June 23rd, 2011 / 11:18 pm
Behind the Scenes

“… and to offer you a piece of cake, it’s wonderful.”

from Julio Cortázar, The Art of Fiction #83 in The Paris Review (via Matt Bell)


Have fame and success been pleasurable?


Ah, listen, I’ll say something I shouldn’t say because no one will believe it, but success isn’t a pleasure for me. I’m glad to be able to live from what I write, so I have to put up with the popular and critical side of success. But I was happier as a man when I was unknown. Much happier. Now I can’t go to Latin America or to Spain without being recognized every ten yards, and the autographs, the embraces . . . It’s very moving, because they’re readers who are frequently quite young. I’m happy that they like what I do, but it’s terribly distressing for me on the level of privacy. I can’t go to a beach in Europe; in five minutes there’s a photographer. I have a physical appearance that I can’t disguise; if I were small I could shave and put on sunglasses, but with my height, my long arms and all that, they discover me from afar. On the other hand, there are very beautiful things: I was in Barcelona a month ago, walking around the Gothic Quarter one evening, and there was an American girl, very pretty, playing the guitar very well and singing. She was seated on the ground singing to earn her living. She sang a bit like Joan Baez, a very pure, clear voice. There was a group of young people from Barcelona listening. I stopped to listen to her, but I stayed in the shadows. At one point, one of these young men who was about twenty, very young, very handsome, approached me. He had a cake in his hand. He said, “Julio, take a piece.” So I took a piece and I ate it, and I told him, “Thanks a lot for coming up and giving that to me.” He said to me, “But, listen, I give you so little next to what you’ve given me.” I said, “Don’t say that, don’t say that,” and we embraced and he went away. Well, things like that, that’s the best recompense for my work as a writer. That a boy or a girl comes up to speak to you and to offer you a piece of cake, it’s wonderful. It’s worth the trouble of having written.



  1. alan

      I thought he looked like an axolotl.

  2. nick

      i can only imagine what stephanie meyers must go through…

  3. Adam Robinson
  4. Leapsloth14

      And then I went home with the dramatic American girl (which was another nice recompense for my work as a writer).

  5. bartleby_taco

      Not to be ‘that-kind-of-guy’ but does anyone else find it strange that a post regarding a pretty touching anecdote by Julio Cortazar gets 4 comments and any post mentioning Tao Lin gets like 50+ ?

  6. Mike Young

      i think it’s maybe because anecdotes like these tend to spur people to look out a window, or play with their cat, or dwell in remembrance, or read cortazar, or maybe get some actual cake or find an actual pure clear young singer, etc. etc—basically to do anything besides hunch forward toward a screen and furiously articulate one’s self into a small #FFFFFF box

  7. reynard

      i started reading hopscotch the weird way after reading this btw and i’m gladder for it