Mexico-Paris-Cortázar ... the 'flâneurs' return

The horizontal vertigo of Juan Villoro (Anagrama) and El París de Cortázar by Juan Manuel Bonet (edited by RM) may be the most beautiful books for sight and touch that have

  • Back to 'Rayuela': the commemorative edition of Cortázar
  • Notre-Dame: what remains of magical Paris

The horizontal vertigo of Juan Villoro (Anagrama) and The Paris of Cortázar by Juan Manuel Bonet (edited by RM) may be the most beautiful books for sight and touch that have come to Spanish bookstores in recent months. The Paris-Cortázar book is full of covers of jazz albums of the 50s, photos of fascinating secondary characters, unexpected friends and lovers who once were with other lovers, first editions and paintings ... All so Bonet. On the other hand, in El vertigo horizontal the daily scenes of Mexico City abound, stories that are a bit funny and a little tragic, illustrated by photos in which there are a lot of people everywhere . So Mexico City.

The horizontal vertigo and Cortázar's Paris have more in common: they are two impossible flânerie books. Villoro explains it in the first pages of his book: it is not easy to be a flâneur in Mexico City because taking a walk from his neighborhood, Coyoacán, to the historic center is the job of a hero. "Yes, you can walk, but we consider it an extreme sport , " says the novelist of El Argon Shot. Meanwhile, Bonet's book transgresses gender norms because, deep down, the city is not what really matters. Despite the fact that the word Paris appears in the title, Bonet does not walk through the city: he strolls through Rayuela , through El perseguidor and through the model to put together the most Parisian texts of Cortázar where he captures faces, scenes and seemingly irrelevant details to convert them. in literature. What a flâneur is supposed to do.

Bonet receives at home in Madrid on the morning of the day on which Notre-Dame burns. «There is something that had not fallen before that is the fascination Cortázar had for the remnants of medieval Paris, the magical Paris . This is evident, for example, in the paintings he liked ».

Cortázar's Paris was born at the time when Bonet directed the Cervantes Institute in Paris and organized a tourist route linked to the places of Rayuela . With that excuse, the Spanish writer (born in Paris, at the time when Cortázar worked at Unesco) wrote a small glossary about Julio and the city: "We speak, basically, of the left bank: the Latin Quarter, the zone of Saint-Sulpice ... ». As the game was fun, the glossary has been growing until now, when it has been presented in the form of a dictionary that includes entries such as «Cafés», «Galleries», «Davis, Miles» «Cubism» or «Gómez de the Serna, Ramón ».

"One of the entries that I like the most is 'Pasajes'," explains Bonet. His text refers to El otro cielo , a story by Cortázar included in All fires the fire (1966). There, the narrator began the story in Buenos Aires, in the final years of the first Peronism. It entered the Pasaje Güemes, between Florida and San Martin streets, crossed its 116 meters and, when leaving, discovered that it had flowed into the Paris of the Second Empire, where the Count of Lautréamont was waiting for it.

The other heaven seems an anecdote but it is important because it expresses what Cortázar's relationship was with the city. First point: Paris communicated and measured with Buenos Aires . «The Buenos Aires part of Hopscotch represents the underworld; the Parisian is brighter, "says Bonet. Second: Cortázar saw the city through his readings. "Cortázar arrived in France with Paris very well learned through the surrealists. The great influence was Opium de Cocteau , translated by Julio Gómez de la Serna ». And third: Paris was for the author a place that was traveled. He took random meters, wandered aimlessly, turned vagabonds into heroes ... At first, he emulated the classic flanders and noticed the ornaments of cornices and abandoned swimming pools ... Then, he began to think of Paris as a De Chirico stage. And, over time, he acted as a pre-situationist, transgressor and joker.

Julio Cortázar and Aurora Bernárdez, on the docks of the Seine, in 1953.LIPA BURD

In El vertigo horizontal de Villoro Cortázar does not appear but there are other writers: there is Juan José Saer , who invented the phrase of the title, although he used it for La Pampa; there is Carlos Monsiváis, from whose texts defeños seems to come the good-humored tone used by Villoro, is Doménico el Audaz, a poet / singer from the underworld ... «The first novel in which Mexico City was the protagonist was The region more transparent , by Carlos Fuentes. Do you know how many inhabitants the city had then, in 1958? Four million. Do you know how many you have now? Between 17 and 21 million. The city of Carlos Fuentes was as big as the margin of error we have today, "explains Villoro.

The scale is important to understand how the relationship of a chilango with its city differs and that of a Berliner with Berlin or a Seville with Seville. "In Mexico City you do not need to be a flâneur to get lost. Strayness is the natural state," explains Villoro. "The city challenges human understanding because of its scale. One resigns oneself never to know her completely, thinks of the city as a conjecture. There are places that are said to exist but nobody knows where they are ». Villoro tells that he has lived in 12 different houses in his city. " Always south of the Viaduct [a fast track that crosses the city from east to west]. If you lived in the south and you had a girlfriend who lived north of the Viaduct, people would tell you that it's better to leave because the love in the distance does not work ».

The horizontal vertigo has 47 short texts that are like random tastings in the incomprehensible reality of Mexico City: here is the evocation of a childhood in a middle class colony in which children played in the street ; there, the rarity of the coffees, which were never very successful; further, the story of a process managed by an official who does not know if she is stupid or too smart ... One of the chapters talks about the zotehuelas , something like the clotheslines of the houses in the city, a place in the that the women met, smoked and talked freely. "The literature of the flâneur also consists in that, in finding secret spaces in which people behave differently," explains Villoro.

The conclusion, in the end, is the same as always: the neighbors of Mexico are torn between love and hatred towards their city ... as it happens to all of us, right? "The difference is that everything is taken to extremes. Just the fact of living in Mexico is exhausting, it's like having a part-time job. Nostalgia is also taken to the extreme because the city of my childhood is unrecognizable today. "And we have not yet spoken of earthquakes, of the latent threat with which Mexicans live.

The one of 1986 caught Villoro at home. The 2015, in the car. «It took me a while to understand what was happening, I thought I had punctured». In the middle, he had the good fortune to experience the Chile earthquake of 2010 on a high floor of a hotel in Valparaíso. «Fear is a part of the experience of living in Mexico City». However, Villoro has not left. He has only spent six years of his life away from his city, three in East Berlin and three in Barcelona . "I do walk. What I do not get is that no one comes with me ."

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