BOOK REVIEW: Bestiario – by Julio Cortázar

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Title: Bestiario
Author: Julio Cortázar
Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism, Short Stories
First published: 1951
Finished reading: February 29th 2016
Pages: 144
Rating 3,5qqq

“Las costumbres, Andrée, son formas concretas del ritmo, son la cuota del ritmo que nos ayuda a vivir. No era tan terrible vomitar conejitos una vez que se había entrado en el ciclo invariable, en el método.”

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I have been wanting to start reading in Spanish again for ages and it seemed more than fitting to pick an author who comes from the same country I now call my home: Argentina. I have read short stories by Julio Cortázar in the past, especially during my years at the University, but I can’t remember having read the full Bestiario bundle. Like in the other stories I know, Julio Cortázar was without doubt an expert in the use of magical realism. The way he was able to combine ordinary things and situations with magical realism elements is what makes his stories so special and I really enjoyed reading them. I do have to say that some stories were better than others; especially Lejana didn’t really manage to convince me. Still, this is without doubt a very interesting read and it felt good to read in Spanish again.

I’m doing this review slightly different since there are eight different short stories included in this bundle. Below a short description and my thoughts on each of them.

Casa Tomada

In this story a brother and a sister are living in a big and old house in Buenos Aires. It starts as a description of their everyday life; then slowly that same house is being taken over by a ‘stranger’. You never get to find out who it was or why they don’t try to fight it, and that is part of the charm of this short story.

Carta A Una Señorita En Paris

This story is the perfect example of Julio Cortázar’s excellent writing skills where he mixed magical realism with interesting descriptions. The main character writes a letter to the owner of the house he has been asked to take care of with a confession: somehow he regularly ‘vomits’ little rabbits and then has to hide them… It sounds absurd but it is actually a quite funny story.

Lejana

This one is without doubt my least favorite story. I normally like magical realism, but this story was too confusing to be enjoyable. It seems to be a story of a woman who writes about some kind of visions, but to be honest I’m still not completely sure what was really going on.

Ómnibus

One of my favorites of this bundle. What I love is that Julio Cortázar used ordinary things like a bus ride and changes it into a surreal story. Having lived in BA and taken the same 168 bus many times only improves the reading experience…

Cefalea

This story is a bit more fantastical than others and is actually quite interesting. The characters have to take care of fictional animals (mancuspias) but are struggling because they are suffering from really bad headaches. Slowly things are starting to go wrong and they don’t know how to fix it…

Cirse

This story made me crave chocolate! Delia makes chocolates and saw her two previous boyfriends die under suspicious circumstances. Mario prefers to ignore the odds and is determined to be her third and only living boyfriend… An interesting enough story for sure.

Las Puertas Del Cielo

This story hasn’t as many magical realism elements but is without doubt very interesting as well. One of the main characters is a husband who is struggling to coope with the death of his wife, and his friend is trying to help him. One night when they go to a milonga he thinks he sees his dead wife again… Las Puertas Del Cielo turned out to be intriguing and also has a nice reference to the whole milonga culture.

Bestiario

The last story is probably the most famous one and is also the story the bundle has been named after. I remember having to read this particular short story back in Uni and I really enjoyed reading it second time around. Magical realism at its best! The characters live in a big house and there also happens to be a tiger walking around. The movements of the characters are limited by the tiger, but they seem to be used to it… Until someone makes a mistake.

WWW Wednesdays #80 – March 2nd

wwwwednesdaysWWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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I’m still reading The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and so far I’m really enjoying it. The only reason I haven’t finished it yet is that my reading slump is making it hard to concentrate for a long time and I have been reading ‘easy’ reads instead… So that’s why I decided to start reading Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell as well. It’s a short read so I will probably finish it today.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* The first book I finished was All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I always enjoy a good historical fiction WWII story and this one has to be one of my all time favorites. Such a beautifully written story!
* I then read Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson, which ended up being a very interesting read with a lot of funny moments. Warning: make sure to read it when nobody is around because you will probably laugh out loud!
* I also finally picked up my first Spanish read in ages: Bestiario by Julio Cortázar. I really liked the combination of ordinary things with magical realism elements… But I have to be honest and say that some stories were a lot better than others.
* The last book I finished is The Secrets Of Lake Road by Karen Katchur, a book I picked up on a whim and turned out to be a really quick read.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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I might pick up Random by Tom Leveen depending of which genre I’m in the mood for… Although I will probably start my Red Queen series marathon by reading the first of two novellas Queen Song. In case I don’t want fantasy, I have Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover lined up as well; The Liar’s Chair by Rebecca Whitney is still my latest TBR jar pick.

WWW Wednesdays #79 – February 24th

wwwwednesdaysWWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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I still haven’t finished All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr… Don’t get me wrong, I love this book so far both because of the prose, setting and characters, but somehow I haven’t been in the mood to read it. I’m fearing a starting reading slump, so I am trying to read quick, ‘easy’ or different reads instead. I’ve just picked up Bestiario by Julio Cortázar as well to start working on my promise to read more Spanish books; I’ve read a lot of his short stories during Uni and it’s nice to revisit them.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* The first book I finished was Every Day by David Levithan. I had my reservations and wasn’t sure what to expect, but it turned out to be an excellent read.
* I then read Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn mostly because I needed something short and entertaining to get me to read again. Like the title says, this book is without doubt strange, mysterious and very intriguing! Recommendable.
* I also finished Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas, a book I picked up on a whim after remembering how much I loved Dangerous Girls last year. I still prefer that one, although Dangerous Boys is almost as good. Abigail Haas knows how to play with the reader’s mind!
* The last book I finished is Mr. Kiss And Tell by Rob Thomas, a Veronica Mars sequel that didn’t really live up to expectations. I loved the first book, but the sequel read a bit slow and failed to keep my attention. There was too much focus on the relationship between Veronica and Logan and politics and the actual case they were working on was pushed to the background…

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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I really want to pick up The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton soon; both because I have been looking forward to it for quite some time now and I need it for a challenge as well. I might read Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson first though if I’m in the mood for a light read…. And I also finally want to stick to my promise and start with Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, but that depends on how I feel after finishing my current reads. The Liar’s Chair by Rebecca Whitney is still my newest TBR jar pick.