Julio Cortázar is Belgian

They say the difference between the tourist and the traveler is that the tourist sees what he has come to see. The traveler, on the contrary, just sees what he sees. Sometimes I think I’d need to be a bit more of a tourist. Read about the countries I visit. Know beforehand what there is to see. And plan. In some cases it does help to lose less time on the road. But what I like about not having a plan, or not much of one, is that you can change it all the time and enjoy the little – or big – discoveries along the way, without thinking about what you might miss elsewhere.

As I was going in the direction of the Recoleta cemetery, I suddenly noticed a colourful building with a sign announcing “Museum of language and books”. I was running a bit late to see Evita Perrón’s resting place but promised myself to have a look on my way back. And so I did.

The exhibition they were inaugurating just that day was about Julio Cortázar, one of Argentina’s greatest novel writers, and his book “Rayuela”. I haven’t read any of his books. Yet. The truth is I received Rayuela as a gift many years ago. I think it was shortly before I went to live in Spain for one year. But it was a translation into French. And that’s the strange thing about people that study translation. Most of the time, they’d rather not read one, always preferring the original. “Marelle” therefore remains on my bookshelf, unopened.

But seeing the exhibition, I realised that it is quite an interesting novel to read for someone who loves languages and words, as Cortázar seems to play with them page after page.

The biggest surprise, however, came to me when I arrived on the first floor. First thing that hit my eyes was a sign saying “Avenue Louis Lepoutre 16 – Bruselas”. Which must be about 2 or 3 blocks from where I live. I didn’t quite understand what that sign was doing there until I realised the room was filled with other addresses. They were just the ones where Cortázar had been living. And he happened to be born in Brussels. Ixelles to be more precise. On August 26th 1914. Therefore, if you’re in town on August 26th 2014, the right thing to do is to go to the bookshop “Filigrane Corner” on the Avenue Louis Lepoutre and buy “Rayuela”.

Julio Cortázar's birth place in Ixelles
Julio Cortázar’s birth place in Ixelles

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