Academic journal article Hispanic Review

Rayuela's Confused Hermeneutics

Academic journal article Hispanic Review

Rayuela's Confused Hermeneutics

Article excerpt

JULIO Cortazar's Rayuela is or was at one time infamous for two things: its self-conscious metafictionality and its sexist nomenclature. The following selection from chapter 34, with the lines broken here as they are in the Catedra edition of 1992, serves as a helpful introduction to both:

Esto y otras cosas que observe despues en sociedad, Wcie...?De que esta hablando el tipo? Por ahi acaba de ronme comprender los bruscos adelantos que nuestra capital mencionar a Paris y a Londres, habla de gustos y de fortuhabia realizado desde el 68, adelantos mas parecidos a saltos nas, ya ves, Maga, ya ves, ahora estos ojos se arrastran irocaprichosos que al andar progresivo y firme de los que saben nicos por donde vos andabas emocionada, convencida de adonde van; mas no eran por eso menos reales. En una que te estabas cultivando una barbaridad porque lefas a un palabra, me daba en la nariz cierto tufillo de cultura europea, novelista espanol con foto en la contratapa, pero justamende bienestar y aun de riqueza y trabajo. te el tipo habla de tufillo de cultura europea. (343)

Eventually, a reader comes to make sense of the chapter. After a long struggle to help Horacio Oliveira, the protagonist, overcome his cancerous hyper-self-consciousness, his lover, La Maga, has finally abandoned him. Horacio is now reading a novel, Galdos' Lo prohibido, that La Maga left behind. Cortazar represents Horacio's typitally self-conscious thoughts with a clever typographical gimmick: he writes the chapter in alternating narrative strands, the oddnumbered lines recording Horacio's rote, aloof reading of the novel's words, the even-numbered lines relating his thoughts as he mocks the writing style for being old-fashioned and La Maga for being so unsophisticated as to let it win her over.

The chapter exemplifies the metafictionality characteristic of Rayuela because the alternating strands do not just represent the self-consciousness of the character, they also impose this selfconsciousness on the reader: we cannot read this chapter without becoming painfully aware of the reading process. The chapter introduces us to the sexism of Cortazar's novel because Horacio's amused contempt for La Maga's mode of reading anticipates the basic theoretical premise of the notorious "second book" of the novel: that there are two kinds of reader, the "lector-hembra" and the "lector activo" or "lector complice." The distinction is explained by a character named Morelli, himself a writer of radical novels, who serves as Rayuela's internal theorist: the lector-hembra reads a book passively, a mere witness to the creative production of the author; the lector activo, by contrast, consciously participates in the creation of the novel he reads. On the basis of this distinction CortAzar offers us two options for reading his novel, which he explains in a page called the "Tablero de direccion." In the first option, we read the first fifty-six chapters straight through, from 1 to 56. This "first book," with its mostly conventional chapters, is for supposedly feebleminded and passive lectores-hembra like La Maga. In the second option, we also read the chapters of the first book, but with additional chapters 57-155 interpolated into the order according to a list printed at the bottom of the page: "73-1-2-116-384-. .. -58-131." Some of these additions, which Cortazar ironically entitles "capitulos prescindibles," could pass for one of the "inexpendable" chapters of the first book; others are scraps or fragments of apparently unrelated materials: newspaper excerpts, poems, or scraps from Morelli's notebooks. This second book, in which metafiction reigns, is for sophisticated, aggressive lectores activos like Horacio. The structural foundation of Rayuela, then, rests on stereotypical assumptions more outdated even than a novel by Galdos.

Cortazar has apologized repeatedly for the first term, and he retained the labels as they were originally coined as a kind of penitential testimony to his former ignorance. …

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