I love the way Cortázar writes the horrifying – in this story, a person becomes an axolotl; in another, people are sequestered in increments to a smaller and smaller area of their house by unspecified intruders – with a sparseness and rationality of tone. The first paragraph of ‘Axolotl’ is three sentences. The first is, “There was a time when I thought a great deal about the axolotls.” The third is “Now I am an axolotl.” I’m not going to attempt to pathologise the story – if it was easily reducible, then it wouldn’t be nearly so good – but I do think it’s doing some beautiful things about the relationship between obsession and transmutation, literal or psychological.
First published in Spanish in Litereria, 1952 and collected in Final del Juego. First published in English in End of the Game, Pantheon, 1967 and collected in Blow Up And Other Stories, Pantheon, 1985