillo de Moebius (Moebius Strip). In
our close-up of this selected patch we have found that, just like
in holograms, Cortazar's universe is revealed as one partial whole,
loud and clear.
Juilo Cortazar, a jazz-lover, was very familiar with Charlie Parker's
music and aesthetic. He had been wanting to write a short-story about
an artist. He had dropped the idea of picking a painter, so the next
day Charlie Parker died he read a feature article in the newspaper about
him and started his short-story The Pursuer, which is a wonderful
epithet for Julio Cortazar himself.The characters are Johnny Carter
(Charlie) and Bruno, a biographer who is writing a book about Charlie
during Parker's later period.
"I'm playing this tomorrow."(1)
"I've already played this tomorrow, it's terrible, Miles, I've already
played this tomorrow."(2)
..."At home time was endless. (...) Music pulled me out of time,
though that's just a way of putting it, if you really want to know
how I feel,I believe music actually put me right into time. But then
we have to think this time has nothing to do with ... well, with us,
if you know what I mean."(3)
"Bruno, I realize more and more that time... I think music always helps
to understand this question a little. Well, not really understand, because
the truth is I can't understand anything at all. The only thing I do is
realize there's something"(4)
CortÃ¡zar becoming an artist, breaking into a musician's life, becoming
a musician, with music as his best intercessor, he pursues a break in
time and space, in nonsense. This passage takes place between the material
nature of Chronos and the epiphany of the "pure breakthrough", the
incorporeal, a surface time, a place where there is a vacum of meaning,
time emptied of all potential measurements, as Carter himself puts it,
time is a suitcase in which, as you get to realize, you can fit "hundreds
and hundreds of suits".
It is the play of the work of art in relation to time and space. Johnny
discovers music as a wonderful intercessor.
Cortazar says in an interview:
"... if you have a four by four tempo, the jazz musician is always
instinctively a little behind or a little ahead, speeding up or delaying
time, which according to the metronome should be the same". That's such
an exellent definition of smooth and groovy surfaces."And so a trivial
tune, sung just the way it was composed, respecting its tempos, is
immediately captured by the jazz musician who alters the rhythm, by
introducing that kind of swing that creates tension (...) And... that
is mutati mutandi what I've always tried to do in my stories."(5)
"Writing is a musical operation (...) it is the notion of rhythm, of
euphony (...) if the melody comes (to me) in all it's pureness, then
communication of the intuitive, which is what I want to give the reader,
passes through to him".(6)
"An Argentine writer, a real boxing-lover, used to tell me that in that
particular struggle that takes place between a thrilling text and the
reader, the novel always wins by points, whereas the short-story must
win by knock-out."(7)
The knock-out concept puts in a nutshell the intensity, tension and
significance, the three main elements Cortazar endowed his stories with.
This tension imnplies speed and abrupt changes of speed, which does not
mean going fast, but rhythm, cincopating writing. And in this story the
varying rhythms are expressed by a constant change of verb tenses
throughout the text.
One of Johnny's becomings is his process of demolition. Subjugated by
his pursuit of intoxication of pure becoming, he is at the same time
annhilitated by the empty bodies that splinter his surface organization.
Nietzsche says that art, as any aesthetic reading or creation, necessarily
requires a physiological preqrequisite, namely, intoxication, Apollinean
intoxication. The question is, in flowing, in becoming a body without
organs, how to avoid death. Johnny Carter discovers that world away from
time and walks along the edges of the crack, sometimes quite making it
and sometimes slipping right through it.
... and ever-present death always roaming him
THE OTHER HEAVEN
The protagonist, a stockbroker, lives in an orderly world, or at least
apparently orderly -the chaos and chance of the stock exchange. Irma,
his spider-girlfriend who hopes to capture him entirely once she marries
him, and his mother whose forgiveness for sleeping away from home he buys
every time with a plant for her patio. This is, in brief, his plan of
organization, nice 'n' grooved. Now, this plan of organization is a
safeguard against what? Of what is happening to him in his plan of
immanence, which gains more and more intensity, like the games the
kids play, where rules are invented as they go. Our main character
in this story is a relentless groove-fighter. He loves the city, as
long as he can smoothen it out on his driftings by night, his underground
wanderings, seeking the passages, the galleries, the opening, the
pure becoming. That plan of organization is also the other side of
his strong attraction for these passages, galleries and, of course,
Josiane, a love vendor as he calls a prostitute in French. In his
wanderings to this part of the city with its
cafes-galleries-passage-Josiane-attic-etc., which conform a machined
agencying of desire, he deterritorializes himself in search of
"the other". None of these elements belonging to this machined
agencying is valid without the others. They conform a web of
affects. This night-life territory is in fact very close to his
place of work, the stock exchange. Cortazar always sees the wierd,
"the other" world as a step away from the every-day routine, the
obvious. The story begins with the main character's first person
narration about everything being smooth and how sometimes everything
just softens up and leads along the streets away from his daily rout
or groove. So that the streets are also part of this smoothening of
the surfaces. Streets lead him to the passage, to Josiane, although,
of course, they are far from being one-way streets.
The main character, whose name we are never told in the story, loves
the stucco ceiling of the gallery, which has two names, one Argentine,
Guemes, the other French, Vivienne. The Argentine, usually stands for
that rigid, grooved reality, and the French for "the other".
Within that machined agencying he begins to be a part of, there is another
element which constitutes what is translated into Spanish as "haecceidad"
a term used by Deleuze, i.e. a certain particular affect that exists when
one of the elements from that agencying affects us more than all the rest
and thus changes the whole agencying, for example, a certain tone of
voice, a terrible five in the afternoon, etc. We refer specifically to
Laurent, a murderer -the daily monster in so many of Cortazar's works?-
who roams that area and is Latin American just like the main character.
At first this character is just a picturesque part of the scenery and even
welcome by our character since it allows him to protect Josiane. But as
the story develops, the atmosphere grows more tense and Laurent's doings,
announced in broad headlines in the afternoon newspapers, become more
and more of a real threat for the love vendors and for the protagonist
Laurent, as an "haecceidad" is contagious. He affects by contagion, so
that the protagonist is gradually captured by this contagion of the
feeling of death. He feels he should talk to the Latin American guy
who goes to the same cafe he and Josiane go to. But he never really dares
to do so. Nobody knows if his name is really Laurent. That's what the
fortuneteller said when she saw a bloody finger in her crystal ball.
Cortazar very often resorts to ambiguous use of names or no names at
all, as in the case of the main character of this story, to build up
his double world.
All agencying works on the basis of sympathy and symbiosis. The
stucco-ceiling passage, leads him from the death of his organized
world to the night-life of the bohemian and love vendors, the world
of affects, of extremes. This passage leads him to epiphany, to horror,
the weird, estrangement, lack of meaning, death. So death lies on that
side too, in a different disguise.
Cortazar resorts to ambiguity all the time to be able to move from one
side to the other and to develop what he called "the magical element"
which would reveal the truth, and in Poe's tradition, horror. So, by
means of this ambiguity he explains the unexplainable, the very seed
of the story.
In this search for a different form of life, the protagonist finds a
fissure, along which he can only border as if he were an ant. Getting
trapped in this fissure is demolition.
The main character, carried away by his lines of fugue enters this
Gallerie-machine, seeking pleasure, life, humour -they always had such
a good laugh with Josiane-. He becomes more and more attracted to this
"machine" and begins to settle into this "heaven"-Who wouldn't, after
all want to stay for good in his/her kind of heaven?!-. When the Laurent
business comes to its climax, the protagonist goes off into his organized
world again and returns when the murderer, whose name was actually Paul,
is caught. So he returns amid the celebrations at the cafe. Here is when
that "haecceidad" called Laurent, after contaging him throughout with an
ambiguous feeling of death, manages to really capture him. The initial
terror, pure desire, has gradually crept right into him, and now fatally
bites its victim. The death of Laurent, the war that carries too many men
away, the dictatorships, one among a row of others. The only response the
protagonist can give is shunning death, and going back to his nice 'n'quiet
world, a "safer" form of death. He cannot return back to the passages, which
the author says, are infinite.
All he can do now is stay at home with his pregnant wife sipping mate tea,
watching the plants on the patio.
What killed him?
Perhaps he could never really fully join that agencying, that machine.
He could not understand that the Laurent affair is over and this means
celebration, free circulation, and that ultimately in that
Gallerie-machine -which he belongs to- there shall be other becomings.
He believes he could have done something to avoid the murders. If he
had asked Laurent, and what if...? etc., the obssessive doubt that keeps
him clinging to his history, his identity, his past, snatches pleasure
away from him, smashing him against the four walls of his home.
The trouble is, too, that at some point he has got out of that habit of
letting himself freely flow, seeking that machined agencying of desire,
with its fluxes and intensities, its pauses, its puzzles, and becomings.
He doesn't know what Johnny knew too well: we don't understand anything,
all we know is that there is something.
He has got trapped in the passageway, which is essentially meant to usher
visitors in and out. He intended to organize that "other world" according
to his own organized individualist frame of mind and settle in "heaven"
A life without risks, living in death.
Janet leaves the student hostel (a cube), a stuffy place and full of
rules, but also full of people, and rides off on her bicycle into the
nearby forest. Janet in flight, fleeing from other bodies, in pursuit
of her dreams. The speed of her bicycle, open spaces. Janet caressed by
the air (her hair, blouse and breasts), which in turn she alters and
breaks in passing. A transparent gree tunnel ... She comes to a crossroads
in the forest. She thinks of stopping. She meets Robert, who sees her first
and already knows it all. He is also in flight, from reformatories and so
little he has received in life. He wants her, but would not like to force
her. He wants her but cannot explain he does not want to force her.
The rush of time pushes Robert to what he had wanted to avoid all the
time. She is also frightened and would like to explain it needn't be
so violent. Words fail both of them. He forces her, she wants to scream,
he covers her mouth and chokes her. Janet dies and Robert is sent to jail.
"... being the wind, being Janet or Janet being the wind or water or space,
but always, clear, silence was light or the opposite or both things, time
was illuminated and that was Janet, something aimless, without the least
shadow of a memory that might interrupt and fix her course as though
enclosed in crystal pane, a bubble inside a mass of plexiglass, the
orbit of a transparent fish in an limitless luminous aquarium."(8)
"To come to total lack of movement with no before and after, a
transluscent now, without contact or references, a state with no
split between container and contained, water flowing in water ... a
condition out of time, just the vertiginous rush in the horizontal
and vertical dimension of space shaken up by speed ... Sometimes she
departed from her formless condition to enter a rigourous, tangible
fixedness ... (9)
At this point she gets out of time: a transparent, crystaline now, with
no thickness. Changes in incorporeal states (She cannot feel or see her
own body) Neither does she have a will yet. Transformations of the bodies
without organs. She simply undergoes these wave-states, crawl-states,etc..
She becomes a Moebius strip, pure surface, pure incorporeal transits from
one state to the other. Deterritorialization ... She reterritorializes
herself when she comes back to the tangibility of the cube, to a thick
present, i.e. Chronos, in opposition to the transparent aionic present.
The cube was some kind of relief from so much pain caused by the continuous
passages from one state to the other. Little by little -paradoxes of
languages, since there is no before and after in her flowing- a
Janet-continent-and-content begin to take on shape and her being in
the waves and then Janet in the waves.
There is no before and after but there is something that is being built
up, namely, awareness of her body, her will, her desire and that desire
has a name to it: Robert. Desire as a construction, not as a spontaneous
A first time in her memory begins to arise, foggy and mixed memories
that appear one after the other. She swims and swims and begins to
visualize a destination, Robert. She begins to want him, to feel he
r own body though she still cannot see it. She gets to Robert in her
cubic state, totally isolated, trying to territorialize herself, turn
her desire for Robert into an act. Yet, for her to connect with Robert,
he must leave his own cube, his cell in jail, where he did not register
the passing of time any more, and even more, to enter the experience of
his own becomings. He must die, too, according to the rules set in this
story by Cortazar. In those changes of states, in that deterritorialization
he himself will undergo, then after all that, they might both
experience their desire with pleasure.
In this story, Cortazar once again includes the double world so typical
of his stories and novels. On one side the smooth surfaces with horror
awaiting and on the other side, the grooved surfaces, with their routine
and predictable world. But in this particular story this double world
is taken to an extreme: the passageway between both worlds is the actual
death of both characters.
Janet's tragic death is brought about by this speeding up of time, a
chronological time where there is no place for a flowing of desire,
where words fail as intercessors of the expression of desire. At the
outset of the story, an empty body in flight that runs into another
empty body, too violent a body. When Janet starts out on her bicycle
ride in flight from the student hostel and from the proximity of the
bodies, enjoying the breeze and heading for the forest, Cortazar is
foreshadowing a transparent present, a surface present which will be
interrupted by death so as to then grow pure becoming, in those successive
changes in states that wind up with her awareness of desire for Robert.
"The other"in Cortazar is alwas a nomadic flowing, a smooth flowing, in
an aionic and intense time, as a body without organs that is affected
and therefore has an imperceptible becoming, an animal-becoming, a
Perhaps the most disturbing point in this story is that that passage
is only possible through death. The tunnel that appears right at the
beginning of the story, the row of trees on either side of the road
in the forest, is the fatal passage Janet must transit. It is interesting
she flees from the proximity of bodies at the youth hostel, as though she
had to experience desire in "the other" world. And in this sense, death
as a passage does lead to epiphany, the building and discovery of her own
The counterpassages in the text about Robert- narrated in third person,
too, by some chronicler- are the underside of the Moebius strip that make
up, together with the central narration about Janet the outside and
underside, pure surface of the Moebius strip.
The becomings are the real breakthrough in this story, which as Deleuze
says are infinitive verbs, there is no I, they are machined agencyings
of desire. Janet to flow, Janet to swim, Janet to be in water ... Janet
to feel and know her body.
Some more about Cortazar:
Cortazar's pursuit is a search for the pure breakthrough. When he becomes
writer, musician, fine artist, and artist, is where passages appear, where
there is a gentle sliding of a physical surface of the states of things to
an incorporeal surface, a metaphysical surface where the pure breakthrough
is at play. An infinite Moebius strip.
Ever since Cortazar was a child, he sought all possible passages. Words
were one of the forms of passage, and were real entities in themselves.
He sought to break through the grooves. He was a born fighter against
the war machinery. He played at guessing what members of his family would
say. He found their world so predictable, he built his own private kingdom
in his backyard-imagination.
In "La vuelta al dia en ochenta mundos" (Around the day in eighty worlds),
"I shall always be a child in so many ways, but one of those children who
right from the start carry within the adult man ... a coexistence, which
is seldom pacific, of at least two openings towards the world (...) and
at least that juxtaposition which the poet and maybe the criminal, and
also the cronopian and the humourist (a question of different doses ...
of choices: now I play, now I kill) becomes manifest in the feeling of
not entirely being in any of the structures, in any of the webs life sets
up, and in which we are both spider and fly at the same time.
Much of what I have written bears the signs of excentricity, since I have
never noticed a clear difference between writing and living ... I write for
not being or for only partially being. I write out of a lacking, out of
displacement: and as I write from the crevices, I am always inviting others
to seek their own (crevices) and to look through them."(10)
"... and I enjoy this, I am utmostly happy in my own hell, and I write.
I live and write threatened by that laterality, by that real paralel
position, by that permanent condition of being a bit more to the left
and a bit deeper than the place where I should be for everything to
fall into place satisfactorily in another day of life without any
In our reading of Cortazar we found several recurrent themes in his works:
passages, the breaking out of the incomprehensible, death, loss of the body
or the appearance of the double, fissures in time and space, lack of meaning,
One of the possible forms of exploring Cortazar's universe is by skipping
>from one story to another, through passages and folds, in the Moebius
strip-style -as in one of his stories-, traveling along surfaces where
meaning is absent, through breaks, which are multiplied forms of the
same pursuit. Other times, other spaces -being the same- in which "the
truth is that we cannot understand anything". All we do is realize there
This has been our attempt. Characters flowing, with incorporeal becomings,
becomings of pale inhabitants of the subways who are taken unawares by
different fields of forces, other speeds, places of paranoia and fear,
impossible to understand in the world of the plan of organization. Trips
>from which people never return, the feeling of crawling along the edges,
feelings of estrangement, getting out of oneself ... tearing the umbrella
of reality to open up to chaos ...
"There is no doubt that my own image wandered across the non-spacial
dimensions of my dream; non-spatial and non-temporal, unique dimensions,
which are strange to our limited jail of awakeness". (12)
"... life is time! But this time of mine now is more ghastly than any
death: it is conscious death, it is attending my own decomposition from
the head-board of a monstruous bed ..."(13)
"I have remained out there, absolute space; here I am time alive. The
pictures of reality have broken! My corpse is. Not being anyhting at
all now: while I hardly attain the horror of my not being, a pure time
that cannot apply to any form, a spectre the morning shall undress in
the sombre eyes of the people..."(14)
Cortazar definitely appeals, as Poe did, to the horror underlying in
every animal-becoming. He believed that we are part of constellations
throughout our life, ever since we are born, we never really quite come
to grasp very well. Most of what Cortazar wrote actually happened to him
in dreams, under stress, or in everyday life, though his art as a writer
then leads him to achieve the tightest possible text, for a clear impact
on the reader, thus only choosing significant subjects.
The Cortazar machine has such a power to affect the reader that going
to his works implied experimenting in this cortazarian way his both worlds.
Rayuela (Hop Scotch), his major novel, left its bite marks in our
subjectivity. Written very much in the mood of Kerouac's The Subterraneans,
it opened up plenty of windows on to new insights for a whole generation.
Likewise, Deleuze crept right into us and fed us a new way of seeing
literature, clinical psychology and ultimately the world.
"The other"in Cortazar is always molecular. This side, on the other
hand is molar."The other" is the breakthrough, the "turas"(all possible
invention) and his entire literature is a continuous and obsessive pursuit
of that molecular nature of life that he knew was infinite.
Those creatures Cortazar invented one evening at the opera, the
cronopians -far from chronological time, moving in the aionic
frequency- are what Deleuze calls nomads, with their minority
becomings, their imperceptible becomings.
Throughout this cronopian exploration, our worst enemy was the
rostricity both authors, Gilles Deleuze and Julio Cortazar, cast
upon us. So several times we were badly gulped by black holes. Of
course, thanks to all the passages available -according to Cortazar-
we also had good accomplices in this journey: the territory of "the
other" where cronopians are always visiting.
Here we have only covered a small stretch of this vast terrain lying
in the "in-between" of Deleuze and Cortazar, of Philosophy and Literature,
and all the "in-betweens" you can think of.
(1) Julio Cortazar. Cuentos Completos/1 (1945-1966), Ed. Alfaguara,
Madrid, Coleccion UNESCO de obras representativas, 1994. PÃ¡g. 227.
(2) Op. Cit., Pag.227.
(3) Op. Cit., Pag.229.
(4) Op. Cit., Pag.228.
(5) Omar Prego. La Fascinacion de las Palabras, Una conversacion con
Julio Cortazar, Muchnik Editores, 1985. PÃ¡g. 169 y 170.
(6) Op. Cit., PÃ¡g.61.
(7) Julio Cortazar. Obra Critica/2, Ed. Alfaguara, Madrid, Edicion de
Jaime Alazraki, 1994. Pag.372.
(8) Julio Cortazar. Cuentos Completos/2 (1945-1966), Ed. Alfaguara, Madrid,
Coleccion UNESCO de obras representativas, 1994. Pag.413
(9) Op. Cit., Pag.413.
(10) Julio Cortazar. La vuelta al dia en ochenta mundos, Tomo 1, Ed. Siglo
(11) Op. Cit., Pag.35.
(12) Julio Cortazar. Cuentos Completos/1 (1945-1966), Ed. Alfaguara, Madrid,
Coleccion UNESCO de obras representativas, 1994. Retorno de la noche, Pag.63.
(13) Op. Cit., Pag.64.
(14) Op.Cit., Pag. 64.
* Teacher of English Language and Literature,"J.V. GonzÃ¡lez Teachers'
Training College"and Social Psychologist, Enrique Pichon-Riviere School
of Social Psychology in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
** Psychoanalyst and Graduate in Psychology, Universidad de Buenos Aries,
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