“we liked the house because, apart from its being old and spacious (in a day when old houses go down for a profitable auction of their construction materials), it kept the memories of great-grandparents, our paternal grandfather, our parents and the whole of childhood.” – julio cortazar

08/07/2011 § Leave a comment

guillermo kuitca, capitonee house plan, 1989

 

how not to remember the layout of that house.  the dining room, a living room with tapestries, the library and three large bedrooms in the section most recessed, the one that faced toward rodriguez pena.  only a corridor with its massive oak door separated that part from the front wing, where there was a bath, the kitchen, our bedrooms and the hall.  one entered the house through a vestibule with enameled tiles, and a wrought-iron grated door opened onto the living room.  you had to come in through the vestibule and open the gate to go into the living room; the doors to our bedrooms were on either side of this, and opposite it was the corridor leading to the back sections; going down the passage, one swung open the oak door beyond which was the other part of the house; or just before the door, one could turn to the left and go down a narrower passageway which led to the kitchen and the bath.  when the door was open, you became aware of the size of the house; when it was closed, you had the impression of an apartment, like the ones they build today, with barely enough room to move around in.  irene and i always lived in this part of the house and hardly ever went beyond the oak door except to do the cleaning.  incredible how much dust collected on the furniture.  it may be buenos aires is a clean city, but she owes it to her population and nothing else.  there’s too much dust in the air, the slightest breeze and it’s back on the marble console tops and in the diamond patterns of the tooled-leather desk set.  it’s a lot of work to get it off with a feather duster; the motes rise and hang in the air, and settle again a minute later on the pianos and the furniture.

i’ll always have a clear memory of it because it happened so simply and without fuss.  irene was knitting in her bedroom, it was eight at night, and i suddenly decided to put the water up for mate.  i went down the corridor as far as the oak door, which was ajar, then turned into the hall toward the kitchen, when i heard something in the library or the dining room.  the sound came through muted and indistinct, a chair being knocked over onto the carpet or the muffled buzzing of a conversation.  at the same time or a second later, i heard it at the end of the passage which led from those two rooms toward the door.  i hurled myself against the door before it was too late and shut it, leaned on it with the weight of my body; luckily, the key was on our side; moreover, i ran the great bolt into place, just to be safe.

i went down to the kitchen, heated the kettle, and when i got back with the tray of mate, i told irene:

“i had to shut the door to the passage.  they’ve taken over the back part.”

she let her knitting fall and looked at me with her tired, serious eyes.

“you’re sure?”

i nodded.

“in that case,” she said, picking up her needles again, “we’ll have to live on this side.”

i sipped at the mate very carefully, but she took her time starting her work again.  i remember it was a grey vest she was knitting.  i liked that vest.

 

[text]     excerpt from julio cortazar’s short story house taken over, from the book “blow up and other stories”.

[image]     a fellow argentine, guillermo kuitca’s painting capitonee house plan.  mixed media on canvas.  76 x 60 in.

 

strongly suggest cortazar’s short stories.

a young hare

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You are currently reading “we liked the house because, apart from its being old and spacious (in a day when old houses go down for a profitable auction of their construction materials), it kept the memories of great-grandparents, our paternal grandfather, our parents and the whole of childhood.” – julio cortazar at a young hare.

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