Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Entre Julios

The copyright page of this little book, which consists of fifteen paintings by Julio Silva accompanied by texts by Julio Cortázar, suggests that it was first published in the 1970s, though the Alfaguara edition shown is from 1996.

Cortázar's brief one- or two-page prose sketches, reminiscent of his earlier Cronopios and Famas, tease whimsical vignettes out of Silva's gently surrealistic artwork, describing a world whose endearing though sometimes cantankerous creatures dwell in the perpetual childhood we all secretly long for, whether we admit it or not. I can't get scans of the interior art, so these images are lifted from Patria Grande, which also has some of Cortázar's texts for the book (in Spanish). As far as I know no selections from the book have appeared in English to date, though it's been translated into Polish and other languages. Where are ye now when we need ye, Paul Blackburn?

What good would it do to get angry at the creatures of Silvalandia? They are shapes, colors, and movements; at times they speak, but above all they allow themselves to be looked at and they enjoy themselves. They are blue and white and they enjoy themselves. They accept without protest the names and deeds that we imagine for them, but they live for themselves a life that is yellow, violet, green, and secret. And they enjoy themselves.

Silvalandia's two creators, Cortázar who died in 1984 and Silva is who still with us, were longtime friends and fairly regular collaborators. Among other things, Silva was responsible for the cover of the original Spanish-language edition of Rayuela (Hopscotch). He was also the designer of Cortázar's wonderful collage-books La vuelta al día en ochenta mundos and Último round, neither of which has appeared in its entirety in English, although a nice selection of their contents was translated by Thomas Christensen and published by North Point Press some years ago as Around the Day in Eighty Worlds. Unfortunately Christensen's translation is now out of print.

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