Book Diary: Rayuela (Julio Cortázar) (Part One)

Rayuela.  Hopscotch, in English.  So called as the story does not journey from page one to 730, but jumps around according to a pattern set by the author, or according to a pattern set by the reader.  Whichever one chooses.

I know that it is going to take me a long time to read this novel.  When I have told Spanish friends that I’m reading it, they have all said that I am being a little ambitious, why not start with something easier, like Borges?  However, the book was a gift from a dear friend and in her dedication she wrote: “For my pink sky.”  We call each other this thanks to another writer who could be said to evoke the same reaction in people not reading in their first language, or indeed, even if they are: Nabokov.  That was one of his pet-names for Véra.  My friend tried and gave up on my gift to her, Lolita.

I don’t know how far through it I am, as I am following the recommended hopscotch reading of the novel, so who knows how many pages I have achieved.  I don’t want to know either, I’m dedicated to the format.  And it is hard, not just for the language, but because of the voice.  This is why I have always tended to read original English novels translated into Spanish, I struggle with anything that isn’t an Anglo-Saxon voice.  This novel could not be further from that voice; it is winding, dreamy, verbacious.  But that is another reason I’m determined to stick with it.  Who else will educate me, if not me myself?

And here is another.  My friend marked for me in the book her favourite of the 155 hopscotch pieces.  Number seven.  The most perfect description of a kiss you could ever wish to encounter.  You cannot read it without wanting to grab the person next to you and kiss them, and kiss them, and kiss them.  Which is why I should probably stop reading it on the Metro.

Toco tu boca, con un dedo toco el borde de tu boca, voy dibujándola como si saliera de mi mano, como si por primera vez tu boca se entreabriera, y me basta cerrar los ojos para deshacerlo todo y recomenzar, hago nacer cada vez la boca que deseo, la boca que mi mano elige y te dibuja en la cara, una boca elegida entre todas, con soberana libertad elegida por mí para dibujarla con mi mano por tu cara, y que por un azar que no busco comprender coincide exactamente con tu boca que sonríe por debajo de la que mi mano te dibuja.

Me miras, de cerca me miras, cada vez más de cerca y entonces jugamos al cíclope, nos miramos cada vez más de cerca y nuestros ojos se agrandan, se acercan entre sí, se superponen y los cíclopes se miran, respirando confundidos, las bocas se encuentran y luchan tibiamente, mordiéndose con los labios, apoyando apenas la lengua en los dientes, jugando en sus recintos donde un aire pesado va y viene con un perfume viejo y un silencio. Entonces mis manos buscan hundirse en tu pelo, acariciar lentamente la profundidad de tu pelo mientras nos besamos como si tuviéramos la boca llena de flores o de peces, de movimientos vivos, de fragancia oscura. Y si nos mordemos el dolor es dulce, y si nos ahogamos en un breve y terrible absorber simultáneo del aliento, esa instantánea muerte es bella. Y hay una sola saliva y un solo sabor a fruta madura, y yo te siento temblar contra mí como una luna en el agua.

I touch your mouth, with one finger I touch the edge of your mouth, I draw it as if it came out of my hand, as if your mouth was for the first time just barely open, and closing my eyes is enough to undo it and start over. Each time I create the mouth I desire, the mouth that my hand chooses and draws for you on your face, one mouth chosen from all, chosen by me with sovereign freedom to draw with my hand on your face, and for some random chance I seek not to understand, it perfectly matches your smiling mouth, beneath the one my hand draws for you.

You look at me, you look at me closely, each time closer and then we play cyclops, we look at each other closer each time and our eyes grow, they grow closer, they overlap and the cyclops look at each other, breathing confusion, their mouths find each other and fight warmly, biting with their lips, resting their tongues lightly on their teeth, playing in their caverns where the heavy air comes and goes with the scent of an old perfume and silence. Then my hands want to hide in your hair, slowly stroke the depth of your hair while we kiss with mouths full of flowers or fish, of living movements, of dark fragrance. And if we bite each other, the pain is sweet, and if we drown in a short and terrible surge of breath, that instant death is beauty. And there is a single saliva and a single flavor of ripe fruit, and I can feel you shiver against me like a moon on the water.

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