‘The Night Face Up’ by Julio Cortázar, translated by Paul Blackburn

This is another short story that I remember from my studies. I think I read it in my first year, nearly 15 years ago, and I still remembered it very clearly. Some elements have worn such grooves in my memory, that I found no surprises when I reread it for this. Cortázar is an astounding surrealist writer, and my introduction to him shaped my taste in literature and my expectation for fiction. In the story, a man has a motorcycle accident in contemporary time, and goes to sleep in the hospital ward where he dreams he is being hunted by Aztecs. Cortázar pushes the reader’s expectations for storytelling and for fiction to the limit in this story; in it he doesn’t write an unreliable narrator so much as he makes the case for an unreliable truth.

First published in Spanish as ‘La Noche Boca Arriba’ in 1956. Published in translation in The New Yorker, April 1967, and available to subscribers to read here; collected in Blow Up and Other Stories, Random House, 1967

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