A Certain Lucas

Excerpts from A Certain Lucas, by Julio Cortazar

Dialog of a Break

To be read in two voices, impossibly of course.

“It isn’t as if we didn’t know”
“Yes, especially that, not finding”
“But maybe we’ve been looking for it ever since the day when”
“Maybe not, and yet every morning that”
“Nothing but deception, the moment comes when you look at yourself like”
“Who can say, I still”
“It’s not enough to want to, if, besides that, there’s no proof of”
“You see, you can never be certain that”
“Certainly, each one of us is demanding evidence now in view of”
“As if kissing each other meant signing a release, as if looking at each other”
“Under the clothing there’s no more waiting for the skin that”
“That’s not the worst part of it, I sometimes think; there’s that other business, the words when”
“Or the silence, which in those days was worth”
“We knew enough to open the window as soon as”
“And that way of turning over the pillow looking for”
“Like a language of damp perfumes that”
“You’d keep on shouting while I”
“We’d fall into the same blind avalanche until”
“I was waiting to hear what always”
“And pretending to fall asleep in the midst of knotted sheets and sometimes”
“Between petting we’d insult the alarm clock that”
“But it was nice getting up and fighting over the”
“And the winner, all soaked, owner of the dry towel”
“Toast and coffee, the shopping list, and that”
“Everything’s just the same, you might even say that”
“Exactly the same, except that instead”
“Like trying to tell a dream that after”
“Running a pencil over an outline, repeating by heart something that”
“Knowing at the same time how”
“Oh yes, but nearly hoping an encounter with”
“A little more marmalade and some”
“Thanks, I haven’t got”

Sunset Hunter

If I were a moviemaker I’d set about hunting sunsets. I’ve got it all figured out except for the capital needed for the safari, because a sunset doesn’t let itself be caught just like that, I mean that sometimes it starts out as a silly little thing and just when you abandon it, all of its feathers open up, or, just the opposite, it’s a chromatic extravaganza and suddenly you’re left with a kind of souped-up parrot, and in both cases you have to count on a camera with good color film, travel expenses and an itinerary of overnight stops, keeping watch on the sky, and the choice of the most propitious horizon, none of it cheap. In any case, I think that if I were a moviemaker I would set things up to hunt sunsets, just one sunset actually, but in order to arrive at the definitive sunset I’d have to film forty or fifty, because if I were a moviemaker I’d be just as demanding with words, women, and geopoliticians.
That’s not how it is and I console myself by imagining that the sunset has been caught already, sleeping in its long canned spiral. My plan: not just the hunting but the restitution of the sunset to my fellows who don’t know much about it, I mean city people who watch the sun go down, if they happen to see it, behind the post office, the apartment building across the way, or on a subhorizon of television antennas and lampposts. The movie would be silent, or with a soundtrack that would record only the sound contemporary to the filmed sunset, probably some barking dog or the buzzing of horseflies, with luck the little bell of a sheep, or the breaking of a wave if it’s a maritime sunset.
Through experience and a wristwatch I know that a good sunset doesn’t last more than twenty minutes between climax and anticlimax, two things I would eliminate in order to leave only its slow internal play, its kaleidoscope of imperceptible mutations; it would be one of those films they call documentaries, shown before Brigitte Bardot while people are settling down and looking at the screen as if they were on a bus or a subway. My film would have a printed explanation (maybe a voice-over) along these lines: “What you are about to see is the sunset of June 7, 1976, filmed in X with M film and fixed camera, without interruption for Z minutes.” The audience will be informed that outside of the sunset absolutely nothing happens, for which reason they are advised to carry on as if they were at home and to do whatever they feel like doing, looking at the sunset, for example, turning their backs on it, talking to others, strolling about, etc. We’re terribly sorry that we can’t suggest that they smoke, but the medieval conditions of movie theaters require, as everybody knows, the prohibition against that excellent habit. On the other hand, it’s not forbidden to take a good swig from the pocket flask that the distributor of the film sells in the lobby. It’s impossible to predict the fate of my film; people go to the movies to forget about themselves, and a sunset leans exactly in the opposite direction, it’s the moment when, perhaps, we see ourselves a little more naked, that happens to me, in any case, and it’s painful and useful; maybe others can make use of it too, you never know.