ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Julio Cortázar: A selection of new translations

Updated on June 14, 2020
Samuel Brookes profile image

Samuel studies Classics at the University of Oxford. When he's not reading Greek Tragedies he's probably watching a Pixar film.

La tarea de ablandar el ladrillo todos los días…

The task of softening the brick every day, the task of opening up a passage in the sticky mass that proclaims itself world, each morning running into the repugnant-named parallelepiped, with the doglike satisfaction that everything is in its place, the same woman nearby, the same shoes, the same taste of the same toothpaste, the same sadness of the houses in front, of the dusty boards of windows of time with its placard “Belgique Hotel”.

Put your head like a lethargic bull against the transparent mass in whose centre we take coffee with milk and open the paper to know what occurred in whichever one of the corners of the glass brick. Refuse that the delicate act of turning the door handle, that act by which all could be transformed, is carried out with the cold efficiency of a daily reflect. See you later, dear. Take care.

Press a teaspoon between your fingers and feel its metal beat, its suspicious warning. How it hurts to deny a teaspoon, to deny a door, to deny all that habit licks until giving it its satisfactory smoothness. So much simpler to accept the easy application of the spoon, to use it to stir the coffee.

And not that its wrong if things find us again each day and are the same. That at our side there is the same woman, the same watch, and that the novel open on the table starts up in the bicycle of our glasses, why would that be wrong? But like a sad bull you must lower your head, from the centre of the glass brick push outwards, towards the other side so close to us, ungraspable like the picador so close to the bull. Punish the eyes for looking at that which roams the sky and cunningly accepts its name as cloud, its replica catalogued in the memory. Don’t think that the telephone is going to give you the numbers that you search for. Why would it give you them? You will only get what you have prepared and resolved, the sad reflexion of your hope, that monkey that scratches itself on a table and trembles from the cold. Break that monkey’s head, run from the centre towards the wall and open up a passage. Oh how they sing in the flat upstairs! There’s a flat upstairs in this house, with other people. There’s a flat upstairs where people live that do not suspect the flat downstairs, and we are all in the glass brick. And if all of a sudden a moth stops on the edge of a pencil and beats like an ashen fire, look at it, I’m looking at it, I’m palpitating its tiny heart, and I hear it, that moth resounds in the paste of frozen glass, not all is lost. When I open the door and look down the stairs, I will know that the street begins below; not the pattern already accepted, not the houses already known, not the hotel in front; the street, the living forest where every instant can hurl itself over me like a magnolia, where faces are going to be born when I look at them, when I advance a little more, when with my elbows and my eyelashes and my nails I am meticulously broken against the glass brick paste, and I stake my life while I advance step by step to go and buy the paper on the corner.

Instructions for Singing

Begin by breaking the mirror of your house, let your arms fall, look vaguely at the wall, forget yourself. Sing a single note, listen inside. If your hear (but this will occur much later) something like a landscape immersed in fear, with bonfires between the stones, with half-naked silhouettes crouched down, I think you will be well on your way, and the same if your hear a river down where yellow and black painted boats go, if you hear a flavour of bread, a touch of fingers, a shade of horse.

Afterwards, buy sol-fa and a dress coat, and please do not sing through the nose and leave Schumann in peace.

Instructions for Crying

Leaving the motives to one side, let’s address the correct way of crying, understanding by this a cry that does not engage in scandal, nor that insults the smile with its parallel and clumsy likeness. The average or ordinary cry consists in a general contraction of the face and a spasmodic sound accompanied by tears and snot, these last ones to finish, since the cry ends in the moment in which one blows one’s nose emphatically.

To cry, direct the imagination towards yourself, and if this turns out to be impossible for having contracted the habit of thinking in the external world, think about a duck covered in ants or about those gulfs on the Magellan stretch where no one goes, never.

The cry arrived at, the face will be decorously covered using both hands with the palm turned inwards. Children will cry with their jacket sleeve against the face, and preferably in the corner of the room. Average duration of the cry, three minutes.

Instructions / examples about how to be scared

In a village in Scotland they sell books with a blank page lost somewhere in the volume. If a reader ends up on that page when it strikes 3 in the afternoon, he dies.

In the Quirinal square, in Rome, there’s a spot that initiates knew until the 19th century, and from which, with a full moon, are seen moving slowly the statues of the Dioscuri that fight with their horses reared up.

In Amalfi, at the end of the coastal area, there is a pier that enters the sea and the night. A dog is heard barking beyond the last streetlight.

A gentleman is spreading tooth paste on his toothbrush. Suddenly he sees, lying on her back, a minute image of a woman, of coral or maybe of painted bread crumbs.

Opening the wardrobe to get a shirt, an old almanac falls that is worn, pages torn, covers the white clothes with thousands of dirty paper butterflies.

It is known from a travelling salesman who began to feel pain in his left wrist, precisely under the wristwatch. When the watch was torn off, blood sprung: the wound showed the marking of some very fine teeth.

The doctor finishes examining us and puts us at ease. His grave and cordial voice precedes the medication whose prescription he writes now, seated before his table. Every now and then he raises his head and smiles, encouraging us. There’s no worry, in a week we will be fine. We settle back in out seats, happy, and distractedly we look around. Suddenly, in the semi-darkness beneath the table we see the doctor’s legs. He has pulled his trousers up to his thighs, and he has women’s tights.

Instructions for Understanding Three Famous Paintings

Sacred love and profane love


This detestable painting represents a wake on the shores of Jordan. Few times the clumsiness of a painter could allude with more abjection to the hopes of the world in a Messiah that shines because of his absence; absent from the picture that is the world, he shines horribly in the obscene yawn of the marble sarcophagus, while the angel in charge of proclaiming the resurrection of his sinister flesh waits without objection for the signs to come about. It won’t be necessary to explain that the angel is the naked figure, prostituting herself in her marvellous corpulence, and that she has disguised herself as Magdalene, derision of derisions meanwhile the real Magdalene advances along the path (where instead grows the poisonous blasphemy of two rabbits).

The boy who puts his hand in the sarcophagus is Luther, that is to say the Devil. Of the clothed figure it has been said that she represents Glory in the moment of announcing that all human ambitions fit in a washbasin; but its badly painted and it moves one to think of a trick of jasmines or a flash of semolina.

Julio Cortázar

Translations by Samuel Brookes

Tiziano: Sacred Love and Profane Love

© 2020 Samuel Brookes


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)