New translation of a whimsical 20th-century travelogue.
In 1982, eminent Argentinean writer Cortázar (Hopscotch, 1963, etc.) embarked on a 33-day journey with wife Dunlop. Their plan? To travel the autoroute from Paris to Marseille, a distance usually covered in a single day, in a beloved red VW camper van nicknamed Fafner, or “Dragon.” They vowed not to leave the autoroute until they reached their destination; to take advantage of motels, restaurants or gas station shops en route; and to stop twice a day, camping at every second rest stop. Supplies included books, typewriters and a camera—careful, tongue-in-cheek scientific notes were taken with the aim of completing a book by the end of their journey. The couple were anti-explorers in a mundane landscape, slowing down a journey that had been modernized and sped up. What emerges from their trip is a playful, surprisingly intimate account of a marriage in all its ranging vicissitudes. Using their private pet names for each other throughout, el Lobo (Cortázar, the wolf) and la Osita (Dunlop, little bear) invite you into their singular world of exaggerated descriptions and inside jokes with double meanings. Additionally, the authors receive imaginary visits from Polanco and Calac, characters who first appeared in Cortázar’s long out-of-print 62: A Model Kit. Photographs and sketches document the voyage, a collaboration between two artists very much in love. The tenderness at the core of their relationship shines through, making it all the more heartbreaking to read the postscript written by Cortázar the following winter, which informs the reader that Dunlop succumbed to an unnamed illness mere months after they finished their journey. He died 15 months later, and what began as a romping amusement is transformed into a tribute to their passionate marriage.
An astute and sensitive translation brings this charming work to light for American audiences.