cover image All Fires the Fire and Other Stories

All Fires the Fire and Other Stories

Julio Cortázar, trans. from the Spanish by Suzanne Jill Levine. New Directions, $15.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2945-6

In this playful and scintillating set of fabulist tales by Argentine master Cortázar (1914–1984), characters are shuffled through shifting realities. In “The Southern Thruway,” a makeshift community forms among drivers on a highway as a traffic jam outside Paris keeps them stuck on the road for weeks. The characters form relationships and assume leadership positions, but everyone loses track of each other as soon as the traffic begins to move. In “The Other Heaven,” the narrator moves seamlessly between time periods, leaving his humdrum life in 1940s Argentina to roam the Paris arcades of the 19th century, enjoying “grog at the café on the Rue des Jeûneurs,” “the theaters on the boulevard,” and the company of Josiane, a prostitute living in a “dime-novel garret.” The collection’s standout title story juxtaposes a Roman gladiatorial contest with a failing relationship in mid-century France, suggesting echoes and connections between apparently disparate lives. Cortázar’s predilection for patterns is voiced by the narrator of “Meeting,” who compares a Cuban revolutionary comrade to Mozart, both men seeking “an order” that will lead to “a victory that might be like the restoration of a melody.” Cortázar fans will devour these affecting stories. (Apr.)