It was a cold evening. Fine cold rain falling on and off over the busy city centre. I landed that afternoon and had nothing better to do until next day. Barcelona was busy: lots of people gathering before the football match in local bars and restaurants.

I wasn’t prepared for such a cold evening and thought that I should get in a shop and buy a jumper. Suddenly, I remembered that advice gave by Fernando Savater: ‘Should you have money enough to buy a couple of trousers, buy just one and spend the money left to buy a book’. I looked around and saw a big books shop just across the square where I was.

I went directly to the ‘Spanish and Latin American literature’ section and there it was: Rayuela, by Julio Cortázar.

I got out heading to the quieter bar I could find. Ordered a beer and started the reading. I kept going in my hotel room and I could never imagine that I was so much Cortázar myself!

Ya para entonces me había dado cuenta de que buscar era mi signo, emblema de los que salen de noche sin propósito fijo, razón de los matadores de brújulas. (Cortázar, p. 22)

[…] lo que verdaderamente me exasperaba era saber que nunca volvería a estar tan cerca de mi libertad como en esos días en que me sentía acorralado por el mundo […] y que la ansiedad por liberarme era una admisión de derrota. (Cortázar, p. 28)

[…] había comprobado con (primero) sorpresa y (después) ironía, que montones de tipos se instalaban confortablemente en una supuesta unidad de la persona que no pasaba de una unidad lingüística y un prematuro esclerosamiento del carácter. Esas gentes se montaban un sistema de principios jamás refrendados entrañablemente, y que no eran más que una cesión a la palabra, a la noción verbal de fuerzas, repulsas y atracciones avasalladoramente desalojadas y sustituidas por su correlato verbal. Y así el deber, lo moral, lo inmoral y lo amoral, la justicia, la caridad, lo europeo y lo americano, el día y la noche, las esposas, las novias y las amigas, el ejército y la banca, la bandera y el oro yanqui o moscovita, el arte abstracto y la batalla de Caseros pasaban a ser como dientes o pelos, algo aceptado y fatalmente incorporado, algo que no se vive ni se analiza porque -es así- y nos integra, completa y robustece. La violación del hombre por la palabra, la soberbia venganza del verbo contra su padre […] (Cortázar, pp. 95-96)

Cortázar, J. (2010) Rayuela, Madrid, Alfaguara

He was obeyed, yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect. He inspired uneasiness. That was it! Uneasiness. Not a definite mistrust —just uneasiness— nothing more. You have no idea how effective such a… a… faculty can be. He had no genius for organising, for initiative, or for order even. […] He had no learning, and no intelligence. His position had come to him —why? Perhaps because he was never ill.

Conrad, J. (2002) Heart of Darkness, London, Oxford University Press (p. 123)

How close I am of someone like the manager of the Central Station, in Conrad’s tale. How desperate I feel when having to share the same space, the same air with such an specimen. If I were Superman, he’d be the ‘kriptonite’.

I was having dinner yesterday with some friends.

The hostess, who is originally from Barcelona and a partisan of the catalonian independentism, declared that Catalonians are ‘more’ Romans than the Spanish, who are definitely ‘arabs’.

I had to refrain a spasm. Said nothing. Just kept concentrated on the few wine drops slipping down the curvy glass.

She kept going. While the uncultivated Spanish-arabs were living in the obscure Middle Ages, Catalonians enjoyed a very civilized life as they had Art, Mathematics, Agriculture, etc.

She was explaining that to her husband, a nice Austrian guy. He actually tried to argue that such a version of History did not make much sense when she abruptly stopped him recalling when they ‘saw’ the evidence in the History Museum of Catalonia (http://www.mhcat.net/).

When finished my cup of wine, I excused and left the gathering.

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