A Certain Lucas by Julio Cortazar ; Translated From the Spanish by Gregory Rabassa.
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1984. Stated "First American Edition" on the copyright page. Hardcover. 160 pages ; 20 cm. $12.95 dust jacket. Glue residue to front and rear endpaper, along with the dust jacket back side. Pages are clean and umarked. Firm binding.
A kaleidoscopic jeu from Julio Cortazar—the internationally acclaimed short story writer and novelist— that demonstrates once again, in Cortazar's singular and singularly witty way, the proper study of mankind. A series of brilliant, eccentrically interlocking pieces, by turns comic, philosophical, illusive, and allusive, and always a pleasure to read: these are the means through which Cortazar reveals the essence of one particular man's life.
First, we are plunged directly into that life. Short take by short take (none longer than nine pages, some less than one) we learn about Lucas, His Shopping; Lucas, His Patriotism; Lucas, His New Art of Giving Lectures; Lucas, His Communications; Lucas, His Criticism of Reality ("Jekyll knows very well who Hyde is, but the knowledge is not reciprocal. Lucas thinks that almost everybody shares Hyde's ignorance..."). But then we are suddenly drawn away from the man and are given his world, his context, in multiple quick parodies—hilarious evocations of everything trendy, from physical fitness to semiotics, from cool pornography to animal ESP.
Finally, in Part III we return to Lucas—to His Dreams, His Partisan Arguments, His Modesty (sorely tried by the acoustic flimsiness of modern housing), His Working Methods (when he can't sleep, instead of counting sheep he answers his piled-up correspondence "with such perfection and elegance that Madame de Sevigne would have loathed him minutely"), His Shoe-shines 1940 ("...Lucas goes out onto the street and his shoes gleam like a sunflower on the right and Oscar Peterson on the left").
Until, having laughed or puzzled through the rounded shards of a mind and a life, we find that we have been given—glimpse by glimpse, aspect by aspect—a complete picture of a complete man. But not just any man. This is a certain Lucas.
Julio Cortazar, an Argentine who was born in Brussels in 1914, moved to Paris in 1952 and lived and worked there. He was a poet, translator, and amateur jazz musician, as well as the author of several volumes of short stories and novels. Eleven of his books have been published in English, including The Winners, Hopscotch, End of the Game, Cronopios and Famas, A Manual for Manuel, A Change of Light, and We Love Glenda So Much and Other Tales. Julio Cortazar died in Paris in February 1984.Lucas, His Studies on a Society of Consumers
Since progress knows-no-limits, in Spain they sell packages that contain thirty-two boxes of matches (tapers, as they say), each of which displays the gaudy reproduction of a complete chess set.
Very swiftly, a wise gentleman put on the market a chess set whose thirty-two pieces can serve as coffee cups; almost immediately the Bazar Dos Mundos turned out coffee cups that allow rather flabby ladies a variety of sufficiently rigid bras, after which Yves Saint Laurent has just brought out a bra in which two soft-boiled eggs can be served in a most suggestive manner.
What a pity that up till now no one has found a different application for soft-boiled eggs, a thing that disheartens those who eat them between great sighs; that's the way certain chains of happiness are broken and remain only in chains and quite dear, it might be said in passing.
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